Harrington leads after 36 as weather makes 'mess' of Honda

By Doug FergusonFebruary 28, 2015, 10:05 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) - Padraig Harrington is a 36-hole leader on the PGA Tour for the first time in nearly five years and he knows he has a long way to go.

A vicious storm Saturday at the Honda Classic made his weekend even longer.

Harrington made six birdies in the 12 holes he played Saturday morning in the rain-delayed tournament to complete a 4-under 66 and take a one-shot lead over Patrick Reed, with Ian Poulter and Brendan Steele another shot behind.

The third round ended 51 minutes after it started because of a storm that packed 50 mph gusts and dumped about 5 inches of rain on PGA National. The storm was so severe that it created an air bubble on the 18th green the size of a sea turtle, caused the sides of bunkers to cave in and toppled an electronic scoreboard off a platform and down to the bottom of a lake.

"That's as bad as I've ever seen it rain," Russell Knox of Scotland said after a 68 left him four shots behind.


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Only 24 players completed a hole before the storm arrived, causing the third delay of the week. The plan was to return at 10 a.m. Sunday to resume the round, and continue with the same pairings to play as much as possible on Sunday. The tournament now is to end on Monday.

"We've got pretty much a mess," said Slugger White, the tour's vice president of competition.

It helps that the next event is a World Golf Championship about a 90-minute drive down the highway at Doral, and there is no pro-am.

Harrington, the three-time major champion from Ireland, has fallen to No. 297 in the world and couldn't qualify for Doral even if he were to win. He won the Indonesian Open on the Asian Tour at the end of last year, ending a four-year drought dating to another Asian Tour event.

His last PGA Tour victory was his second straight major, the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills. He said the benefit of playing Indonesia was a boost to his confidence, on and off the golf course. At such a small tournament, his name resonates.

"They treat you like a star, you play like a star," he said. "I'm back to being a three-time major winner. I went for that reason - to give my ego a boost. There's definitely a lot to being a big fish in a small pond."

That was a proper analogy when PGA National turned into a pond, and Harrington surely played the role of a big fish.

Thanks to nearly four hours of rain delays Friday, he made it through six holes and returned Saturday with back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th holes, and then another from about 10 feet on No. 1, posing over just about every shot.

After a bogey set up by a wild tee shot on the par-5 third hole - he had to pitch down the second fairway because of the trees - Harrington ran off three straight birdies before a few loose tee shots cost him. The rough had become so thick and wet that he couldn't reach the green on his last two holes, making bogeys on both.

He finished at 7-under 133.

"It's nice to be in contention," Harrington said. "I'm very positive about my game coming in here this week. I don't know what's going to happen the next 36 holes, but I have a good idea where I'm going. I'm pretty confident."

Reed finished his 67 on Friday.

Poulter matched the low round of the week at PGA National with a 64 and was two shots back. He holed out for eagle with a sand wedge on the fourth hole and dropped only one shot on the back nine.

"If I play half as good as I've obviously played today, then I'm going to have a chance come Sunday," Poulter said.

Steele's 69 score doesn't reflect his up-and-down day. He didn't make a par until the 10th hole, playing the front nine with six birdies and three bogeys. And then he made nothing but pars on the back nine except for a double bogey on the 16th.

Luke Donald finished his 67 on Friday and was another shot back at 4-under 136.

The cut was at 4-over 144 and didn't include Rory McIlroy. His first tournament in America in five months lasted only two days for the world's No. 1 player. McIlroy bogeyed three of his last four holes on Friday for a 74 and missed the cut by three shots. 

Phil Mickelson, who had missed two straight cuts on the West Coast swing, finished up at 67 on Saturday and was five shots behind.

The focus on Sunday starts with Harrington.

"Through 27 holes, I was the most confident guy in the world, and less so at the moment," he said after his bogey-bogey finish. "I know it's going to be a long weekend, and a tough weekend. I have two options. I can play well on the weekend or I can dig deep and hang in there."

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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.