Lehman hopes to fix his swing at Principal Charity

By Associated PressJune 2, 2011, 9:58 pm

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Tom Lehman is having one heck of a season for a guy who feels his swing has been out of whack.

Lehman leads the Champions Tour in earnings, tops the Charles Schwab Cup standings and will try for his fourth victory in nine starts when he tees off Friday in the Principal Charity Classic.

But in Lehman’s mind, something isn’t quite right with his game and last weekend was a reminder. The 52-year-old Minnesota native ran off six straight birdies in the third round of the Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla, the longest such stretch on the tour this year, then struggled to a final round 77 that included two double-bogeys.

“I could feel that round coming,” Lehman said. “The last several rounds I’ve played have not been very good. I have been very erratic. My swing has been a little bit out of synch. I would play really well for a number of holes and I would play really poorly for a number of holes.”

Lehman said his up-and-down play goes back to his victory in the Regions Tradition at Birmingham in early May, the senior tour’s first major.

“I could feel my swing was getting away from me,” he said. “I wasn’t hitting it the way I normally do. I didn’t make many bogeys, so I kind of won that one by just not beating myself. But at the PGA Championship, I hit some great shots and I hit some really poor shots and I just never ever got into a flow where I played well for 18 holes.”

Lehman has seen clues this week that his game might coming back around. He could have played in the Memorial, but thought he’d be better served at this point by playing the par-71 Glen Oaks course.

The course has been receptive to low scores – Nick Price won last year at 14-under – but wind can turn the layout into a far more daunting challenge. Breezy conditions are forecast for Friday, with gusts up to 30 mph.

“I’m way better today than I was last week,” Lehman said after his Thursday pro-am round. “I actually saw a swing that I made (last week) and no wonder I hit it so lousy. That was terrible. So I kind of had an idea of what the deal was and how to fix it.

“To me, it’s about rhythm and balance. I felt way better today than I did Tuesday and way better Tuesday than I did Sunday.”

Lehman’s fast start has made him the leading contender for the tour’s player of the year award, an honor that would give him a trifecta if it happens. He also has been player of the year on the PGA Tour (1996) and Nationwide Tour (1991).

No one has been player of the year on all three tours. Then again, not everyone has played on all three tours.

“You have to be, I wouldn’t say lousy enough, but you have to struggle enough at some point to be able to have a chance to win on the Nationwide,” Lehman said. “A lot of guys are just too good to ever have played there. Unfortunately, I wasn’t, but it sure was good for me.”

The Senior PGA, won by Tom Watson, was the fourth straight Champions Tour tournament that ended in a playoff. Such a string has occurred only once before, in 2005.

“It just goes to show you there’s a lot of guys on an even scale out here,” said Mark Calcavecchia, who led at the Regions Tradition well into the final round. “You’ve got to putt good. You’ve got to have a good week on the greens because if you don’t, other guys will. Nobody’s ever won a tournament without making a bunch of putts and getting lucky.”

Calcavecchia’s lead in Alabama evaporated with a double-bogey on No. 12 and he closed with a 75 to finish in a tie for fifth. He also finished fifth at The ACE Group Classic in February. The 1989 British Open champion is still looking for his first victory in just under 12 months on the 50-and-over tour.

“I’ve had some good chances to win and haven’t quite pulled it off yet,” he said. “I knew the golf was great because I’ve been paying attention to the scores. But it’s better than I even thought it was. Some guys are better now than they ever were in their whole careers.”

John Huston, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, will find out how he stacks up against the seniors when he makes his Champions Tour debut on Friday. Huston, whose last victory came in 2003, turned 50 on Wednesday and was treated to a birthday cake in the clubhouse after his pro-am round.

“From the start of the year, when I knew when it would be, where it would fall, I was looking forward to it,” Huston said. “I’ll try not to put too much pressure on myself to do whatever and just see how it works out.”

Also playing in his first Champions event: Damon Green, best known as Zach Johnson’s caddie on the PGA Tour.

Fifteen players have won in their Champions Tour debut. The last to do it was Tom Pernice Jr. at the 2009 SAS Championship. Pernice, who’s playing this weekend, has not won in 18 tournaments since that memorable start.

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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."

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.