Mickelson hoping for strong finish in Shanghai

By Doug FergusonOctober 30, 2013, 3:39 pm

SHANGHAI – Phil Mickelson was hard at work Wednesday morning on the practice range at Sheshan International, and not just on his golf swing. He was trying to learn a Chinese phrase, and he rehearsed it over and over to make sure he got the pronunciation just right.

The phrase: ''After the round.''

For all the autographs he gives, Mickelson never signs during his round, even if it's a practice round when the course is closed to the public. He was looking for a way to explain that to the Chinese gallery without coming across as aloof. The first option was ''Not now, later,'' except he figured ''later'' might translate to five minutes.

Mickelson is just as popular in China as he is at home. He engages the crowd. He has fun with the staged photo calls, such as Tuesday night in the Bund district when he dressed in a traditional robe and acted the part of a war hero returning home.

One year, he was sitting across from Tiger Woods in a game of Chinese checkers. The idea was to photograph golf's two biggest stars, and the best rivalry of their generation. But at the last minute, Mickelson spontaneously threw both arms in the air to make it look as though he had won.

As for the robe, the sword and a dance routine he tried (with limited success) to follow?

''Part of my enjoyment for participating in this tournament is some of the cultural experiences we've had, from Tai Chi two years ago to Chinese checkers, where I beat Tiger in that game,'' Mickelson said as the room erupted in laughter.

The golf hasn't been too bad, either.

Mickelson is a two-time winner of the HSBC, including 2009 when it was the first year with World Golf Championship status. He played in the final group with Tiger Woods that year and put him away early.

The HSBC is full-fledged WGC for the first time this year, attracting one of its stronger fields. Though it is missing Nos. 1 and 2 in the world – Tiger Woods is doing corporate outings in the region, Adam Scott is resting up for the hero's welcome he is sure to receive in Australia with his green jacket from the Masters – it has 40 of the top 50 players in the world.

For Mickelson, it's the end of a long and fruitful year.

He started at No. 17 in the world and has a chance this week to go to No. 2 if he were to win. He added the third leg of the career Grand Slam with his popular win at Muirfield in the British Open. He came within a fraction of an inch of 59 in the Phoenix Open, which he won. He added another international title at the Scottish Open.

''I would love to finish strong,'' Mickelson said.

Last week in Malaysia, he would love to have known where the ball was going. Mickelson said he rarely felt as hopeless as he did at Kuala Lumpur, coping with a two-way miss and realizing that his swing hasn't been reliable for some time. A few days later, optimism returned.

''The last two days, my game started to come around,'' he said. ''And as I enter this tournament, I enter with a lot more confidence than I've had in a while. Sheshan is a golf course that I feel very comfortable on. I feel like I know how to play this course successfully, and I'm looking forward to the week.''

The field includes Rory McIlroy, defending champion Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, four prominent players from Europe's winning Ryder Cup team, all of them still looking for their first win of the year. McIlroy gets the most attention because he started the year at No. 1 in the world and has fallen to No. 6. He is starting to swing the club beautifully though, and he beat Woods in their exhibition match Monday for the second straight year.

Mickelson, meanwhile, has shown that coming to Asia can pay off in more than just trophies. He has invested plenty of time, particularly in China, and already has at least three golf projects in the works. He spent Monday at Mickelson International Golf Club in the Shanghai area, which will open in the spring.

He has two other courses, one that includes a massive practice facility.

''I believe China and other parts of Asia are the biggest growth opportunity in the game of golf,'' he said. ''And I feel as though we should all help expose the greatness of the game of golf to these parts of the world, and see the game flourish.''

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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.