Levy leads Donaldson by 4 at BMW Masters

By Doug FergusonNovember 1, 2014, 8:25 am

SHANGHAI - Alexander Levy sent his 40-foot putt across the sixth green and down a steep ridge toward the cup, and when it curled in the left side, he turned toward his caddie with arms raised and a smile that lit up Lake Malaren on an overcast day.

Just about everything is going right for Levy at the BMW Masters.

The Frenchman piled up nine more birdies Saturday on his way to a 9-under 63, giving him a four-shot lead over Jamie Donaldson of Wales and leaving him on the cusp of his third victory this year on the European Tour.

''I play good golf and it's true, I am confident,'' Levy said. ''You don't have that (confidence) a lot of time, and I need to enjoy this moment and do my best tomorrow.''

He had no choice but to keep making birdies. So was everyone else on an extraordinary day of scoring.

Donaldson holed out for eagle on the tough 16th hole in his round of 62 and he barely made up any ground. Justin Rose followed a 65 with a 64 on Saturday and actually lost ground to Levy.

''I think I've done my part, but I didn't bank on everyone else going as low as they are,'' said Rose, who was seven shots back. ''Obviously, Mr. Levy is going ridiculous out there. I would have thought I'd be in a bit better shape going into Sunday than I am, but obviously every credit to the lads that are keeping it going.''

Marcel Siem of Germany shot a 65 and still was five shots behind. He lost more than just a few strokes to Levy. He also lost some money. They have been betting 200 euros (about $250) each round on who has the better score. Levy got him twice in the 36-hole event he won in Portugal three weeks ago. The only round Siem didn't lose money was on Friday when both shot 66.

''I think I chose the wrong opponent,'' Siem said. ''But it's crazy when you're 17-under par and you lose every round against him - yesterday I tied. But it's good for him. He's a great lad and he's playing unbelievable golf at the moment. Tough to beat him, and I'll try my best tomorrow. we'll see.''

About the only one who didn't keep pace was Nicolas Colsaerts. He missed an 8-foot birdie attempt on the first hole and kept falling further behind until he finished with a double bogey out of the bunker on the 18th hole for a 73. Colsaerts went from a one-shot lead to nine shots behind.

Levy was at 22-under 194 as he goes after his third title of the year on the European Tour. He already is the first Frenchman with multiple wins in one season.

''I played an amazing round,'' Levy said. ''I enjoy a lot the way I played the first three rounds, and it was a good, good game. And I look to do my best tomorrow and try to play the same golf and to be aggressive like the first round.''

The BMW Masters is the first of four tournaments in ''The Finals Series'' that wrap up the European Tour season.

The conditions have been soft and overcast all week in Shanghai, with players allowed to lift, clean and replace their golf balls within one club because of the wet turf. Levy likes to take dead aim - he calls it ''target golf'' - and the soggy turf of Lake Malaren suits him perfectly.

He opened with a 9-iron to about 6 feet for birdie, stuffed a wedge in close for birdie on the second and hit another wedge close on the par-5 third. Even though Colsaerts was some 40 yards beyond him on the par-5 seventh, Levy hit his approach 10 feet closer and both made two-putt birdies.

Levy played with Colsaerts and Romain Wattel of France, with whom he is sharing a room this week.

''Impressive game,'' Wattel said to him after the round, and there was no denying that.

Siem was alone in third at 17-under 199. Rose, who opened with a 72, was at 15-under 201 and trying to figure out how he can make up so much ground with one round remaining. His only hope was for Levy to come back to the field.

''If Alex has a bad day, then you look at the second guy - Jamie at 18 (under) and maybe I'm three behind,'' Rose said. ''I always try to look at it like that because you never know what the leader is going to face on a Sunday, so you always have look at second and go from there. So in with a half-chance.''

Colsaerts and Emiliano Grillo of Argentina (69) were nine shots behind. Graeme McDowell, needing two good finishes during the Shanghai swing to become entrenched in the top 15 on the Race to Dubai, had a 68 and is playing for position.

Levy has not shown any signs of cracking.

''You've got to go out there and play well to catch him,'' Donaldson said.

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.'"


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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."

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.