Power Rankings: 2014 FedEx St. Jude Classic

By Will GrayJune 3, 2014, 4:47 pm

This week marks the 30th event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour heads to Memphis for the FedEx St. Jude Classic. A field of 156 players will tee it up this week at TPC Southwind, where many players will look to pick up some momentum with the U.S. Open now just one week away.

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Harris English returns to defend the title he won here a year ago by two shots over Phil Mickelson and Scott Stallings. Here are 10 players to watch this week in Tennessee:

1. Dustin Johnson: A winner here in 2012, Johnson tied for 10th a year ago and already has a win and a pair of runner-up finishes to his credit this season. The bomber is second on Tour in driving distance but also inside the top 10 in several categories, including GIR percentage, birdie average and the all-around ranking.

2. Ryan Palmer: Palmer has contended each of the last two years in Memphis, finishing fourth last year after a tie for third in 2012. He also has a pair of runner-up finishes this season, including a playoff loss at PGA National, and tied for fifth in his last start at Colonial. Palmer is fourth in the all-around this season.

3. Paul Casey: Held the 36-hole lead at Memorial last week and still tied for 13th despite some struggles over the weekend. The Englishman then bounced back and played his way into the U.S. Open Monday in Columbus. After years of injury and struggle, he appears to have turned a corner. Four top-20 finishes in his last five starts.

4. Lee Westwood: Westwood won here in 2010, then tied for 11th in 2011 in his most recent appearance. The Englishman tied for sixth at TPC Sawgrass in his last PGA Tour start and has a tendency to play some of his best golf around the majors.

5. J.B. Holmes: A surprise winner last month at Quail Hollow, Holmes started strong at Memorial before fading but then turned around and finished second at the U.S. Open sectional in Memphis on Monday. He has the length off the tee to overpower nearly any venue, and he tied for 19th at TPC Southwind in 2012 in his most recent appearance.

6. Robert Allenby: The Aussie has four top-40 finishes in his last six starts, and his track record in Memphis is even better. Outside of a W/D in 2010, Allenby has finished no worse than T-13 since 2007 at TPC Southwind, including a runner-up showing in 2008.

7. Harris English: The defending champ was one of the best players in the early part of the season, but has cooled somewhat in recent weeks. English tied for 30th at Colonial in his most recent start, though, and he is still inside the top 10 on Tour in GIR percentage, scoring average and birdie average this season.

8. Billy Horschel: Horschel has been one of the best ball-strikers on Tour all season long, but his putter is finally starting to cooperate. He followed a T-26 finish at TPC Sawgrass with a tie for 15th at Memorial, and may be on the cusp of a run similar to the one he had last spring. Tied for 10th here last year and is sixth on Tour in GIR percentage.

9. Justin Leonard: The veteran is having a bit of a renaissance this season, with 13/16 made cuts highlighted by a T-3 finish at Humana. He has won twice before in Memphis and was medalist Monday at the U.S. Open qualifier in Columbus, so he still has a few low scores left in the bag.

10. Phil Mickelson: The ultimate wild card in this week's field. Mickelson is the highest-ranked player teeing it up in Memphis and tied for second last year, but his on-course performance this year has been poor and he now faces the burden of off-course distractions as well. If Mickelson hopes to carry any momentum at all into Pinehurst next week, he needs a solid finish here - but it feels like that sentence has been repeated without results for more than a month.

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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.