Henley takes 1-shot lead in McGladrey

By Doug FergusonOctober 25, 2014, 12:18 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Russell Henley has a reminder on his phone that goes off every day at noon to tell him he's the best putter in the world. He didn't need one Friday in the McGladrey Classic.

Playing for the first time since Sept. 14 at the Tour Championship, Henley one-putted 10 greens on the Seaside Course at Sea Island and tied his personal best on the PGA Tour with a 7-under 63 to take the lead in the second round.

The 25-year-old from Georgia would not have seen that coming.

When he teed off in the morning chill, he opened with a bogey on No. 10 and was simply trying to keep warm. The only 63 on his mind was whether the temperature would get that high. It did, and he got hot with his best club in the bag.

''After the first hole, I was just thinking, 'All right, you've got to hang in there and just be patient and hopefully get something going.' And I did,'' Henley said.

He managed to turn a horrible drive into a birdie on the 18th hole at the turn, the start of six birdies over his last 10 holes. That put him at 9-under 131, one shot ahead of Brendon de Jonge (64), Brian Harman (67) and Andrew Svoboda (66).

''That kept the round going, and then I felt pretty good with my putter,'' Henley said.

Will MacKenzie (68), Mark Wilson (66) and Fabian Gomez (66) were two shots behind. Defending champion Chris Kirk hit his first drive of the round into a hazard and made double bogey, but he recovered with five birdies for a 67 that left him only four shots back.

Henley has won in each of his first two years on the PGA Tour, and it was that inaugural win at the Sony Open that brought so much attention to his putting. He's not suggesting he is the best putter in golf, though it doesn't hurt to tell himself that every day.

''I would say I'm a great putter. And I think if you want to be a great putter, you have to believe that you're a great putter,'' Henley said.

That's why he added the phone reminder.

''I try to just believe in my putting and enjoy putting, and people always tell me I'm a great putter, so it's pretty easy to keep the confidence going when you're doing that,'' Henley said. ''I just wish they would say that about the rest of my game.''

He doubts they will ever say that about his acoustic guitar.

Henley has been fiddling with a guitar since he was a teenager, spent more time with it in college and when he turned pro, and now is at least good enough to fulfill a fantasy. During a friendly bet he won with country singer Darius Rucker, he was able to go on stage with him Wednesday night at Sea Island during a concert and play ''Wagon Wheel,'' even singing with him on the chorus.

''I still can't believe it actually happened,'' Henley said.

De Jonge ran off three straight birdies on his front nine and played bogey-free.

More than enjoying just his putting, it's key for Henley to enjoy his golf. He did well enough after winning the Honda Classic to advance to the Tour Championship, meaning a hectic end to last season. Henley was worn out and needed the five-week break.

''I decided to rest and take a few weeks off until I got the itch,'' Henley said. ''I'm kind of a worthless golfer if I'm not excited to play. And I feel like I'm excited to play again.''

DIVOTS: Tournament host Davis Love III had a 68 and was in good shape to make the cut. ... Scott Piercy, who missed a big chunk of last season with an elbow injury, had a second straight 67 and was three shots behind. He tied for seventh last week in Las Vegas.

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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.