Dufner leads by 5, sets scoring record at Memorial

By Doug FergusonJune 2, 2017, 11:44 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Jason Dufner wanted to put together more than just a few good rounds this week at the Memorial.

The first two put him in the record book.

Dufner holed out from 176 yards on the 18th hole for an eagle, and then added three more birdies on the front nine at Muirfield Village for another 7-under 65, giving him the 36-hole scoring record at the Memorial and a five-shot lead going into the weekend.

He was at 14-under 130, one shot better than the record previously held by Rickie Fowler (2010) and Scott Hoch (1987). Neither wound up winning the tournament.

Daniel Summerhays made bogey on his last hole and shot 69 to finish five shots behind Dufner. Fowler (66) was another shot behind.

Jordan Spieth was one shot out of the lead after the opening round. He already was eight shots back when he teed off, and all he managed was a 72. Spieth and Justin Thomas (71) were tied for fourth and eight shots behind.

''Duf is obviously in full control of the ball tee to green, and you've got to be making some putts, too,'' Spieth said. ''He had two fantastic days. He's a major champion and a multiple PGA Tour winner, he's going to be a tough guy to chase down. But again, playing with the lead on this golf course I imagine is going to be difficult.''


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Dustin Johnson, the world's No. 1 player, won't have to chase him. Coming off a 78 - and his first round without a birdie in nearly four years - Johnson couldn't get anything going and shot 74 to miss the cut by five shots.

''I hate missing cuts,'' Johnson said.

At least he had time on his side. Johnson was headed up to Wisconsin for the weekend to see Erin Hills for the first time. His fiancee, Paulina Gretzky, is expecting their second child next week before he returns for his title defense in the U.S. Open.

Zach Johnson dug deep to make the cut on the number with four birdies on his last five holes. So did Tony Finau, who birdied his last three. They all have a long way to go to get to Dufner.

The shot that got the most attention was Dufner's 6-iron that he holed on No. 18 for his eagle. With a back left pin, the shot fit what he was trying to do, and he said the bonus was that it found the bottom of the cup.

The key to his great play was his putting, something Dufner rarely says. When asked about it at Kapalua to start the year, Dufner said: ''I've been putting bad for 17 years. It's tough to change.''

He managed with the help of a friend who sent him some research from a doctor who works with snipers in the Marines, and how they focus primarily on their breathing and their heartbeats. Dufner found his worst trait in putting was not having a consistent routine and getting too fast, almost as if he wanted to get it over with quickly.

''I think the one thing that also helps is it gives me something to think about other than my stroke or holing this putt or the situation I'm in,'' Dufner said. ''Subconsciously, I'm just putting. But I'm more focused on my breathing and I'm at with that.''

He said the goal presumably is to keep his heartbeat low, a real challenge for a guy who barely has a pulse in the first place.

''I've never had anybody measure it,'' he said. ''But I know that there's been times with my putting that the thought process and my actions have felt like they've been sped up and too quick. And I'm trying to slow down and focus on that breathing. It's been working. I've been using it all year. This is the first time I've said anything about it. Some days I'm better with it than others. You think it would be pretty easy to be consistent with that, but some days it's not.''

Fowler started the tournament with a triple bogey on his second hole and he was 3 over through four holes when he turned it around Thursday for a 70. He was back out Friday morning and shot 66 and walked off the course the closest player to Dufner, even if it wasn't very close.

Fowler and Dufner lived under the same roof during the winter months when Dufner came down to south Florida play some golf. They are good friends with personalities as different as hard rock and easy listening.

''We got to spend a decent amount of time together and that was fun,'' Fowler said. ''He's one of a kind. He's one of the best guys I know out here. ... Because he's fairly quiet on the course, you don't get to really see who he is as a person. He's one of the funniest guys out here, too. But fan-wise you wouldn't really see that. The way he carries himself is pretty chill and mellow.''

He very quietly took only 130 shots over two days.

Dufner, who grew up in northern Ohio, missed the cut the first two times he played Muirfield Village. He skipped the next three chances at the Memorial, but didn't have a choice in 2013 when he won the PGA Championship and earned a spot in the Presidents Cup that was held on the course Jack Nicklaus built.

Dufner spent that week asking his teammates how they played the course. Dufner posted a 3-1 record that week, and when he returned to the Memorial in 2014, he was at par or better over his next six rounds. He still doesn't have a top 10, but he has figured something out.

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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.