Notes Gulbis Improving Players Marrying

By Brian HewittJanuary 11, 2007, 5:00 pm
Sergio Garcia turned 27 Tuesday and more than a few people noted that one more year had passed without one of golfs most promising players winning a major championship. It has also been noted by a smaller group of observers that Garcia has fallen out of the top 10 in the World Rankings.

Which brings us, in a roundabout sort of way, to Natalie Gulbis.

No, Sergio is not dating her.

Natalie Gulbis
Natalie Gulbis has 25 top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour, but no wins.
But two days before Garcias 27th birthday Gulbis turned 24. She has played golf professionally since 2002. She currently ranks No. 20 in the Rolex Womens World Golf Rankings.

And shes still looking for her first LPGA victory.

Not to worry, says her teacher and swing coach, Butch Harmon. Harmon is a tough guy when he has to be. But at the moment he sees the glass as half full for Gulbis.

The thing that pleases me the most about Natalie is that in the tournaments in which she has been close, someone else has won, Harmon says. She hasnt lost them.

Shes playing very well. Im pleased with her progress. And I think she will win multiple times this year.

Gulbis posted seven top-10s in 2006 and finished No. 16 on the money list. The big problem was with the driver. The stats dont lie. Gulbis wound up tied for 54th in fairways in regulation and tied for 77th in driving distance.

She has to hit it farther, Harmon says.

Meanwhile, he adds, Natalies also still learning how to best manage her time. Shes a very popular young lady.

Time management, Harmon said, was one of Greg Normans strengths. Harmon learned from former pupil Greg Norman and imparted many of Normans time management skills to Tiger Woods when that pair famously worked together.

Normans daughter, Morgan-Leigh, by the way, is the one dating Garcia these days.


Speaking of which, Arron Oberholser, who is hoping to defend his title at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am next month, recently became engaged to LPGA player Angie Rizzo.

Oberholser is 31. Rizzo is 28.

Oberholsers people, by the way, say the back problem that forced him to withdraw from the Mercedes-Benz Championship last week is not serious.

Didnt it seem like more?

Brett Wetterich
Brett Wetterich hit the longest drive of the week at the Mercedes, 437 yards.
The final numbers from Kapalua were 12 drives of 400 yards or longer by the field for the week.

Knowing that the USGA, golf in Americas regulating rules body, pays close attention to this sort of thing, I inquired as to whether this golf ball bashing raised any eyebrows at its New Jersey headquarters.

And I was informed by Dick Rugge, the USGAs Senior Technical Director, that the corresponding 400-yard drive number was 13 last year and up into the 70s at the 2004 event at Kapalua.

So, no. No eyebrows raised.

The average driving distance at this event was 255.1 yards, Rugge observed. Last year it was 255.4. This 10-inch decrease from last year isnt going to move my needle too much, he said.

But remember, Rugge added, that this is only one event'it takes plenty more before we can spot any trend changes or be able to confirm that there are no trend changes.

The early favorite for Rookie of the Year, in the minds of many experts, is Anthony Kim. Kim, 21, also happens to be the youngest rookie on the PGA TOUR. The oldest rookie is 47-year-old Canadian Jim Rutledge.

Rutledge says one of his biggest challenges will be adjusting, on the fly, to all the new courses. Taking these golf courses and breaking them down as quickly as humanly possible because of the short time I have to do that, he said.

The smartest pick for Rookie of the Year?

Swedens Henrik Stenson.

Stenson won $582,303 on the PGA TOUR last year and is now a special temporary member which makes him a rookie off the 2006 Non-Member Money List category.

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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.