Power Rankings: AT&T Byron Nelson Championship

By Will GrayMay 26, 2015, 8:47 pm

The 29th event of the wraparound season is upon us, as the PGA Tour remains in Texas for the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship. A field of 156 will tackle TPC Four Seasons Resort, where first-time winners have triumphed four of the last five years.

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Brendon Todd won this event a year ago by two shots over Mike Weir. Here are 10 players to watch in Dallas:

1. Dustin Johnson: Johnson has a strong record at this event, with four straight top-20 finishes included three finishes of T-7 or better. The bomber won earlier this year in Miami, ranks ninth in total strokes gained and has five top-10 finishes since February.

2. Jordan Spieth: The Dallas native will have plenty of fan support this week, and he has finished second in each of the first three Texas events this season. His best result at TPC Four Seasons, though, came as a 16-year-old amateur in 2010 (T-16).

3. Marc Leishman: The Aussie has a strong affinity with this course, having turned six starts into five finishes of T-12 or better. He tied for third both last year and in 2012, and Leishman enters off a streak of four straight top-30 finishes.

4. Keegan Bradley: Bradley won this event in 2011, then very nearly captured the trophy again in 2013 after a course-record 60 in the opening round. He has not finished outside the top 30 in four trips to Dallas and has three top-25 finishes in his last five starts overall.

5. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar has been his reliable self at this event in recent years, with a trio of top-15 finishes since 2011. While he missed the cut at TPC Sawgrass in his most recent start, Kuchar has eight top-25 finishes in 14 starts this season, including a solo fifth at RBC Heritage last month.

6. Justin Thomas: The rookie has yet to win, but that drought could end sooner rather than later. Thomas has four straight top-25 finishes and 10 in 19 starts this season, and he will benefit from a friendly early-round tee time with Spieth.

7. Ryan Palmer: Palmer surprisingly missed the cut last week at Colonial, but the Texan should bounce back on a course where he has three top-25 finishes in the last four years. Palmer has seven top-25 finishes this season and ranks eighth in scoring average.

8. Charley Hoffman: His recent run continued with a T-10 finish at Colonial, and Hoffman now has five top-20 finishes over his last seven starts. Hoffman was T-11 at previous Texas stops in San Antonio and Houston and has three top-10 finishes at this event since 2006.

9. Zach Johnson: Johnson didn't factor last week at Colonial, but he still racked up his sixth top-20 finish in his last seven starts. The veteran is making his first appearance in this event since 2005 and ranks inside the top 20 in both fairways hit and strokes gained tee-to-green this season.

10. Morgan Hoffmann: Hoffmann sparked his season with a title contention at Bay Hill, and he now has finished T-28 or better in four of his last six starts. He finished T-5 in 2013 in his Nelson debut, then chased it with a T-16 finish last year.

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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.