The next major looks like the last one

By Doug FergusonAugust 10, 2010, 3:22 am

2010 PGA ChampionshipSHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Paul Goydos isn’t one who rushes to judgment, especially in the case of Tiger Woods.

Three months ago, after Woods withdrew from The Players Championship with a neck injury while languishing at the bottom of the leaderboard, Goydos said it was too early to say how much Woods was affected by the turmoil in his personal life. He suggested waiting until Woods played courses that he historically dominated – Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, Firestone.

“That didn’t work out too well, did it?” he said Monday at Whistling Straits.

Woods did tie for fourth at the U.S. Open, even if he stumbled badly in the final round. He was never in the hunt after the first day at St. Andrews, tying for 23rd in the British Open. And in the worst tournament of his career, Woods beat only one player in the 80-man field with an eye-popping score of 18-over 298 at Firestone.

Goydos still isn’t ready to rule him out.

Not for the PGA Championship, which starts Thursday on this links-styled course along Lake Michigan. Not even for the Ryder Cup, less than two months away, with Woods probably needing to finish in the top 10 to have any chance of qualifying.

“The game is hard,” Goydos said. “Obviously, he’s struggling. But sometimes we judge how far away someone is by the scores they shoot, and that’s not necessarily true. I’m a good example of that.”

Remember, it was only a month ago that Goydos shot 59.

“Let’s talk about how poorly he’s played,” he continued. “Since 2008, he’s the No. 1 player in our world ranking. Not by as much as he used to be, but he’s still No. 1 since the PGA two years ago. My point is, the demise of Tiger Woods might not be what it seems. Is he playing poorly? Yes. But he’s still No. 1.”

Woods finished so far behind at Firestone, and finished so early, that he arrived at Whistling Straits on Sunday afternoon, well ahead of most of the players. Only his caddie, Steve Williams, was seen walking the course.

They were out early on Monday, with Williams spending most of his time holding the end of a club against Woods’ head as a reminder to keep it still through the swing. Then came a long practice session on the range before leaving.

Before leaving Firestone on Sunday, Woods twice said toward the end of his interview, “I need to be ready by Thursday.”

Hunter Mahan, who won the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday and finished 30 shots ahead of Woods, was among dozens of players who began arriving for the final major championship of the year.

Those who were at Firestone spent time on the practice range. Some played nine holes.

Most came to the same conclusion.

The last major of the year looks a lot like the last one.

The key word, of course, is “looks.” Whistling Straits, which Pete Dye built along the bluffs of Lake Michigan, offers some of the most inspired views in golf. It rolls along through manmade dunes, with native grass that is yellow and wispy.

“It’s like a British Open with good weather,” Carl Pettersson said. “Some of the bunkers can be quirky, but that’s part of links golf. There’s a lot of blind tee shots, like you get in links golf. I don’t think it would be much fun to play in 20 mph in.”

The comparisons end there.

The soil is nothing like links golf, and Stephen Ames was quick to note that his 4-iron was rolling only about five yards in the fairway.

As for the bunkers? The PGA of America only tells the players that there are about 1,200 of them, although not nearly that many are in play. There are so many bunkers that the gallery often stands in them behind the ropes. A notice in the locker room again reminded players that a hazard does not end in the rope. Even if the ball is in someone’s foot print or the tire track from a cart, it’s still a bunker.

Stuart Appleby found that out the hard way in 2004 by removing a loose piece of grass and grounding his club during a practice swing. That cost him four shots.

Among the changes is a pot bunker in front of the green on the 355-yard sixth hole, which Kevin Sutherland said could make any player feel claustrophobic. Ames said it reminded him of the Road Hole bunker on the 17th at St. Andrews, yet another British comparison.

“It’s going to be hard,” Goydos said. “It’s got a little Scottish feel to it. You’re aiming at the bunkers. And there’s blind shots, but the blind shot is overrated. That’s all you have at St. Andrews. If a course was built after 1960, blind shots are bad. Anything built before 1960, and it adds character. I don’t get it.”

Goydos was not around in 2004 when the PGA Championship last came to Whistling Straits, although he pays attention. The fact Vijay Singh, a power player, won in a playoff over Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco told him that the course does not suit one particular style.

He’s not sure there is a favorite, especially in this climate of golf.

“With Tiger struggling, it’s wide open,” Goydos said.

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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.