Notes: Muirfield's No. 14 could yield a lot of birdies

By Associated PressOctober 2, 2013, 8:55 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – The signature 14th at Muirfield Village can be a birdie hole for Tiger Woods – and maybe even a once-a-month hacker.

It's all about the approach, and that will lead to a lot of strategy at this week's Presidents Cup.

Off the tee, it's a relatively easy long-to-middle iron to a generous fairway, the ball coming up just short of a pleasant brook that bisects the hole and then snakes along the right side of the green.

From there, it's a lofted iron to the kidney-shaped green, bounded by three menacing sand traps on the left, with an abrupt slope to the creek on the right.

To add yet another element of suspense to this week's Presidents Cup, the PGA Tour, which sets up the course for the biennial team competition, toyed with the idea of shortening the par-4, 325-yard 14th so that long hitters could bomb away.

From the looks of it, few will take the bait.

Phil Mickelson - known for never shying away from a risky shot – probably won't even pull out driver. (Then again, with Mickelson, you never know for sure.)

''No. 14 will be up to each player,'' he said Wednesday on the eve of the start of the four-day event. ''As a player who likes to go for it, even I have a hard time understanding the advantage of going for it. Very simply put, there's water right, bunkers left with a green that's so severely pitched you can't stop it on the green.''

He's certainly not alone.

U.S. captain Fred Couples sounded as if he would discourage any of his players from going for it.

''On the 14th I watched Hunter (Mahan), Webb (Simpson), (Bill) Haas and (Brandt) Snedeker play the hole,'' Couples said. ''They all tried to drive the green. Three of them could actually reach the front part - it depends on where the pin is, but it's (still) a very difficult shot. Most players can probably get it up and down in front of the green but there isn't much room.''

The International team will decided as matches progress.

''It depends on the day,'' assistant captain Tony Johnstone said. ''I think some of the guys will go. Some of the guys feel that it's never the right option, that they would rather just knock it short and chip it on and they'll make more 3s from there. It's going to depend on the day, how the matches are going, how the guys are feeling, where the wind's blowing. But these guys are all world-class players, so it's whatever they desire to do.''

Keegan Bradley, who will be paired with Mickelson in the better-ball matches on Thursday, said the distance makes it particularly debatable to go for it off the tee.

''It's very difficult on that hole if you go for it and don't hit the green,'' he said. ''You're going to see a lot of guys still laying up because it's so brutal. But it's definitely right there.''


THREE'S A CHARM:The legendary year of Jordan Spieth added yet another chapter on Thursday.

The 20-year-old, who didn't have a PGA Tour card a year ago but won one time and played his way onto the U.S. Presidents Cup team, aced the signature 12th at Muirfield Village during a practice round.

''I got good video of him getting the ball out of the hole if you want to see it,'' U.S. assistant captain Davis Love III said.

He drained a 7-iron from 176 yards for his third hole in one – and second this year after jarring a shot at Puerto Rico.

Spieth was playing with Woods, Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker.

''Tiger had already hit and he hit an 8-iron and it looked like he went after it, so I went ahead and hit kind of a smooth 7,'' the Texan said. ''It started at the flag and never really left it. I had flown the green a couple days before and I thought it was perfect. It took a little while to trickle and I thought it was going to be about a foot short. All of a sudden it dropped.''

Spieth swapped high fives with everybody in his group, including the caddies and officials. The crowd behind the green roared.

''It was really cool,'' he said. ''A cool environment that we had so many people around.''


DO AS I DID: K.J. Choi has won 17 times around the world. That includes the 2007 Memorial Tournament – held on the same Muirfield Village layout that is hosting the Presidents Cup this week.

He did not make the International side, but still is working in an official capacity this week. He's handling analysis for the television feed back to his native South Korea and is acting in an advisory role to the 2015 Presidents Cup, which will be held at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, South Korea.

It figures that he ought to provide some perceptive comments for both sides because of his success at Muirfield Village.

Asked if he thought the International side would win, he laughed and said, ''I wish!''


THAT'S MR. COUPLES, TO YOU: Couples, the U.S. captain, said he was approached by a younger man during a practice round on Tuesday.

''I met (Jordan Spieth's) father, who is probably eight years younger than I am, which is really weird,'' Couples said to loud laughter. ''I wasn't expecting that, but he came up and said, 'I'm Jordan's father.' I looked and thought he was 30 years old.''

Asked if Mr. Spieth addressed him as Mr. Couples, he cracked, ''No, he didn't, actually, but I told him to from now on.''


CHANGE IN SCHEDULE: International captain Nick Price believes that the way teams are chosen and other factors favor the United States. Maybe that's why the Americans are 7-1-1 in Presidents Cup play.

One area where Price was able to get the rules changed was the schedule. Play on Thursday will get under way with four-ball, or as it is commonly known, better-ball competition.

Traditionally, the first day was devoted to foursomes or alternate-shot play.

In four-ball, the low score for each pairing counts within the group. For example, if Ernie Els has a birdie at the fifth hole while paired with Brendon De Jonge in their match with Stricker and Spieth, and the Americans each par it, the Internationals win the hole.

''When Ernie and I went to see (PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem) last year, just to talk about it, that was one of the concessions that he made,'' Price said. ''Both Ernie and I felt it was very important just to change it from the hardest format (foursomes) to the better-ball. That was a positive move for us.''

The International side has seven first-time participants in the Presidents Cup. Since foursomes is a format that none of those rookies has played before in international competition, Price believed it was advantageous to push that new experience back a day.


OTHER KEY HOLES: While many might be watching to see if someone goes for the green at the par-4 14th off the tee, there are several other decisions that will need to be made by players.

Snedeker takes us on a quick tour of the course and the choices made during the better-ball competition.

''Obviously, I think the par-5 fifth will be an important one on aggressive, you want to be there. If you're both in the fairway, who's going to go and who's going to lay up?'' he said. ''(The par-5) No. 11 will be a decision off the tee. If you want to be aggressive and hit driver and try to get down there and knock it on in two or lay back and play it as a three-shot hole. It depends on what your partner does, how you play that hole. And then 14 will be the only other one I could see being an issue.''


DIVOTS: Jay Haas Jr. is caddying for his brother, Bill Haas. Angel Cabrera's bag will be carried by his son, Angel Cabrera Jr. ... NBC will provide more than 890 live hours of coverage of the Presidents Cup. The competition will be on Golf Channel from 1 to 8 p.m. EDT on Friday and Saturday, then carried on NBC from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. ... It may be the International team, but several players live at least part of the year in the States: Jason Day (nearby Westerville, Ohio), Brendon de Jonge (Charlotte, N.C.), Graham DeLaet (Boise, Idaho), Ernie Els (West Palm Beach, Fla.) and Marc Leishman (Virginia Beach, Va.), in addition to team captain Nick Price (Hobe Sound, Fla.) and assistants Mark McNulty (Orlando, Fla.) and Shigeki Maruyama (Los Angeles). ... The two sides had similar success (or lack of it) at the 2013 Memorial Tournament, held in June at Muirfield Village. Each team had two players miss the cut, the Americans had a 2-1 edge in top-10 finishes and the Internationals had a 6-4 advantage in those finishing in the top 50. However, the trump card is Matt Kuchar of the U.S. won the tournament.

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.