Stroud leads PR Open; DeChambeau, Beef in mix

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2017, 11:40 pm

RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico - Chris Stroud has gone 276 tournaments over the better part of a decade trying to win on the PGA Tour. A birdie on the final hole Saturday in the Puerto Rico Open gave him his first 54-hole lead, and he hopes his experience will keep him calm.

Looking over his shoulder could make that very difficult.

Stroud kept a clean card at Coco Beach Golf and Country Club for a 5-under 67, giving him a one-shot lead over Bill Lunde and D.A. Points. What makes the final round more challenging is 10 players were within three shots.

''I feel like at this point in my career - it's my 11th year on tour - I've got experience on my side,'' Stroud said. ''I was very calm today. Nothing really freaks me out. Middle of the round, I got a little loose, but I'm going to draw from that. I feel like I'm way overdue.''

Stroud was at 15-under 201.

Points is a two-time PGA Tour winner, most recently in 2013 at the Houston Open. Lunde won the Turning Stone Resort Championship in 2010, and only got into the Puerto Rico Open as a past champion. This is his first event in five months, so winning could not come at a better time.

The Puerto Rico Open is opposite a World Golf Championship, so it does not include an automatic invitation to the Masters. But it offers a two-year exemption, and that would mean everything to Stroud and to Lunde, who do not have full status. Stroud is a conditional member from finishing out of the top 125 last year.

''That would be the biggest change, versus kind of waiting around to play my five, six events a year,'' Lunde said. ''It would give me somewhere to play all the time. That would be the greatest thing that would come with a win tomorrow.''

Wesley Bryan, who needed a victory for any hope of moving into the top 50 and getting into the Masters, shot 73 to fall out of contention. That no longer is an issue, anyway, because with Hideto Tanihara (semifinals) and Ross Fisher (quarterfinals) advancing in the Match Play, Bryan could not crack the top 50.

Stroud simply wants a victory. He twice shared the 54-hole lead. The closest he came to winning was losing in a playoff to Ken Duke in 2013 at the Travelers Championship.

Andrew ''Beef'' Johnston of England shot a 66 and was two shots behind. Also two shots back was the local favorite, San Juan native Rafael Campos, who shot a 69 and was warmed by the loud ovation as he approached the 18th green. Campos has as much pride in his local event as anyone on the PGA Tour.

''I don't really mind me playing good or bad, I just want to make golf visible here,'' he said. ''And seeing that many people following me and all that, I think to myself, 'OK, I'm pretty sure after the week at least two or three guys will want to start picking up golf here.' That's my main goal right now, try to promote the game. Yeah, obviously it's great when I'm playing good.''

Former U.S. Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau also was two shots behind after a 70, while former Puerto Rico Open champion Scott Brown and Peter Uihlein, a former U.S. Amateur champion who plays the European Tour, were three shots back.

Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, shot 67 and was five behind.

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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.