Right Score Wrong Guy
Often, when I get a spare moment, I log on to thegolfchannel.com discussion boards to see what people are saying, or thinking, or just to steal a good line or two. About six months ago I saw a thread title that I thought was interesting. What I Like About The Game, was started by a poster with the screen name Holuta. I loved his first post. It was a list which included the sound of spikes on a cart path, and the smell of fresh cut grass. Holuta seemed like my kind of guy. His list went right to the heart of the game and made me think of all the things I loved about it.
After we exchanged a few posts I found out that Holuta was a freshman in High School named Brad Holuta. I liked his attitude so much I invited him to play at Shinnecock with me. I told him to bring his dad and a fourth and wed set a date in the spring, which turned out to be the Wednesday after Bethpage, when U.S. Open drama was fresh in our memories.
I met the Holutas at the airport when they arrived Tuesday night. Brad brought his dad and uncle Chris to play. His mom, Cindy and little brother, Brent were there just to have fun. They were all nice, gracious and happy. I saw immediately that the young man had inherited wonderful genes.
We got underway at 8:10 the next morning. Three balls in the first fairway, Brad and Frank were on the green in regulation. Three pars and a bogey had our group feeling good headed towards the second tee. I didnt have the heart to tell them that wed just played the easiest hole on the course.
The second hole is a long par-3. We made a couple of bogeys and some unmentionables and Brad turned to me and said, Wouldnt it be great if one of us made a hole-in-one and got on leaderboard report? I wanted the kid to get an ace at Shinnecock to cap off his trip.
The weather was perfect, we were cheering our pars, and ignoring the blemishes on the card. Brad was being introduced to the fescue grass and lightning greens from the U.S. Open tees (his idea, not mine). He was also introduced to a birdie at No. 5. That number will be sought after 100 weeks from now, for sure. The next hole is the most difficult on the course and Brad fully realized how nice that birdie was, after his travails at No. 6.
Legend has it that Ben Hogan called the 11th at Shinnecock the shortest par-5 in golf, though Trevino usually gets the credit. Its actually a par-3 with a wicked green surrounded by trouble. Hit it long left and youll pray for a five. The hole was 160 yards, uphill without any wind. The air was a bit muggy and heavy. The pin was cut back left near the drop-off to treachery.
I was first on the tee, and took a 5-iron, intending to find the fat part of the green (note, thats like looking for the fat part of Calista Flockhart). Id flushed a 4-iron on the last hole so I went back to the bag and pulled a six. I made good contact but pulled it just a hair. A big bounce and Im long left. Double. If it landed short on a narrow runway, Id have an uphill birdie putt, 20 feet or so. The green would feed naturally toward the hole, so I stood still. It took a bounce and began tracking. It was a good shot, but theres one heartbreaking spot on the green which gathers balls and hides them from the tee, making it look like youve holed out. My ball moved towards the pin and disappeared right at the bottom of the stick, near that hollow in the green.
My caddy, Anthony, said, I think its over. The other caddy, Arthur, has been at Shinnecock for six decades. He climbed on to a bench on the tee for a better vantage point. He was silent. My playing companions were excited, theyd never seen one and were having a lot of fun imagining that they just had. I assured them I was short and the ball was hidden.
They all hit their tee shots, quickly I might add. As we walked from the tee we were all silent. Halfway to the green I said, I feel like the guy whos throwing a perfect game and no one will talk to me! They laughed. I said it was short, in the hollow, but Frank got to the green and said he didnt see anything. I told them that it must have gone over. Anthony quickened his stride towards the hole and yelled, Its in when he got there. We let out hoots and hollers and hugged and high fived and took pictures and laughed. I repaired the ball mark which had made the green by six inches. I had wanted Brad to make one on that day, but was happy with my first.
I put the ball away and walked to the next hole thinking I would have that card for a while, I needed to post a score I could be proud of. I knew that if I made two pars, I could bogey in for a 79. Chris said, Who has the tee? and we all broke out laughing again.
When I birdied 18 to shoot 76 the Holuta family became my official good luck charm. High fives and hugs and back slaps continued all the way up to the veranda for lunch. Chris turned to me and said, Sometimes good deeds bear fruit quickly. I told him that without Frank and Cindy raising such a fine son, I would never have read the post, wouldnt have been playing that day, and still wouldnt have a hole-in-one. Again I was thankful for Brad and his take on golf.
Such is the serendipitous nature of our game. Sometimes, through a combination of errors, good intentions and destiny a person can experience wonderful moments and people can bond in the blink of an eye. I experienced one of those moments on June 19, 2002 on the 11th hole at Shinnecock with a family of people I now count among my friends.
Check out TGC's Discussion Boards for yourself
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
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."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
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.'"
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."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
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."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
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.