Walker leads at Texas Open; Spieth two back

By Associated PressMarch 28, 2015, 12:55 am

SAN ANTONIO – Jimmy Walker enjoyed a neighborly stroll at TPC San Antonio after a 35-minute drive from his suburban home.

Walker shot a 5-under 67 on Friday in the Texas Open to take a one-stroke lead in his hometown event.

He won the Sony Open in Hawaii in January after winning three times last season.

''It's nice to have friends and family here,'' Walker said. ''Good vibes and good mojo, and I believe in all that stuff. Positive energy is good.''

Walker overtook first-round leader Charley Hoffman with three straight birdies late in his round.

Hoffman, 8 under at the turn, uncharacteristically let a good round get away on the Oaks Course with three bogeys on his second nine. He finished with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Aaron Baddeley.

Hoffman has two top-three finishes in his previous four appearances at the Texas Open.

Baddeley had a 71.

''I'll keep drawing on my experience here, and I think you can get this golf course,'' said Hoffman, who led by two entering the day.


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Kevin Na, who infamously took 16 strokes on a par 4 in the event four years ago, had a 68 to join Texan Jordan Spieth at 4 under. The 21-year Spieth, coming off a playoff victory two weeks ago at Innisbrook, followed his opening 71 with a 69.

The gusts near 40 mph that blew Thursday morning continued to subside, though play started Friday with temperatures in the 40s.

''But it wasn't windy, so that was nice,'' Walker said.

The improved conditions packed the leaderboard with nine players within four strokes of Walker. That included Phil Mickelson, continuing to cram for the Masters less than two weeks off, at 2 under after a second-round 72. He was tied for sixth.

''It was a good first two days,'' said Mickelson, who has a best finish this season of 17th at the Honda Classic. ''I putted well and hit some good iron shots, but I'll have to work on the driving tomorrow. I played Augusta a few days before I came here and I was driving it great. I haven't hit it the way I felt I have been hitting it.''

FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel (70), Zach Johnson (71), Chris Kirk (71) and 2011 winner Brendan Steele (68) also were 2 under.

Johnson felt a jarring sensation in his right ring finger when he hit a rock while swinging from the native area to the right of the 12th fairway. He continued and expects to play this weekend.

Francisco Molinari, the former European Ryder Cup player, withdrew before the round because of a wrist injury he said happened while shooting 81 in the wind Thursday.

Jim Furyk and Dustin Johnson managed to survive for the weekend as the cut dropped a stroke in the afternoon to 6 over. Both made it on the number, and Furyk kept a streak of consecutive cuts made, now at 33. Steve Stricker, not playing this week, has the best active streak at 35.

Martin Kaymer wasn't close. After shooting his PGA Tour-worst 82 on Thursday, he had an 80 on Friday. The U.S. Open champion told officials in Houston he has changed his plans not to play next week and has committed to the Shell Houston Open to get ready for the Masters.

Marc Warren and Harris English made the cut in their bids to earn Masters spots by getting into the top 50 in the world.

Warren is No. 52, and his 4-over total had him three shots out of a top-20 finish that could push him to Augusta. English, 53rd, needs something in the top 10, and he was five shots from that at 3 over.

Walker jumped to the lead with a hot putter. Combining his three birdies from his 15th, 16th and 17th holes, Walker made almost 40 feet worth of putts.

''I didn't make anything, then finally got one to go,'' Walker said. ''That was a nice way to finish.''

Mickelson got it to 4 under after hitting to 3 feet on the 174-yard third hole - his 12th of the day - and chipping in on No. 4.

But he had a double bogey two holes later with a tee shot that put him thick in the trees to the left on the par 4, followed by a shot out of the woods across the fairway. He was still 54 yards away, and he left that approach short of the green and couldn't get up-and-down to save bogey.

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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.