Texas wins Collegiate Masters with tourney-record score

By Ryan LavnerMarch 12, 2015, 12:14 am

LAS VEGAS – Southern Highlands Golf Club usually leaves teams battered and bruised, beat up after three days of relentless winds and immense pressure on a big-boy course.

That’s certainly been the case for Texas over the past few years. Even with some of their most talented teams in the program’s long history, the Longhorns have failed to finish better than sixth since 2010 in the Collegiate Masters.

“This course has had our number,” conceded senior Kramer Hickok, but as he and his teammates walked off the course Wednesday,there was something different about them.

Battered and bruised? Nope.

They were, well, buoyant. Bullish.

And why not? After three rounds on a rain-softened track with little wind, Texas lit up its old nemesis with a tournament-record 26-under 838 and 10-shot win over Oklahoma in the No. 1-ranked college event of the year.

This was the quintessential team victory: All five Longhorns starters were under par and inside the top 25 individually, led by sophomore Beau Hossler, who shared second, and Hickok, who was fourth.

“This is a big one,” said Texas coach John Fields, barely able to contain a toothy grin. “This is one our guys can be excited about.”

The Longhorns may be ranked fourth nationally, but you can make a convincing case that they’re the best team in the country. They captured the U.S. Collegiate against an elite field in the fall. Last week in Florida they won in terrible conditions at the John Hayt Invitational. And now they won the Southern Highlands in a rout, running away from a field that included five of the top 10 teams and 10 of the top 25.

“We’re one of the top teams, if not the top team,” Hossler said. “We’ve known that since Day 1, but now we’re starting to prove it to ourselves.”

Indeed, Texas was the most talked-about team heading into this season, with its roster chock full of big-name prospects, former AJGA All-Americans and U.S. Open participants.

The biggest name remains Hossler, who turned heads while grabbing the lead during the second round of the 2012 U.S. Open, but the Longhorns also welcomed 2013 U.S. Junior champion Scottie Scheffler and top-five recruit Doug Ghim.

Any freshman experiences a transition period when he first arrives on campus, and these two studs were no exception. Not only are their social changes – being away from home, learning time-management skills, dealing with the temptations on a college campus, etc. – but the golf requires a different mindset as well.

Whereas many junior golf courses are set up to promote birdies and low scores, the trend in college golf is for the course to protect par. Tournament officials will grow out the rough, firm up the greens, cut the holes in tricky positions.

So when Scheffler and Ghim struggled in the fall, combining for just one top-20 finish, it was the job of experienced players like Hickok and Hossler to step in and tell them to lower expectations.

“It just takes time for them to get their bearings,” Hickok said.

“We all went through it,” Hossler said, “and they’ve really stepped up big for us.”

Those freshmen are coming around now, especially Scheffler, who has rattled off five consecutive top-11 finishes, including a T-7 showing here in Vegas.

“The spring has felt like a fresh start for us,” he said. “This hasn’t even been all of our A-games yet, either.”

Scary, because just like during their title run in 2012, the Longhorns are full ofconfidence and sprinting toward May’s finish line.

“You take any of our five guys and they can win individually,” Hickok said. “Most teams can’t say that.”

So much for battered and bruised.

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.