Park rides hot play into NW Arkansas Champ.

By Associated PressJune 20, 2013, 9:53 pm

ROGERS, Ark. – Inbee Park took a week of rest and relaxation after her last tournament. She earned it.

The LPGA's top-ranked golfer, who has turned the tour into a personal showcase of sorts this year, was last seen two weeks ago – walking away after a grueling 39-hole final day at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

Park outlasted Catriona Matthew in a three-hole playoff to win her second major championship of the year and secure her standing as the world's best player. The win was yet another reminder of just how far she has come in the last year, from 26th in the world rankings to six wins in her last 22 starts – including four victories this year.

Park will tee off on Friday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship after a week in Florida with fellow South Korean Na Yeon Choi, a much-needed bit of rest after the difficult LPGA Championship win.

''Two weeks ago at the (LPGA Championship) was a very tough Sunday, and I was really exhausted after the round,'' Park said. ''I feel very refreshed now coming here this week after a week of break, and I feel ready to go again.''

This week's tournament, in its sixth year as a tour stop, features 97 of the top 100 players on the money list – a standout field leading into next week's U.S. Open. Ai Miyazato won the event last year at Pinnacle Country Club, shooting a final-round 65 to overcome a five-shot deficit for the second win of her career.

Park finished in a tie for 4th at the NW Arkansas Championship last year, beginning a stretch of 10 straight top-10 finishes. The run included a win at the Evian Masters, her first victory since the U.S. Open in 2008, and served as a precursor to a 2013 that has been nothing short of spectacular.

She opened the year with a win in Thailand before winning the second major of her career at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in early April. That moved Park ahead of Stacy Lewis and into the top spot in the rankings, and she's taken control with two more wins and more than $1.2 million in earnings this year.

''I feel more pressure than before, of course,'' Park said. ''I always thought that I was very fortunate to actually play for No. 1 every week, and I think that's something very special and I think that's something that I really need to take positive. No. 1 is a tough spot, but I've just got to try to enjoy it as much as I can.''

Park will compete for the spotlight this week with local favorite Lewis, who played collegiately at nearby Arkansas.

Lewis, a Texas native, ascended to the top spot in the rankings following back-to-back wins earlier this year. She is still No. 2 and third on the money list with nearly $750,000 in earnings, but even she admitted that it's been difficult to concentrate on her own game, while Park has left the field in her wake.

''You're definitely watching what she's doing because she's doing something special,'' Lewis said. ''Inbee's played great this year. It's a little frustrating because I feel like I've played really well, but it's gotten overshadowed quite a bit by what she's done. All you can do is take care of yourself, and whatever happens from that, happens.''

Lewis earned an unofficial win as an amateur at the NW Arkansas Championship in 2007, an event that was shortened to one round due to rain. Since then, she has struggled near her adopted home, finishing in an average of 23rd.

Lewis' highest finish was eighth in 2009, but she struggled to a 49th-place finish last year – a position she hopes to improve upon this week in front of her loyal following.

''It's my biggest event that I want to win, this side of a major,'' Lewis said. ''I think the last few years, I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself that I really, really wanted to play well. I've learned from becoming No. 1 and over these last few months that you can't play that way ... I feel like I'm putting less pressure on myself this year.''

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.