Perry back to defend Champions major at Shoal Creek

By Associated PressMay 13, 2015, 9:37 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Shoal Creek is Kenny Perry's kind of golf course, and it showed last year.

Perry returns to the scenic suburban Birmingham course for the Regions Tradition starting Thursday, seeking to defend his championship in the first of the Champions Tour's five majors. For him, the lush trees all along the 7,145-yard, par-72 layout add more than a pleasant view.

''I like a golf course that's tree-lined,'' Perry said. ''It kind of tells you what to do. It's just beautiful. It's just an old course and it sits out there in front of you and says, 'Come get me.'

''There's a lot of risk-reward holes, like No. 11 is a par-5 over water. Eight's a great par-3. I get nervous every time on 8 when I get up there. It kind of reminds me of the 17th at TPC'' in San Antonio.

Perry's 20-foot birdie putt on No. 16 gave him the lead for good in a one-stroke victory over Mark Calcavecchia last year for his third straight win of a Champions Tour major. His 7-under performance on a course that had been soaked by rain was the highest score by a winner at the Regions Tradition, including even-par starting and closing rounds. It was also just one stroke better than his previous year, when he finished 15th.

The relatively high scores also suit Perry, though rain hasn't been an issue leading up to the tournament this time, leaving firmer, faster greens.

''My short game's never been my strength,'' Perry said. ''It's always been my ball striking that's allowed me to survive on the PGA Tour for 30 years and now out here.

''When I come to a place where 8- to 12-under wins a golf tournament, I like it. I don't like 20-something under winning. I don't like those putting/birdie barrages. That's why I enjoy coming here.''

He battled back pain for the final 12 holes at Houston two weeks ago, hitting the ground after a sharp pain when he bent over to pick up his putter on No. 6.

Perry said he could barely walk the next day, forcing some sessions with his chiropractor. But he said he played 18 holes after arriving at Shoal Creek on Tuesday without any problems.

Ian Woosnam also arrived feeling good about his game. The Welshman delivered a 30-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole with Perry and Tom Lehman to deliver his first Champions Tour win in Houston, leaving his status set on the 50-and-over circuit for at least a calendar year. The Welshman played that tournament on a sponsor's exemption.

Woosnam, the 1991 Masters winner, became the oldest first-time winner on the Champions Tour at 57 years, 2 months and 1 day.

Like Perry, he thinks Shoal Creek ''really suits my game'' with drives and irons play being so important.

Woosnam hadn't played the course since the 1990 PGA Championship before last year's Tradition.

The breakthrough win left a player who by his own admission has had a streaky career in a confident mood believing the ball will go where he wants it to.

''Now, I've got more confidence in knowing where it's going to go and what shape it's going,'' Woosnam said. ''I've always been sort of a player where when I've got the confidence, I do really well. When the confidence is not very good, I don't do too well.

''My game has always gone in sort of sections where I play really well for six months and then I don't play very well and then I play well again. I just have to put up with it, really.''

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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.