Rookies Off to Fast Start

By Brian HewittFebruary 6, 2006, 5:00 pm
The collateral fallout from the nuclear, seven-shot victory that long-hitting J.B. Holmes dropped on the unsuspecting field at the FBR Open Sunday is that we now have a corking good race for PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. And the season is barely five weeks old.
The leader in the clubhouse at the moment is the 23-year-old Holmes who scorched the back side at the TPC of Scottsdale for a 31 in the fourth round. None of Holmes drives Sunday (other than the Par 3s) was less than 300 yards. Even more impressive was this stat: He finished tied for first in putts per round for the week.
Holmes sweet Holmes.
Holmes also displayed a flair for the theatric. He amiably chatted up fans while waiting to tee off on the 17th hole of his final round. And he scored his first PGA Tour victory on his mothers birthday.
It seems like weve been waiting forever for the American young guns to rise in the ranks behind Tiger Woods. And it hasnt happened. Yet. Woods has played in four Ryder Cups starting in 1997 at Valderrama. And each time he has been the youngest member of the American team.
The potential emergence of Holmes and Bubba Watson and, lets not forget, Bill Haas, could represent a sea change. Watson blew everybodys socks off at the Sony Open last month when he averaged more than 340 yards off the tee in the final round while hitting 11 of 14 fairways. He wound up fourth all by himself.
In fact the three longest drivers on the PGA Tour so far in this young season, statistically, are all rookies. Watson leads at 324.9, Holmes is second at 313.5 and Colombian Camilo Villegas is third at 311.8. John Daly, if youre looking for a point of reference, ranks 15th.
The diminutive Villegas grabbed a share of second place at Phoenix thanks to four rounds in the 60s. He dresses like hes about to go dancing. But he is serious about his golf and was an all-American AND an academic all-American at the University of Florida. Clothes dont make the man on the PGA Tour. Game does. Villegas, apparently, has plenty of both.
And lets not forget 30-year-old Aussie Nathan Green, also a rookie on our Tour this year. Green famously butchered the first hole of a playoff with Woods and Jose Maria Olazabal late last month at Torrey Pines. But his play has been steady and consistent in 2006.
Meanwhile, nobody I have found is ready to say Haas time wont come.
So all of a sudden we have an answer, at least for now, of where the American young guns are. Green and Villegas, as has been noted are not from our country. Ryan Moore, another cant miss kid, is technically not a rookie.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Consider this rather astonishing fact: Through the FBR Open, J.B. Holmes, who has played less than 10 PGA Tour events in his life, is ninth on the current Ryder Cup points list.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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."

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.