Lee leads Fowler, Lefty in front of record WMPO crowd

By Associated PressFebruary 6, 2016, 11:58 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Danny Lee knew there was a huge crowd Saturday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He still was amazed when told just how many people packed TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course.

''Two-hundred thousand?'' Lee asked, making sure he heard right.

Actually, an estimated 201,003 - the largest crowd in golf history.

''Wow! This is crazy,'' Lee said.

Lee had some pretty good numbers of his own on a sunny, warm afternoon at golf's biggest party, shooting a 4-under 67 to move three strokes ahead of friend Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama with one round left.

''Taking slow breath out there really helps,'' Lee said about the wild atmosphere.

The previous largest crowd at the Stadium Course was 189,722 in 2014. The event also set a day record Friday at 160,415, and has drawn 535,035 for the first six days - close to the weekly mark of 564,368 set last year.

''I'm just trying to enjoy myself and I am,'' Lee said. ''It's so much fun out there, so many people just cheering for Rickie instead of me, unfortunately. But I'm having fun.''

Lee had six birdies and two bogeys to reach 13-under 200. The 25-year-old South Korean-born New Zealander won the Greenbrier Classic last year for his first PGA Tour title.

''Winning at the Greenbrier Classic gave me a lot of confidence,'' Lee said. ''It kind of taught me how to be on the top and what I need to work on and what it takes to win a golf tournament.''

He's making his fourth appearance in the event after missing the cuts the last three years.

''I always struggled with my tee-shot game out here,'' Lee said. ''This week, I have been driving it really nicely.''


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Fowler parred the final five holes for a 70. Matsuyama had a 68.

''I just didn't get much out of the round,'' said Fowler, at No. 4 the top-ranked player in the field. ''Just kind of managed it well and played with what I had to get around.''

Second-round leader James Hahn had a 74 to fall into a tie for seventh at 7 under. Tied with Lee for the lead at 12 under after the 11th hole, he dropped five strokes on the next three holes.

Hahn bogeyed the par-3 12th and made double bogeys on par-5 13th and par-4 14th. He drove left into the desert on 13, then hit his tee shot out-of-bounds to the right on the long, uphill 14th after a fan distracted him at the top of his swing.

Lee birdied Nos. 2-4, making a 21-footer on the par-4 fourth, and holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-4 eighth.

After a three-putt bogey on the par-4 11th left him tied with Hahn, Lee got up-and-down for par from the greenside bunker on 12 to pull ahead. Hahn and Fowler bogeyed the hole from the same bunker.

Lee birdied 13, but gave back the stroke with a bogey on the par-5 15th after driving left into the water. The 2008 U.S. Amateur champion got back to 13 under with a 9-foot birdie putt on the short par-4 17th.

Fowler got a break on the 15th when his hybrid from the right rough ballooned short and right and stopped a foot short of the water.

''It came out soft and floated on me,'' Fowler said. ''Got a little lucky there.''

He won two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi for his fourth worldwide victory in nine months.

Matsuyama chipped in for birdie on the par-4 14th and two-putted for birdie on 15. The 23-year-old Japanese player tied for second last year, a stroke behind Brooks Koepka.

''I didn't putt very well today,'' Matsuyama said through a translator. ''I didn't drive the ball very well, but I did get it around. I'm happy with that.''

Bryce Molder and Boo Weekley were 9 under. Molder closed with an 18-foot putt on the par-4 ninth for a 64, the best round of the week. Weekley birdied three of the last four holes for a 65.

Phil Mickelson was 8 under after 65. The 45-year-old former Arizona State player made an unlikely birdie on 15 when his hybrid from 255 yards went so far right that it crossed the lake and ended up in the 11th fairway. He hit a wedge to 15 feet and made the putt.

''It was the worst shot of the year and I ended up making a birdie,'' said Mickelson, the tournament winner in 1996, 2005 and 2013.

Bubba Watson had his first over-par round ever at TPC Scottsdale, shooting a 73 to drop to 2 under. He shot par or better in his first 36 rounds in the tournament.

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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.