Webb on Merion: 'Favorite golf course in the world'

By Associated PressApril 29, 2013, 10:52 pm

ARDMORE, Pa. – Webb Simpson already played for an amateur championship at Merion.

He's ready to win a major there on his next visit.

Simpson is one of the few active PGA Tour members to have played at the suburban Philadelphia course, competing in the 2005 U.S. Amateur. When he returns in June, Simpson wants to defend his U.S. Open Championship.

''I tell people all the time it is my favorite golf course in the world,'' he said Monday. ''What it demands out of the players is so different than most golf courses, and it seems like most golf courses now are evolving to be bombers paradise. Every par 4 is 500 yards, and you hit a driver on every hole. Merion's the opposite.''


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U.S. Open media day


The U.S. Open is set to return in June to Merion Golf Club for the first time since 1981. With good reason. The U.S. Open at Merion will be the shortest course for a major championship in eight years.

The U.S. Open was played at Merion in 1934, 1950, 1971 and 1981. Bobby Jones won the U.S. Amateur in 1930, and tournaments from the Curtis Cup to the Walker Cup have all been played at the course.

With a shorter course, birdies could become more expected over the weekend. USGA executive director Mike Davis said Merion will play at 6,996 yards on the scorecard. The last major course that was under 7,000 yards was Shinnecock Hills for the 2004 U.S. Open, which also played 6,996 yards. Merion will be the shortest since Southern Hills, which was 6,973 in 2001.

''There's going to be more birdies made at this U.S. Open than any we have seen in recent history,'' USGA executive director Mike Davis said. ''There's just some holes out here that lend themselves to it, which is wonderful. Then there's some holes that are very tough. I would contend that you've got this balance of some of the easiest holes for U.S. Opens that you'll see in the modern era, yet at the same time, they have got some tough holes.''

Davis and club officials spoke on a rainy Monday at Merion that certainly didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the return of major golf to the Philadelphia area. Simpson, who Skyped in for the event, had last year's championship trophy by his side.

''It's even more of an honor at a place I love,'' he said. ''I can't wait to get there.''

Simpson emerged last year on a fog-filled final day at The Olympic Club in San Francisco with four birdies around the turn and a tough chip out of a hole to the right of the 18th green that he converted into par for a 2-under 68. He outlasted former U.S. Open champions Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell and finished at 1-over 281.

Aside from the boost in his bank account and Official World Golf Ranking, Simpson has been noticed more because of the win.

''When I used to sign autographs, the kid would ask the mom who I was, and sometimes she would say, 'I don't know who that is,''' he said. ''But now people know who I am more.''

The USGA decided to cut down on tickets because Merion is not a big piece of property like Bethpage Black or Pinehurst. The USGA will take a financial hit compared with other venues, but it felt it was worth it. Merion expected about 25,500 fans during the peak days of the tournament.

''We don't look at this as a one-year financial exercise,'' USGA vice president Tom O'Toole said. ''We look over a period of years, and we're perfectly comfortable that we could come back and have a less financially significant Open.''

Merion's famed wicker basket flagsticks will be in place. So will an increased focus on pace after 14-year-old Guan Tianlang got a one-shot penalty for slow play during the second round of the Masters.

''We want to make sure that the pace-of-play policy is consistent with what the challenge is here at Merion,'' O'Toole said. ''We'll be looking at it closely.''

All eyes will be on Merion, which opened in 1912, for a weekend. Ben Hogan won the second of his four Opens at Merion. Lee Trevino beat Jack Nicklaus in a playoff. History is all around the famed course. It's time to make some more.

''When we closed up in 1981, it's not as if the course didn't play well, but we really thought this was the last time, at least at a national Open Championship, you would ever see Merion played on TV,'' Davis said. ''It had nothing to do with the golf course in terms of how it played, in terms of a test of golf. But it had everything to do with, how do you fit a modern day U.S. Open on this 111 acres?''

Simpson and the rest of the players can't wait to find out.

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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.