Notes: Mickelson has special club in mind for Masters

By Doug FergusonMarch 30, 2013, 1:21 am

HUMBLE, Texas – Phil Mickelson has something special planned for Augusta National this year.

A special club, that is.

Mickelson shot a 71 on Friday at the Houston Open and will get in two more rounds in his final tuneup before the Masters in two weeks.

He shot a 72 on Thursday with a driver in his bag, then took it out and added a 3-wood ''that's more like a driver'' for his second round. The new 3-wood produces a lower ball flight and more run in the fairway.

So what's the plan for Augusta?

''We have a special club we're making that I'll be hitting on Monday,'' he said. ''So, we'll see.''

Mickelson, the 2011 champion, rallied with three straight birdies on the back nine Friday, fueling optimism for the weekend. Two years ago, he was five shots back after two rounds, then shot 63-65 on the weekend to win by three.

''I have a chance now when I show up,'' he said. ''I'm not searching, I'm not trying to find it. I know what it is I'm trying to do and the feelings I'm trying to create to hit certain shots. I have a chance to shoot a low round.''

SNEDS SLIDING: Brandt Snedeker left the PGA Tour with a rib injury as the hottest player in golf - runner-up to Tiger Woods and Mickelson in successive weeks, and then a winner at Pebble Beach. He goes into the Masters having missed his last two cuts.

Snedeker returned last week at Bay Hill after missing a month to heal his ribs. He missed the cut there, and Friday at the Houston Open. Needing a birdie, he went for the green on the par-5 eighth hole and found the water, leading to bogey. He finished at 1-over 145.

The good news: His ribs feel fine.

''Early in the year, everything was going right,'' Snedeker said. ''I was making key putts and hitting key shots in the round. Now I'm not making key putts and I'm hitting loose shots where you can't hit loose shots. Last week I hit it bad and putted good. This week I hit it good and putted terrible. Hopefully, that means everything will be just right at Augusta.''

Snedeker is not playing in the Texas Open. He will spend next week at Sea Island, where the greens are at about 13 to 14 on the Stimpmeter to prepare for the Masters.

He's not in top form, though Snedeker doesn't feel he is that far off.

''Looking back on it, I was playing good,'' he said. ''The things I was doing so good was minimizing my mistakes and maximizing my rounds. Right now I'm not.''

MASTERS UPDATE: Geoff Ogilvy is out of the Masters unless he wins the Texas Open, and though he's entered in the event next week in San Antonio, it wasn't clear if he will play.

The top 50 in the world after this week are eligible for the first major of the year. Ogilvy was at No. 50, though he will fall out after missing the cut. Ogilvy was No. 47 after his runner-up finish at the Honda Classic, but he finished toward the bottom of the pack in his next two events, and then missed the cut his last two weeks.

Henrik Stenson is now in the best position to crack the top 50. He was at 5-under 139 going into the weekend. He could get in with a top-40 finish, though that might depend on whether Marcel Siem wins in Morocco on the European Tour.

Augusta native Charles Howell III needs to finish alone in fourth. He had a 72 on Friday and was seven shots out of the lead.

COMFORT ZONE: Brian Davis is contending at the Houston Open for the second straight year.

The 38-year-old Englishman was 7 under par after shooting a 70 on Friday morning. Last year, Davis started 68-65 and tied for fourth, four strokes behind winner Hunter Mahan.

Redstone would seem to favor longer hitters, with its wide fairways and light rough, but Davis came in ranked 150th in driving distance.

''If you play well anywhere, you can get in contention,'' Davis said.

Davis had four top-10 finishes and earned $1.3 million in 2012. He's looking for a turnaround week after missing five cuts in his first eight starts this year.

''It's a funny game,'' Davis said. ''You don't feel like you play bad and, all of a sudden, you're in contention. That's just the way the game goes.''

MISSING CHAMPIONS: Mickelson is the only former champion to make the cut in Houston.

The cut line was 143. Defending champion Hunter Mahan (145) and past winners Paul Casey (157), Johnson Wagner (155), Stuart Appleby (144) and Robert Allenby (147) also were in the field this week.

ACES WILD: Carl Pettersson holed a pitching wedge on the 143-yard seventh hole, the first ace of the tournament. It's the first hole-in-one in the Houston Open since 2011, when Brandt Jobe aced No. 7 in the final round with an 8-iron.

BACKING OUT: Sean O'Hair, who shot a 76 in the first round, withdrew Friday morning because of a back injury.


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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.