McIlroy provides more motivation for Woods

By Damon HackSeptember 17, 2012, 7:41 pm

More than a decade ago, Earl Woods told the story of a young Tiger Woods and the things that motivated him.

He talked about an 11-year-old Tiger making birdies through a rainstorm, never once complaining as other players trudged back to the clubhouse.

He talked about Tiger’s view of competition and how he never looked for excuses or for his opponents to make mistakes.

“Tiger was always taught, ‘Play the course,’” Earl said in the spring of 2002. “He’s looking to beat the damn course.”

Photos: Tiger Woods through the years

Photos: Rory McIlroy through the years

From 1997 to 2009, Tiger did exactly that, maybe at the highest level the game has ever known. He won 14 majors with two coaches and three swings. He made 142 straight cuts, golf’s version of Joe DiMaggio’s untouchable hitting streak. 

And even when Vijay Singh supplanted him as No. 1 in the world in 2004 – or when Phil Mickelson picked up consecutive majors from 2005 to 2006 – few doubted that the best player in the world, at his best, was still Tiger Woods.

Over the last five weeks, Rory McIlroy has upended that truth, winning a second major by eight shots and back-to-back FedEx Cup playoff events against stacked competition.

There goes Rory, running wind sprints with the New York Knicks. There goes Rory on Jimmy Fallon. (How Tiger of you, Rory!)

Rory’s rise to No. 1 feels different than Martin Kaymer, Luke Donald or Lee Westwood’s spells atop the world golf rankings. Kaymer won the 2010 PGA and now resides outside the top 30. Donald and Westwood, for all their talents, remain unfulfilled on professional golf’s four biggest weeks.

Rory is a big-game hunter. The career grand slam could be his by July.

Tiger has already proven he can win again, but the golf world has undoubtedly shifted. His name on a leaderboard does not inspire fear as it once did. His putting is streaky, his body fragile enough to be one awkward swing away from the disabled list.

And yet to dismiss Tiger, even at 36 and with Rory ascendant, seems like a fool’s game.

Tiger does not have to be the best player on the planet to win more majors. But does he have to be the best to win five more?

That is what is so intriguing about the coming years and the intersection of Rory’s emergence and Tiger’s ambitions.

For the longest time, Tiger’s motivations could be defined in simple terms – to break Jack Nicklaus’ record for majors and become the greatest golfer of all time.

To beat the damn course.

In March, before his victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial and the AT&T National, Tiger started to subtly reveal other motivating factors. He began showing fellow Tour players video of his son, Charlie, swinging a club. Charlie and Tiger’s daughter, Sam, were in the gallery at the Honda Classic (where Tiger shot 62 on Sunday to lose to Rory by two shots).

Rory’s ascendance has given Tiger one more thing to think about, at the Tour Championship, the Ryder Cup and beyond.

Tiger was taught to beat the course, and on some days he will.

But from now until the end of his chase, someone cut from a similar cloth will be standing in his way.

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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.