Travelers champ Streelman gets face on M&M's

By Associated PressJune 24, 2015, 8:28 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Golfers who made the cross-country trip from the U.S. Open to Connecticut to play in this week's Travelers Championship may have been enticed by the $6.4 million purse or the nice trophy, but what many really want is their face on a piece of candy.

The tournament, which begins Thursday, has become known on tour for the little perks it offers players, including providing the champion with a supply of M&M's with his face printed onto the hard candy shell.

''The first time I saw my face on an M&M, it was a little strange, but it was very cool at the same time to give them to friends and family,'' said defending champion Kevin Streelman, who earned his M&M's along with $1.1 million last year by making birdies on seven straight holes to close out the tournament.

Mars Inc. makes personalized M&M's for events such as weddings or corporate get-togethers, and tournament director Nathan Grube says the idea to make them part of the Traveler's Championship prize package began at one such event that included candies with the Travelers logo.

''We thought, we're not going to be able to do a Wheaties box, but we can do this,'' said Grube. ''So, now we hand them out at media day, we use them for our sponsor prizes. Any little thing that we can show our champion that his win is very personal for us.''

Ken Duke became the first golfer to adorn the Travelers M&M's after winning the tournament in 2013. Grube said Duke called to ask for extra after running out of candy to give away at various charity events, hospital visits and meet-and-greets with fans and sponsors.

The tournament also offers some bigger perks to convince golfers not to take this week off, including a free charter flight from the U.S. Open for players and their families, spa days for wives and free dry cleaning for the caddies.

But Andy Bessette, Travelers Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, said it's the candy that players want to talk about when he goes out to promote the tournament.

''Guys love that and they say 'Hey you're the tournament that puts the winner on the M&M,''' Bessette said.

Here are some other items of interest as the 2015 Travelers Championship gets underway:


WISH COME TRUE: The Travelers invited 13-year-old Ethan Couch of Alberta, British Columbia and his family to join Streelman in Cromwell this week. Couch, who has an inoperable brain tumor, received the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation to caddie for Streelman during his victory in April's Masters par-3 tournament. He also walked with Streelman during the Travelers celebrity pro-am on Wednesday. ''It's pretty amazing,'' said Couch's mother, Jennifer. ''It has really helped Ethan and it's helped our family and now we've got some great memories.''


PLAQUE: Streelman's record of seven consecutive birdies that clinched the 2014 championship has been commemorated with a plaque that has been placed at the 12th tee, where he started the tournament-ending run.


ELS RETURNS: South African golfer Ernie Els, a four-time major champion, is making his second appearance at the tournament and his first since 2002, when he finished in a tie for 10th place. ''I've heard from the players (Travelers) has done such a good job with the event and I thought I'd come back and give it a go,'' he said. ''Obviously the purse is one of the biggest on Tour, that kind of grabs your attention also. It's gone from a smaller event to one of the premier events on Tour.''


OPENERS: Two of the world's Top 10 golfers (No. 5 Bubba Watson and No. 9 Sergio Garcia) and seven of the top 15 finishers from the U.S. Open made the trip to Cromwell. No. 8 Jason Day withdrew from the Travelers after battling vertigo at Chambers Bay.

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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.