Goosen, Singh among 6 tied for NTO lead

By Doug FergusonFebruary 20, 2015, 2:49 am

LOS ANGELES - Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh, among the top five players in the world a decade ago, were part of a six-way tie for the lead in the Northern Trust Open in what amounted to "throwback Thursday" at Riviera.

Singh, who at 51 plays the occasional Champions Tour event, picked up four birdies on the back nine for a 5-under 66, his lowest opening round on the PGA Tour since the 2012 McGladrey Classic. The three-time major champion and former world No. 1 has not won since 2008.

Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open champion who turned 47 this month, was slowed by a pair of sloppy bogeys early on the back nine until he made a pair of late birdies to join Singh at 66. Goosen hasn't won since 2009.

They played in the same group with 28-year-old Brian Harman, who shot a 78.

"It was nice to see the two old boys play pretty good," Goosen said.


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Pebble Beach runner-up Nick Watney, competing for the fifth straight week, kept up his form with an eagle on the opening hole on his way to a 66. James Hahn, Daniel Summerhays and Derek Fathauer joined them in the lead as an overcast morning turned into mild sunshine, typical of the weather on this wondrous West Coast swing.

Fathauer was the only player at 66 who played in the afternoon, when the already difficult greens had a bit more bounce with approach shots and bump on the putts.

Such is Riviera that on a perfect day for scoring - mild weather, no wind - the average score was just under 73.

No one managed better than 66, while three players failed to break 80. One of them was Scott Piercy, who became this year's face of the par-4 10th hole. He began his round by going from the front bunker to the back bunker to the front bunker to the back bunker before making a great putt for double bogey.

Carlos Ortiz of Mexico, who had a 67, summed up the 312-yard hole this way: "I've never seen a par 4 that short that hard."

Singh didn't make everything, but he made enough. He moved into a share of the lead with a 35-footer from just off the 15th green, followed by a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th hole. He finished strong except for missing a pair of birdie putts inside 12 feet.

"I'm finally not hurting as much as I did the last five years," Singh said. "That's a big part of playing good golf. You're not hurting, you can go out and play and you're comfortable. Right now, nothing hurts. The golf swing feels good, and I'm happy to be playing."

For all his birdies, Goosen was most pleased with a pair of par saves - from 8 feet on No. 2 and 10 feet on No. 8. After a perfect wedge to 3 feet on the 10th hole for birdie, he went for the green in two on the par-5 11th hole and paid for it by missing well left and drawing a tough lie. He couldn't hold the green with his long pitch and failed to get up and down, making bogey. Then, he three-putted from 20 feet for bogey.

Two late birdies gave him a score he felt he deserved.

Summerhays and Hahn each joined the leaders late by finishing their rounds with three straight birdies. Watney ran off three straight birdies on his front nine and made the turn in 30, but he played the back nine in even par. Still, he was happy to be in at 66.

Watney had the lead briefly on the front nine at Pebble Beach last week until a pair of bogeys, and he never caught up to Brandt Snedeker. Still, it was a progress, and he might be on his way to getting yet another chance.

"I was disappointed for maybe 12 hours," Watney said. "But overall, it was almost all positive and on to the next week."

Geoff Ogilvy and Justin Thomas were among those at 68, while Jordan Spieth rallied for a 69 with a 31 on his front nine.

Defending champion Bubba Watson ended his streak of 43 consecutive holes without a bogey at Riviera when he hit into the trees to the right of the fifth fairway. He did enough right for a 70, a respectable start.

Snedeker was 2 under early until he had four bogeys in a span of six holes on the back nine and stumbled to a 73.

DIVOTS: Davis Love III, who is to be introduced as Ryder Cup captain next week, is carrying a red, white and blue bag with "USA" on each side. That would be his bag from the Presidents Cup. Love no longer has a bag deal with Bridgestone. ... Fred Couples says his disappointment over not being selected Ryder Cup captain was eased by hearing that the job was going back to Love. ... Sergio Garcia shot 71 in his PGA Tour debut for 2015. ... Ernie Els three-putted from 7 feet for double bogey, and then missed a 3-foot putt on the next hole and made double bogey. He shot 78. ... Wake Forest freshman Will Zalatoris, who earned a spot Monday in the Collegiate Showcase qualifier, opened with a 76.

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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.