McIlroy cards 67 on Day 1, shares early BMW lead

By Doug FergusonSeptember 5, 2014, 12:06 am

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. - Rory McIlroy felt anything under par was a good score Thursday at Cherry Hills, even if he had reason to expect much better.

McIlroy ran out of par saves late in the opening round at the BMW Championship and had to settle for a 3-under 67, still enough for the world's No. 1 player to share the lead with Jordan Spieth and Gary Woodland.

Cherry Hills, one of the shortest courses on the PGA Tour when factoring in the mile-high air, held up just fine.

''It's tricky. It really is,'' McIlroy said. ''The altitude, we've had a couple of days to adjust to that. It's fine. But these greens have gotten so much firmer over the last 24 hours. I think that's what is giving the guys just a little trouble out there.''

U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia were among those at 68, while Justin Rose wasted a fast start and was at 69. Phil Mickelson, who won the U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills in 1990, opened with a 70.


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''It reminds me of Augusta in the early '90s, where the course played very short but the greens were the defense,'' Mickelson said. ''And the greens were very fast, and very firm, and it was very difficult to get the ball close.''

McIlroy ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn to reach 5 under par. He appeared to escape trouble with one of his best par saves of the year, hitting a lofted pitch from the side of a mound that landed just on the green and rode the slope to about 8 feet. He avoided a three-putt on the next hole by making a 7-foot par save.

But that was the end of that.

McIlroy failed to save par from the bunker on the next two holes.

Spieth also ran into his share of trouble, though he countered with six birdies and figured out the nasty combination of soft turf in front of the greens and putting surfaces that felt like they had been mixed with cement.

He blasted driver through the fairway on the 382-yard seventh hole because it offered the best angle into the green. The trick was playing the wedge. It came out low and running, something one would expect to see more in links golf, and it had just enough speed to crawl onto the green and settle a few feet away.

''Today, I had a good short game,'' Spieth said with a smile, a strong comment from a guy with one of the best short games in golf.

Woodland made only one mistake when he three-putted from about 50 feet on the fourth hole. He birdied both the par 5s, missing an 8-foot eagle attempt on No. 11, and was equally pleased with a par on the 18th hole, which features a severely canted fairway toward the lake and an uphill approach. Woodland hit 2-iron off the tee and a 6-iron onto the green.

''Probably the firmest golf course we have ever seen,'' Woodland said. ''The greens, they're concrete out there. So if we don't get any rain, it can be pretty interesting by the weekend.''

Just his luck, rain arrived late in the day and suspended the first round with nine players still on the course. They will return Friday morning before starting the second round. The field is only 69 players and there is no cut.

Among those who did not finish was Henrik Stenson, who missed a 4-foot par save on his 17th hole - the par-3 eighth - and fell to 2 under. Jerry Kelly, whose eagle on the final hole at the TPC Boston on Monday enabled him to be the last of the top 70 qualifiers for the BMW Championship, was at 1 under with two holes to play.

The top 30 in the FedEx Cup after this week advance to the Tour Championship in Atlanta, where everyone will have a mathematical shot at the $10 million bonus.

McIlroy has proven himself plenty this year, winning the British Open and the PGA Championship, with a World Golf Championship in between. He is No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings behind Deutsche Bank Championship winner Chris Kirk, though he is assured a clear shot at winning the cup.

Boy Wonder has been saying during these FedEx Cup playoffs that his big year deserves a big finish.

He was hoping for a big round, and almost had one.

''The scoring isn't that good out there,'' he said. ''Not that it's not good, it's just not that low. It's tricky. It's playing a little bit like a U.S. Open. I wouldn't say it's quite as difficult as that, but it's thick rough, especially around the greens, and firm greens. That's what they need to keep the scoring the way it is.''

McIlroy wasn't the only player to reference a major championship.

''It felt close to it,'' Garcia said. ''Obviously, it's not a long course with the altitude and everything, but a lot of the shots had to be hit perfectly to be able to hit it close to the pin.''

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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.