Woods, Rose share Tour Championship lead

By Doug FergusonSeptember 20, 2012, 11:19 pm

ATLANTA – In the one week Tiger Woods had away from golf during the FedEx Cup playoffs, Nick Faldo said he had lost his aura, Greg Norman said he was intimidated by Rory McIlroy and Johnny Miller claimed that Woods once wanted lessons from him.

''Nice week, huh?'' Woods said, grinning.

Even better was to be back on the course Thursday at the Tour Championship, where Woods had the final word for at least one day. He kept the ball in play at East Lake, chipped in for one of his six birdies and wound up with a 4-under 66 for a share of the lead with Justin Rose.

It was the first step toward what Woods hopes is a third FedEx Cup title, and another $10 million bonus.

''I probably could have gotten a couple more out of it,'' Woods said about his opening round. ''But I was probably right on my number.''

McIlroy, playing with Woods for the fifth time in these FedEx Cup playoffs, got up-and-down from short of the par-3 18th hole for a 69. McIlroy is trying to become the first player since Woods in 2006 to win three straight PGA Tour events in the same season, and he wasn't overly alarmed by his start.

''Wish I could have shot a couple shots better,'' McIlroy said. ''But I'm in a good position going into tomorrow.''

The week began with Norman saying that Woods was intimidated by McIlroy, a suggestion that both players found amusing. While it's doubtful that inspired Woods, he played as if he wasn't ready to let McIlroy win a third straight playoff event and capture the FedEx Cup.

McIlroy, who has won three of his last four tournaments, and Woods are among the top five seeds at East Lake who only have to win the Tour Championship to claim the largest payoff in golf. Woods wasn't interested in what anyone else was doing.

''Just winning,'' he said. ''Winning takes care of everything.''

Jack Nicklaus even weighed in on Norman's comments to FoxSports.com. Nicklaus was doing a radio interview with ESPN 980 in Washington when told about Norman's remarks that McIlroy intimidated Woods. Nicklaus said playfully, ''Quiet, Greg. Quiet. Down, boy.''

''I think Tiger has a lot of wins left in him,'' Nicklaus said. ''He does have a lot more competition. During the couple of years when Tiger wasn't really there, all of a sudden you have Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley and I could probably name a half-dozen other guys that have all won and learned how to win in Tiger's absence. They're not scared of him anymore.''

Rose, who hasn't won since the World Golf Championship at Doral in March, swiftly moved up the leaderboard late in his round with three birdies over the last five holes, and the last one was memorable. From the back of the green on the par-3 18th, Rose faced a 50-foot putt with some 20 feet of break from right to left. It looked wide the whole way until it snapped back toward the cup.

Equally impressive was chipping in from some 20 yards short of the 14th green for the birdie that started his big run.

Rose is 24th in the FedEx Cup, meaning he would have to win and everyone at the top of the standings would have to falter. The way Woods started, that looked improbable. Rose checked the leaderboard early on, not to see his projected standing, but to get an idea of how the course was playing.

That part was easy to decipher. On a warm day, with the sun finally breaking through cloud cover in the middle of the afternoon, no one was tearing up the place.

''Obviously, I realized it was time to be patient,'' Rose said. ''No one was really going low ... so I always had that in the back of my mind.''

Scott Piercy ran off three straight birdies late in his round until he stumbled in the rough behind the 18th green and finished with a double bogey for a 67, tied with Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar and Bo Van Pelt. Stricker was the only player in the 30-man field without a bogey.

Hunter Mahan appeared to snap out of his funk from missing out on the Ryder Cup with a 68, tied with a group that included Brandt Snedeker, who is among the top five seeds. The others are Phil Mickelson, who opened with a 69, and Nick Watney, who brought up the rear with a 75.

Despite the Tour Championship featuring the top 30 on the PGA Tour, the focus again returned to the top two players.

A boisterous gallery lined the fairways and crowded behind every green to see the latest edition of Tiger and Rory, and they didn't disappoint. McIlroy is playing East Lake for the first time, and he struggled with the Bermuda rough around the greens.

''If you don't hit fairways, it's hard,'' McIlroy said. ''If you hit the ball in the rough here, it's very, very difficult to get any control on your ball.''

Woods again had McIlroy's number when playing together, even though Boy Wonder is winning more trophies. Woods has posted the lower score in four of the five rounds they have played together in the playoffs. The exception was Crooked Stick, when McIlroy opened with a 64 and Woods had a 65.

Woods, as usual, didn't read too much into that.

''I enjoy playing with Rory,'' he said. ''He's a great kid. Over the years, there are certain pairings for me that I've enjoyed, and Rory is one of them.''

Woods has three runner-up finishes and a win the last four times he has played at East Lake, a course he likes because of the traditional look to it.

''Trouble is just right there in front of you,'' Woods said. ''It's very simple, but it's hard. It's rare that you see guys go low here, but it's very simple. Really, not a lot of trouble out here, but guys just have a hard time getting it low out there.''

Woods holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the second hole and stuffed a wedge into 5 feet on the third to get on track. He made bogey from the bunker on No. 4, and took another bogey on the 14th when his drive sailed into the rough. The Bermuda grass isn't high, but it's thin enough for the ball to sink to the bottom and make it difficult to reach the green, much less keep it on the green.

McIlroy didn't feel he was at a disadvantage playing the Tour Championship for the first time. He saw the course as Woods did – keep it in play, keep the ball below the hole.

''I felt like I hit the ball pretty good,'' McIlroy said. ''So just go out there tomorrow and try to play the same way, and maybe hole a few more putts and turn what I shot today into something in the mid-60s.''

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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.