Power Rankings: 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play

By Will GrayApril 28, 2015, 4:20 pm

The 25th event of the wraparound season is upon us, as the PGA Tour heads to San Francisco for the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship. A field of 64 will tackle TPC Harding Park, where the 16 group winners will advance to single-elimination match play. 

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Jason Day won this event a year ago over Victor Dubuisson at Dove Mountain. Here are 10 players to watch in California:

1. Jordan Spieth: The hottest player on the planet, and a deserved favorite regardless of format or venue. Spieth barely broke stride in his first start back after his Masters victory, and while a potential match with fellow Ryder Cupper Patrick Reed looms in the second round, no one wants to face Spieth right now.

2. Henrik Stenson: The Swede received a somewhat favorable draw and appears likely to advance out of his group. He leads the Tour in both strokes gained tee-to-green and strokes gained putting, a combination that should prove somewhat useful this week. Stenson won this event in 2007 in Arizona.

3. Dustin Johnson: The road to the quarterfinals appears somewhat clear for Johnson, where he could meet Rory McIlroy. That matchup aside, DJ has been one of the best players on Tour since returning from his leave of absence and his length off the tee should provide a significant edge in match play.

4. Justin Rose: The Englishman followed his Masters runner-up with a win in New Orleans. Rose remains one of the Tour leaders in birdie average, and the revised format should accentuate his advantage in group stage. He'll face a tough test in Round 2 regardless of opponent, but his current form is too strong to ignore.

5. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama should face little resistance in the group stage, after which he'll face a mammoth test. The Japanese sensation could catch a break if McIlroy is upset, but even if he faces the world No. 1 he has the game to advance, with six top-10 finishes in 12 starts this season.

6. Rory McIlroy: The new format did the top seed little favors. McIlroy will have to play well just to make it out of a stacked Group 1, then could face Matsuyama and Dustin Johnson just to make it to Sunday's semifinals. McIlroy will likely be favored in every match he plays, but his road to the finals is filled with obstacles.

7. Paul Casey: The Englishman has a strong match-play record and was runner-up at this event in both 2009 and 2010. Casey received a somewhat favorable draw, considering he was coming out of the C group, and is playing well enough to advance from the group considering his four top-10 finishes in his last six starts.

8. Ian Poulter: The match-play ninja. Poulter seems to come alive in this format, and he'll need to do so quickly if he's going to win a group that includes Jimmy Walker and Webb Simpson. Poulter's game has shown promise since his near-miss at the Honda, and his affinity for match play is a significant factor this week.

9. Patrick Reed: Like Poulter, Reed seems to reach another level in match play. He went 6-0 in the format at Augusta State, then shined last year at the Ryder Cup. While he faces a daunting potential match with Spieth in the round of 16, few players in the field will step to the first tee each day with more confidence.

10. Jason Day: A great player who received a brutal draw. Day nearly captured the title in New Orleans and hasn't finished worse than T-31 all season, but Zach Johnson and Charley Hoffman will make him work in the group stage and from there he could face Sergio Garcia and either Spieth or Reed just to make it to Sunday.

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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.