Kuchar takes four-shot lead in Houston

By Associated PressApril 5, 2014, 8:11 pm

HUMBLE, Texas – Matt Kuchar didn't have the result he had hoped for while playing in the final pairing at last week's Texas Open.

The six-time PGA Tour winner, who closed with a final-round 75 on his way to a fourth-place finish last week, will have the opportunity to show what he learned from that disappointing finish at this week's Houston Open.

Playing in the final pairing, Kuchar vaulted past a struggling Sergio Garcia with a 4-under par 68 on Saturday – overcoming windy conditions at the Golf Club of Houston to match the low round of the day and take a four-shot lead after three rounds.

Kuchar stands at 15 under overall heading into Sunday's final round, four shots ahead of second-round leader Garcia and Cameron Tringale. The three will be paired together on Sunday.

''It's a nice position to have played well last week, to have been in the last group with a chance to win and again to come back this week, completely different course, and have another shot to win,'' Kuchar said.

Kuchar's last win came at the Memorial last year, and he has eight top 10 finishes this season in 10 events.


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He'll have the opportunity add to that resume on Sunday, weather permitting, as well as fuel his surging confidence leading into next week's Masters, where he finished in a tie for eighth last year.

The prospect of a winner's share of nearly $1.2-million, however, has Kuchar locked in on this weekend first – even with the prospect of competing for his first major championship looming next week.

''I've been playing some steady golf for a couple of years now and feel like my chances of playing well tomorrow are pretty good,'' Kuchar said. ''Having a four-shot lead is a great position to be in.''

The golfers went off both tees in threesomes early Saturday morning in anticipation of severe weather in the evening, a format they'll use again Sunday with hopes of avoiding a Monday finish leading into next week's visit to Augusta National.

Garcia, who surged ahead with a 7-under 65 on Friday, began the day with a one-shot lead over Kuchar. That disappeared quickly after the Spaniard bogeyed the first to fall back to 11 under and into a tie with his playing partner, Kuchar.

That was just the beginning of the struggles for Garcia, who later put his tee shot into the water on No. 10. He finished with a 1-over 73 after matching the course's low mark of 12 under after two rounds.

''Obviously, I didn't play as well as yesterday with the difficulty,'' Garcia said. ''... It wasn't that easy.''

Kuchar, meanwhile, birdied the first to move into the lead – a spot he didn't relinquish. He added back-to-back birdies on No. 4 and 5 to move to 14 under, and he added three birdies in a row on the back nine.

He reached 16 under with a birdie on the par-3 14th before three-putting the 18th and settling for 15 under.

''It's unbelievable,'' said Ben Curtis, who is tied for 5th at 8 under with Rickie Fowler. ''(Kuchar's) on a great roll the last few years. Obviously, he's playing very confidently, and that makes a huge difference.''

Kuchar missed his first four cuts at the Houston Open, but the American finished tied for eighth in 2010 and 2011 before not playing in the tournament the last two years.

His three rounds in the 60s this week have only been matched by Tringale, who shot a 3-under 69 on Saturday while playing in the next-to-last pairing.

Phil Mickelson, after withdrawing from last week's Texas Open with a muscle pull in his right side, was inconsistent from the opening hole Saturday.

The five-time major winner left his opening two approach shots short of the green, the second of which found the bunker and caused him to slump over in the fairway. That led to the first of back-to-back bogeys, though he did recover with three straight birdies on the back nine before settling for an even-par 72 – leaving him in a tie for eighth at 6 under.

''I don't know if I'll have a good round tomorrow or not,'' Mickelson said. ''But it's close, a lot closer than it's been.''

Fowler matched Kuchar's low round in Saturday's chilly conditions, posting a 4-under 68 and moving to 8 under overall.

With rain forecast for Saturday night and throughout Sunday, the golfers will once again tee off in threesomes early on Sunday morning.

''To me, it feels like we'll come here and wait around for a lot longer, but (that's) part of the deal,'' Kuchar said.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.