U.S. leads by 1 going into singles

By Doug FergusonOctober 10, 2015, 9:42 am

INCHEON, South Korea - Branden Grace delivered two big shots in gathering darkness Saturday that kept the International team within one point of the Americans going into a final day at the Presidents Cup that finally has some drama.

The Americans had a 9 ½ to 8 ½ lead with 12 singles matches remaining, the smallest margin going into Sunday in 10 years at this event.

That's what the International team wanted - and needed - in the Presidents Cup. The Americans have won the gold trophy five straight times, and the lone International victory was in 1998 in Australia.

''We need to win,'' Louis Oosthuizen said. ''This is huge for us.''

The South Africa duo of Grace and Oosthuizen have been the driving force for captain Nick Price. They became the first International tandem to go 4-0 in team matches. Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in 2009 are the only U.S. team to do that.

Jordan Spieth also won two matches Saturday, making two clutch putts in morning foursomes, and holing a bunker shot in the afternoon fourballs. Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson had the morning off and never trailed in their fourballs victory at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.

Sangmoon Bae and Hideki Matsuyama, who earned a key half-point in the morning, had the shortest match of the week when they beat Jimmy Walker and Chris Kirk, 6 and 5, in fourballs. Bae is playing his final event before his mandatory military service starts in South Korea.

''One of the best matches I ever played,'' Bae said.

On the longest day of the week - two sessions of four matches - this could have gone either way.

The last three morning matches all went to the 18th hole. Spieth and Dustin Johnson won the last two holes for a 1-up win over Jason Day and Charl Schwartzel, while Matsuyama made birdie on the last hole for a halve, and Bubba Watson missing a 5-foot birdie on the 18th that would have given his side a win.

The teams split both sessions.

The pivotal match belonged to Grace and Oosthuizen, who were all square with the big-hitting American duo of Watson and J.B. Holmes. Grace was left of the green on the 16th when he chipped in, raising his arms before the ball even reached the cup and sharing a bear hug with his longtime South African friend.

Oosthuizen had a chance to end it on the par-3 17th - the first time the South Africans played that hole in competition all week - but he missed a 6-foot putt when it was so dark he couldn't see the line.

The four players could barely see the 18th green because of the darkness. Oosthuizen hit into the water, and it was so dark that Grace didn't even know it. From 263 yards with a chilly wind in his face, he blasted a 3-wood that narrowly cleared a bunker and settled on the edge of the green.

Holmes and Watson, needing to win the hole to earn a halve, both missed the green and Grace rolled his eagle putt to tap-in range to close it out.

''The chip-in on 16 and the second into 18 showed he's a world-class player,'' Oosthuizen said. ''No moment is too big for him.''

Oosthuizen said they went to Price after they won their opening match Thursday and offered to split up, knowing both were playing well and thinking perhaps they could bring another International player along. Price chose to keep them together, and it paid off.

The Americans still have the lead, though the Presidents Cup has been so lopsided since 2005 that it almost feels like an International lead. History is still against the International team. No team trailing going into the last day has ever won.

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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.