Power Rankings: 2015 RBC Heritage

By Will GrayApril 14, 2015, 3:47 pm

The 23rd event of the wraparound season is upon us, as many of the game's best make the short drive from Augusta, Ga., to the coast of South Carolina for the RBC Heritage. A field of 132 will tackle Harbour Town Golf Links, where the winner will receive the tartan jacket.

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Matt Kuchar won this event a year ago by one shot over Luke Donald. Here are 10 players to watch in Hilton Head:

1. Jordan Spieth: The Masters champ probably hasn't gotten much sleep in the last few days, but his red-hot form can't be ignored. Two wins and a pair of runner-up finishes in his last four starts, and now Spieth tees it up at a course where he has finished T-9 and T-12 in his two prior appearances. The threat of a hangover is real, but he still deserves the top spot.

2. Patrick Reed: While Spieth deservedly grabbed headlines this week, Reed has now compiled four straight top-25 finishes despite tweaking his knee in Houston. He ranks eighth on Tour in total strokes gained and 19th in scoring average, and Reed will likely be motivated to catch up with the newly-anointed rising star of American golf.

3. Zach Johnson: One of the game's more accurate players with a wedge in his hands, Johnson has a pair of T-9 finishes sandwiched around a T-20 result in San Antonio. He has two prior top-10 finishes at Harbour Town, including a runner-up in 2012, and Johnson is 19th this season in strokes gained tee-to-green.

4. Webb Simpson: Simpson has been mostly on the fringe of contention this season, but his stat line suggests that may change this week. A playoff runner-up at this event in 2013, Simpson has two other top-15 finishes here since 2010 and ranks eighth in scoring average, ninth in ball-striking and second in the all-around ranking.

5. Ian Poulter: The Englishman quietly compiled a very solid weekend at Augusta National, going 67-67 while hitting 32 of 36 greens in regulation. He's making just his second trip to Hilton Head since 2006, but his ball-striking is rounding into form as evidenced by his run of four top-25 finishes across his last five starts.

6. Jim Furyk: Furyk enters off his first missed cut in nearly two years, but the veteran usually puts up a solid result at Harbour Town. Furyk has six top-10 finishes at this event since 2005, highlighted by his win in 2010, and he finished T-7 last year. While he has struggled on the greens this season, he still ranks fifth in fairways hit and eighth in strokes gained tee-to-green.

7. Charley Hoffman: Hoffman was the surprise name on the Masters leaderboard over the weekend, but his T-9 finish was his third straight result of T-11 or better. Hoffman has also had some success at Harbour Town, with a T-8 finish in 2012 followed by a T-6 showing in 2013 where he held the 54-hole lead before fading with a Sunday 77.

8. Luke Donald: Donald's spot is a nod to course history over current form. He's in the midst of a mediocre season, with only one top-40 finish in nine starts, but his Heritage record is unparalleled: five top-three finishes over the last six years, including three runner-up results. He appeared in position to win last year before Kuchar's hole-out, and perhaps a friendly venue can spark his return to form.

9. Russell Henley: Henley finished T-6 in 2013 in his Heritage debut, and he followed a fourth-place showing in Houston last week at the Masters, where he finished 21st. Henley has made the cut in each of his 11 starts this season and ranks inside the top 15 in both total driving (14th) and strokes gained putting (15th).

10. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar won this event last year in dramatic fashion, but his typically-consistent form has become a bit rocky in recent weeks. He faded over the weekend in Houston and was never a factor at Augusta National, where he finished T-46. He hasn't had a top-10 finish since January, but he has cracked the top 25 at Harbour Town four times since 2008.

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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.