Tour cards on the line at Disney World

By Associated PressNovember 11, 2010, 1:22 am
ChildrenLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Briny Baird left the wife and kids at home this week to go to Disney World. After all, this trip is no vacation.

At No. 126 on the money list, it’s only business. Baird joins others at the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Classic on Thursday who are near the cut line to keep their PGA Tour card. Only the top 125 will have full status next year.

The pressure to perform and living about two hours away in Jupiter, Fla., forced him to rethink doubling the event as a family vacation.

“I’m like, ‘What are we doing? We’re coming up for the week because we got free Disney passes?” Baird said. “If I play well, I think we can afford the Disney passes.”

Probably more than that.

Players who finish No. 126-150 on the money list will get conditional status, allowing them to enter more than a dozen tournaments. But it can be a hectic year figuring out schedules each week. Not to mention hoping for sponsor’s exemptions or missing out on some of the most prestigious tournaments.

And what a fitting site for the finale.

The place that declares at the entrance gates “Where Dreams Come True” will crush as many hopes as it fulfills this weekend. With so many in search of that fairy tale ending, some will inevitably fall short.

“It’s a great place to come play,” Baird said. “Obviously, I don’t think I’m up here because it’s a great place to play.”

Nerves are often all over the course, too.

Players overswing on drives. They short-arm putts and take chances they otherwise wouldn’t. Even around the plush clubhouse, complete with a playroom for kids, these are anxious times for many.

“I can imagine that guys just want to get out there and get things rolling right away and get it over with so they don’t have to think about it for another 12 months,” said Troy Merritt, who is at No. 121 on the money list.

At least Merrit has another incentive.

Merritt leads Rickie Fowler and Aaron Baddeley by one stroke in the Kodak Challenge. The contest designates a hole at 30 tournaments and keeps score throughout the year, and the lowest score for those who played at least 18 holes wins the $1 million prize. This week’s hole is No. 17 on the Magnolia Course.

But the major payday is merely a subplot this week. Stephen Ames, who has won it two of the last three years, is out with a back injury.

Even for those who are safe, the stress from others is clearly visible.

“Guys get a little more serious, guys have their swing coaches out or they have their psychologist out, really trying to do whatever they can to try and keep their cards for next year,” said Baddeley, who’s assured of keeping his full status. “You don’t laugh at them because you could be in that position.”

Last year, only two players who started inside the top 125 at Disney fell out and lost their cards: Former No. 1 David Duval and Robert Garrigus. Duval rebounded this year and will have full status after he earned enough money despite playing fewer tournaments. Garrigus enters at 122nd and again is in danger of not having full status.

Maybe nobody knows that feeling of barely missing the final cut more than Baird.

Baird finished 126th in 2005 in one of the worst ways imaginable: An event in Mississippi was rained out and rescheduled at the end of the season. If the tournament had been canceled, he would have never lost his card. As it turned out, Baird went from 125 that week to 126.

Absolute heartbreak.

But Baird isn’t overly concerned about keeping his full status this week. The 38-year-old believes he could enter enough tournaments next year to get back his card if things don’t go his way at Disney. He’s already signed up for qualifying school just in case.

Of course, a solid outing and he won’t have to worry about his schedule.

“I’m not going to downplay it. There’s a significant difference,” Baird said. “You’re going to get to pick and choose your tournaments, and that’s huge.”
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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.