Fact Pack: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2013, 9:48 pm

This week the PGA Tour heads to the home of The King, Bay Hill, for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. A strong field will tee it up in Orlando, where weekend weather forecasts indicate an already long course could play even longer, with showers expected both Saturday and Sunday. With that in mind, here is a look inside the numbers to see which players may contend for the title and help your Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge team in the process:

• With his runner-up finish in Tampa, Boo Weekley has now recorded three straight top-25 finishes, having also played well at both the Honda Classic (T-25) and Puerto Rico Open (T-8) earlier this month. The last time the veteran was able to string together three straight such results was nearly three years ago, when he finished T-25 at Bay Hill in March 2010, followed by a T-12 showing at Hilton Head and a tie for 10th in New Orleans.

• Players have only two more events to make the top 50 in the world ranking in order to qualify for the Masters next month, which is of particular importance to Geoff Ogilvy. The Aussie, who was a runner-up at the Honda Classic earlier this month, was No. 51 in the world at the end of 2012, when a spot in the top 50 would have earned an invite to Augusta. Now Ogilvy is back on the bubble, ranked No. 50 heading into Bay Hill. Others hoping to play their way into Augusta this week and next via the rankings system include Charles Howell III (No. 57) and Henrik Stenson (No. 58).

• With four missed cuts and a withdrawal through seven starts in 2013, Brian Davis may not be on the fantasy radar for many participants. The Englishman has finished inside the top 25 each of the last three years at Bay Hill, though, including just last year. In fact, his 2012 season was off to a similarly slow start - Davis came to Orlando with only one top-30 finish in seven starts - but he managed a tie for fourth, his best career result in this event.

Bud Cauley returns this week to Bay Hill in hopes of ending his sophomore slump on a course where he has had past success. Just a year ago, Cauley was busy finishing tied for fourth, the first of four top-five finishes the former University of Alabama standout would accrue in 2012. This year, though, Cauley has struggled; through seven starts he has made only two cuts, and last week he was forced to withdraw in Tampa due to illness. The issues may be rooted in his short game; after finishing eighth on Tour in scrambling and 83rd in strokes gained putting last year, Cauley has dropped to 89th and 163rd, respectively, in those categories for 2013.

• Over the past two decades, Bob Estes has played sparingly at Bay Hill, but he has certainly made the most of his (relatively) few appearances. The veteran has teed it up just eight times in Orlando since 1994, but he converted five of those starts into top-20 finishes, including a runner-up in 1998 and a tie for fifth the following year. This year the Texan has been quietly consistent, notching four straight top-30 results before a missed cut last week in Tampa.

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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.