Stenson increases lead at East Lake; Scott four back

By Doug FergusonSeptember 20, 2013, 11:45 pm

ATLANTA – Henrik Stenson broke another club Friday – this time by accident.

And it didn't matter.

Playing with only 13 clubs in the bag after his 4-wood broke on the practice range, Stenson made three birdies on the opening four holes at East Lake to quickly seize control and shot 4-under 66 to build a four-shot lead over Adam Scott in the Tour Championship.

For all his birdies, the best move he made all week was deciding to put the 4-wood in his locker instead of carrying it with him.

Stenson heard a funny sound after hitting five shots on the range, showed it to Steve Stricker and realized the face caved in. A television viewer who heard about the incident called the PGA Tour to see if the Swede had kept it in his bag, and officials checked with Stenson after his round.

If he had left it in the bag without using it, Stenson would have been assessed a four-shot penalty - the margin of his lead. If he had used the club, he would have been disqualified. Stenson had no intention of using it, though sending it to his locker saved him.

He wasn't sure it was a violation to carry a non-conforming club, nor did he know the penalties.

''You asked me how well I knew the rules the other day. I gave myself 7 out of 10, didn't I?'' he said. ''I guess this was in the other 30 percent then. ... Good thing that we put it in the locker before we teed off.''


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The way he's going, a bizarre incident like that might be the only thing that can stop him.

Stenson was at 10-under 130 going into the third round and might be playing a course far less firm. The forecast is for rain most of day, and the starting times have been moved up to Saturday morning with hopes of getting it in.

Tiger Woods is not in position to halt the hottest player in golf. Woods was headed toward the best round of the day, 5-under through 13 holes, when he made double bogey on the 14th, had a triple bogey on the 17th and wound up with a 71. He was 14 shots behind. It was the first time since the 2011 PGA Championship that Woods began a tournament with back-to-back rounds over par.

''I put everything I had into that start and didn't have much at the end,'' Woods said. ''Just ran out of gas.''

Scott sputtered at the start. He was one shot behind Stenson and quickly fell five shots behind with a couple of poor tee shots. Scott played the last 14 holes without a bogey and wound up with a 69 that put him at 6-under 134.

the Masters champion chose to look at a different number – not four shots back, but only a guy ahead of him.

''Look, Henrik is playing fantastic, so he's got this thing under control at the moment. But not for 36 holes,'' Scott said. ''I think there's too many good players here. It's not just myself or someone at 5 under. If it is softer tomorrow because of rain, there could be a lot better scores because it's playing probably as tricky as it can at the moment.''

Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old rookie, had a 67 and was five shots behind. U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson and Billy Horschel were another shot back.

There's never a dull moment with Stenson, who only last week made news for all the wrong reasons when he smashed his driver on the final hole of the BMW Championship and tore up his locker at Conway Farms.

''They're not going to believe me anyway after last week that the 4-wood broke during natural causes,'' he said.

His hope was to find a new head in a nearby pro shop, though it was unlikely he could test it in time with the early start Saturday. Told that Stenson only had 13 clubs in the bag, Scott said, ''It didn't seem to bother him.''

Stenson could not recall another time that he started a round with fewer than the maximum 14 clubs allowed. Finishing a round with fewer than 14? That's different.

''In general, I try to keep it at 14,'' he said. ''Most rounds I manage to finish with 14 as well.''

Stenson (No. 2) and Scott (No. 3) are among the top five seeds in the FedEx Cup who could take home the $10 million bonus simply by winning the Tour Championship. Woods could still win the FedEx Cup if both of them falter, which is looking unlikely halfway through the tournament.

Scott has even more at stake – a win might be enough for him to win PGA Tour player of the year.

Stenson really only needed the 4-wood one time in the second round – his second shot into the par-5 ninth. He had to hammer a 3-iron instead, coming up well short of the green. He still got up-and-down for birdie, so it didn't matter. He also used the 4-wood a couple of times on the back nine Thursday, missing one of those fairways.

Ultimately, what mattered was his position.

''They got more work to do than I have,'' he said of his four-shot lead. ''It might seem like a large lead, but four shots during two rounds is not that much. We know sometimes four shots isn't enough on nine holes. So I'm pretty cool about that. I'm just going to go out and try to do the best I can for the next two days. And hopefully, that's good enough.''

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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.