Only rain can stop Couples' run at Senior Players

By Associated PressJune 28, 2013, 8:13 pm

PITTSBURGH – Fred Couples roared through his first 11 holes in the second round of the Senior Players Championship on Friday, ripping off seven birdies at water-logged Fox Chapel to take the lead.

Then the weather managed to do what the defenseless course could not, stopping the Hall of Famer with a sudden downpour that suspended play for the day with most of the field still on the course.

The stoppage came just after Couples hit his tee shot on the par-3 third. The sky cleared in about an hour, but with fairways and bunkers resembling ponds and the threat of more storms looming, officials decided to send players home rather than wait out a lengthy delay to squeeze in a few more holes.

Couples understood the decision but allowed he was in the middle of something special when play was stopped.

''Rounds like this don't happen very often,'' Couples said.

Instead Couples was left to mull the 60-foot birdie putt that awaits when he and the 65 other players whose rounds were interrupted return to the course at 8 a.m. Saturday.

''I was hitting the ball well,'' Couples said. ''But you can look at the bright side tomorrow and hope to get it going again.''

He was 11 under.

First-round leader John Huston was two shots back at 9 under after eagling from the rough on the par-4 15th hole just before the horn sounded. It was Huston's second eagle in as many days on a par 4. He eagled No. 7 on Thursday when he drove the green and made a 25-footer.

This one was a bit more unexpected after Huston pushed his tee shot to the right and it sailed into thick rough that bore more than a passing resemblance to soggy cabbage. His sand wedge from 100 yards caught the ball clean and it dropped into the hole on the fly, no roll required.

''It was pretty shocking because it flew in the hole and stayed there,'' Huston said.

Couples stressed he won't be getting ahead of himself as he searches for his second win at the Senior Players, one of the Champions Tour's five majors. He led at the halfway point on the same course last year, shooting a second-round 63 only to slip on the weekend and finish fourth behind winner Joe Daley.

With the forecast calling for more rain over the weekend, Couples knows the rolling course a few miles north of downtown Pittsburgh won't be able to put up much of a fight.

It certainly didn't Friday, thanks to a steady stream of showers that have turned what is supposed to be one of the better tests on the tour into target practice. Officials allowed players to lift, clean and place their golf balls and, with the greens welcoming shots of all shapes, low scores were plentiful.

More than half the field was even par or better for the day when the thunderstorm arrived.

Though the conditions favored longer hitters such as Couples and Huston, the accommodating greens allowed short-hitting Jeff Hart to rise into contention. The 53-year-old shot a season-best 5-under 65 and was the leader in the clubhouse at 7 under.

Not bad for a player who was hitting fairway woods and long irons onto some of the lengthier par 4s. He hit a 3-wood to 5 feet on the 475-yard eighth hole and made the putt, then knocked a 4-iron within a foot on the 422-yard 16th.

Hart hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens. The 53-year-old grinder has never finished in the top 10 in a Champions Tour event but is coming off a solid 15th-place finish at the Encompass Championship last week. He pointed to a change in mindset for the uptick in his play.

''I'm finally learning to try less and less,'' he said. ''I think that's the key for me. I think we're all conditioned to try harder and in all sports you're told to 'get in there, try harder' and certainly golf is no different. But I'm just kind of letting it go right now and that's the key.''

Duffy Waldorf was also 7 under with four holes remaining in his second round.

Fred Funk, Mike Goodes and Michael Allen were 6 under, with points leader David Frost and Russ Cochran one shot back at 5 under.

Colin Montgomerie, making his Champions Tour debut, moved into a tie for 10th with Corey Pavin and Mark Calcavecchia at 4 under after rolling in birdies on his first five holes.

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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.