Van Pelt leads Barclays after Day 1; McIlroy stumbles

By Doug FergusonAugust 21, 2014, 11:50 pm

PARAMUS, N.J. - Rory McIlroy took a week to celebrate his blockbuster summer and paid for it in The Barclays with his worst start in two months.

He could afford a day off.

That wasn't the case for players like Bo Van Pelt and Paul Casey, and they picked a good time to produce good scores.

With no guarantee of playing beyond this week, Van Pelt opened with three straight birdies Thursday and chipped in for eagle late in his round for a 6-under 65 that gave him a one-shot lead in the opener of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Van Pelt is No. 104 in the FedEx Cup. Only the top 100 advance to the next tournament.


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Casey is No. 118 with a lot on his mind - specifically the birth of his first child in two weeks - and played bogey-free at Ridgewood to join seven other players at 66. That group included Brendon Todd, who is trying to get Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson's attention as a possible wild-card pick; and Hunter Mahan, who at No. 62 is in danger of missing the Tour Championship for the first time since the FedEx Cup began in 2007.

Ridgewood featured some of the deepest rough of the year, though the greens were soft enough to allow for birdies if players could keep it in the fairway. The average score was 70.8, with 44 rounds in the 60s.

McIlroy was not among them.

The British Open and PGA champion went 13 holes before he made his first birdie and finished with a 74. That ended a streak of 14 straight rounds under par, and it was his highest score in the opening round since a 74 in the Irish Open in June.

''Fatigue isn't playing a part,'' he said. ''It's I think just not putting the time in that I probably should have over the past week. And I think I allowed myself that and deserved that. But this is the consequence of it and I need to work hard this afternoon and go out tomorrow and shoot a good number.''

McIlroy established himself anew as golf's No. 1 player with a wire-to-wire win at the British Open, a come-from-behind win at a World Golf Championship and a late charge at Valhalla to win the PGA Championship and become the third-youngest player with four majors.

''I wanted to enjoy it for a week,'' he said.

Van Pelt doesn't have that luxury. He started his year missing seven cuts in nine tournaments before it slowly started to come around over the last month. He felt he was heading in the right direction and received more confirmation Thursday. Van Pelt didn't make a bogey, and finished strong with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th and the eagle on the par-5 17th hole that put him in the lead.

''As poorly as I played at the start of the year, I'm just kind of glad to be here,'' Van Pelt said. ''Things have been trending in a lot better direction. So I felt fortunate to be here with the position I was in three months ago. I just felt like if I kept doing what I was doing, hopefully I would at least get to next week and then kind of cross that bridge when I got there.''

Jim Furyk, Charles Howell III, Brendon de Jonge, Ben Martin and Cameron Tringale also were in the group one shot behind.

Casey hasn't had a top 10 on the PGA Tour all season and didn't make it into the playoffs with much room to spare. He's not sure how long he'll be around, although a solid start was sure to help.

''I think today was probably a product of really not having really any expectations and just going out there and smashing it around and having fun,'' Casey said.

McIlroy had his fun last week, and he was headed to the range after his opening round to get his game back. He took an early double bogey by barely getting out of a bunker and chipping 15 feet by the hole on No. 12, and then going long into a bunker for a bogey on the par-5 13th.

''It's not a bad thing,'' he said. ''A score like this would be tougher to take if I had not just come off the weeks that I had. But at the same time, I want to play well and I want to give myself chances to win tournaments.''

Mahan is the only player to compete in every playoff event since the FedEx Cup began. He is assured of two tournaments, though he needs a good week somewhere to keep alive his hopes of reaching Atlanta for the Tour Championship. The top 70 advance to the third week, and the top 30 get to East Lake for the finale. Plus, he hopes to audition for one of the captain's picks for the Ryder Cup.

''It will be a bonus to make it to Atlanta and it will be a bonus right now to make the Ryder Cup team,'' Mahan said. ''So I have nothing to be nervous about or get out there and doubt myself. I have to trust myself because everything I'm doing is good and everything else will kind of take care of itself.''

 

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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.