Power Rankings: 2014 Travelers Championship

By Will GrayJune 16, 2014, 9:09 pm

This week marks the 32nd event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour heads to Connecticut for the Travelers Championship. A field of 156 players will tee it up this week at TPC River Highlands, where birdie is the name of the game and scores are often low as a result.

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Ken Duke returns to defend the title he won here a year ago in a playoff over Chris Stroud. Here are 10 players to watch this week outside Hartford:

1. Bubba Watson: This is one of the original homes of "Bubba Golf," as Watson notched his first PGA Tour title here back in 2010. Since then he has added a runner-up in 2012 and a fourth-place showing last year when he held a share of the 54-hole lead. Watson enjoys getting creative at TPC River Highlands, and his results bear that out.

2. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar is making just his second start here since 2008, but his other Travelers appearance netted a tie for eighth in 2012. He has been a fantasy machine this year, with one win and nine top-10 finishes in 16 starts, and his missed cut at Colonial is his only finish outside the top 20 since March. Expect another solid showing.

3. Keegan Bradley: His results at TPC River Highlands have gotten progressively better: T-63 in 2011, T-29 in 2012, T-18 in 2013. Bradley's tie for fourth at Pinehurst was his third top-10 finish in his last eight starts, and he is keenly aware of the move he needs to make to crack the top nine in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. This week could go a long way toward that end.

4. Jason Day: Day hasn't played in Cromwell since a tie for 27th back in 2008 when he was just 20 years old, but he enters of a tie for fourth at the U.S. Open last week. After missing several weeks with a left thumb injury, the Aussie has given himself a clean bill of health and if that's the case, he should be considered a factor every time he tees it up.

5. Ryan Moore: Moore led the field in putting last year while finishing T-7, his third top-15 finish at TPC River Highlands since 2009. Moore was a runner-up here in both 2006 and 2011 and is currently inside the top 25 on Tour in driving accuracy, GIR percentage and birdie average.

6. Hunter Mahan: Mahan got his first PGA Tour win at this event back in 2007, the highlight of a four-year stretch from 2006-2009 when he finished no worse than fourth. He hasn't had quite the same success since, but top-25 finishes in both 2012 and 2013 show that he still has what it takes to tame TPC River Highlands.

7. Dustin Johnson: Johnson had another close call at a major, but his T-4 finish at the U.S. Open continues his strong 2013-14 campaign. A winner earlier this season in China, DJ added top-five finishes at Pebble Beach, Riviera and Doral. He has the length to take advantage of any setup on the PGA Tour, but especially the relatively short confines in Cromwell.

8. Charley Hoffman: Along with Bubba Watson, Hoffman is the only player to finish inside the top 10 each of the past two years at this event, having tied for second in 2012 and tied for seventh last year, when he fired a 61 in the opening round. Hoffman has quietly put together a solid season, with nine straight cuts made and a T-19 finish at Memorial in his last start.

9. Sergio Garcia: The Spaniard failed to factor at the U.S. Open, but he left with a solid T-35 finish after two third-place results in his prior three starts. The knee injury that forced him out of the BMW PGA Championship does not appear to be an issue, and if that's the case Garcia could factor as he makes his first trip to Cromwell since 2009.

10. Brooks Koepka: Koepka hit the jackpot Sunday at Pinehurst, finishing tied for fourth and earning a 2014-15 Tour card and a berth to the Masters in the process. One year after playing on the Challenge Tour in Europe, he has shown that he can stack up against the game's best and his game should suit TPC River Highlands in his first appearance.

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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.