McDowell hopes for fresh start, return to top 50

By Doug FergusonOctober 28, 2015, 12:45 pm

Graeme McDowell is going on nine months without a top 10 on any tour, so he is eager to get this year behind him and start all over again.

He gets to do both in a span of three weeks.

Last week in Hong Kong, this week in Turkey, and that will be the end of his European Tour season.

McDowell is No. 64 in the Race to Dubai, and barring a big finish at the Turkish Airlines Open, he will finish out of the top 50 in Europe for the first time since 2006.

Then it's off to the beach - Mayakoba in Mexico, Sea Island along the coast of Georgia.

The calendar says those are the final two events of the year on the PGA Tour, but McDowell knows better. They are part of the fall start to the new PGA Tour season, and they present a chance for him to get a head start.

He didn't play the PGA Tour last season until the Florida swing, and by then he felt miles behind.

''A big part of me wants to get the year finished,'' McDowell said Tuesday. ''But Sea Island and Mexico are going to feel like the start of 2016 to me.''

McDowell finished last year at No. 15 in the world, and he had been a fixture in the top 50 since his magical season in 2010. That was the year he won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, delivered the winning point for Europe in the Ryder Cup and nearly won the Race to Dubai until he was edged out by Martin Kaymer.

This year, however, the 36-year-old struggled with the balance of being a global player and a new father.

He started at the Dubai Desert Classic and tied for ninth. That turned out to be his only top 10 this year.

''When you take your eye off the ball for just a second, you're going to get beat up,'' he said. ''I got off to a slow start and didn't play a lot of golf. ... It's amazing how quickly the confidence goes. This game is about momentum and confidence.''

McDowell slipped out of the top 50 two weeks after the U.S. Open, and he never got it back. That knocked him out of the HSBC Champions next week in Shanghai, which in effect threw him into reverse during the Race to Dubai.

Only the top 60 reach the season finale in Dubai. Only the top 10 after Dubai qualify for the bonus pool.

McDowell didn't see the point of chasing points in the Race to Dubai, which is a long shot. Instead, he wants to get an early start on a new season in America.

''I know it's not what the European Tour wants to hear,'' McDowell said. ''But if I can get some points on the board early (on the PGA Tour), maybe that will free me up to play in the desert (Middle East swing). It hasn't been a phenomenal year for me. I took some time off after the PGA Championship and I'm fresh. I'm keen to tee it up.''

He is among a growing list of international players who at least want a few PGA Tour starts before the end of the year. Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson are at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia this week. Rickie Fowler played in Las Vegas last week.

Only once in the last 10 years has McDowell played an official PGA Tour event in the fall. That was in 2011 when he went to the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island. The competition is getting stronger. The fields are deeper. And it's becoming tougher to essentially spot other players a three-month head start by waiting to play the Florida swing.

His first PGA Tour event this year was the Honda Classic. McDowell didn't break par until the first round of the Masters.

When he arrived at the U.S. Open, he talked about wrestling with motivation after getting married, having a daughter and finding time and desire to do what brought him to such a consistently high level in the first place.

McDowell decided then he didn't want his career to be defined by the 2010 season. He wants more majors, more big Ryder Cup moments.

He is enjoying the work that goes into getting his game back where he thinks it should be. He hasn't seriously contended since returning from a six-week break after the final major, though 14 of his 16 rounds have been under par. That's a start.

Even so, he most likely would need a win to get back into the top 50 by the end of the year. That would assure him a spot in the World Golf Championship at Doral, and at the Masters. And being in the top 50 is critical for players like McDowell who have membership on the two biggest tours.

''There's a real premium on playing well when you do turn up,'' McDowell said. ''My big focus in 2016 is on playing enough golf, but not too much. It's about staying sharp. I want to be on the Ryder Cup team. My main priority is getting back to where I needed to be, competing, and not scratching around at the bottom of the money list.''

With one season ending in Europe and another already having started in America, there's no time to lose.

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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.