Stat attack!: BMW Championship preview

By John AntoniniSeptember 2, 2014, 11:50 pm

Cherry Hills Golf Club in Colorado is about to host the second-oldest PGA Tour event on a course that hasn’t hosted the best players in the world since the 1985 PGA Championship.

Very few of the 69 players in the current field have played a competitive round at Cherry Hills, which makes handicapping the BMW Championship (formerly known as the Western Open, which began in 1899) a riskier business than usual.

Long thought of as a “second-shot” golf course, where accurate approach shots can make or break a round, Cherry Hills also plays at altitude, which could lead to longer ball flight and more aggressive play.

Phil Mickelson might not be among the longest hitters on the PGA Tour any more, but the veteran is still one of its most aggressive players, ranking 34th in going for the green, 28th in scrambling and 29th in scoring. We mention Lefty because he won the 1990 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills, but the amount of local knowledge he can take from 24 years ago is minimal at best.

And it reminds us that Mickelson hasn’t won a PGA Tour event this year, putting his tour-best streak of 10 straight years with a victory in jeopardy.

Longest active streak of consecutive years with a PGA Tour victory

 No. of years with a win Player Years
 10 Phil Mickelson 2004-2013
 7 Dustin Johnson 2008-2014
 5 Justin Rose 2010-2014
 4 Bill Haas 2010-2013
 3 Matt Kuchar 2012-2014
 3 Zach Johnson 2012-2014

Bill Haas is also in jeopardy of ending his streak, although at 17th on the FedEx Cup standings, this likely won’t be his last appearance of the season. He’ll still have the Tour Championship at East Lake (where he won in 2011) to extend his streak to five seasons.

Mickelson, at 56th in points, is likely not going to Georgia unless he has a high finish at Cherry Hills.

Phil Mickelson’s record at the BMW Championship in the Playoff era

 Year Finish Scores Course
 2013 T-33 70-74-68-71—283 Conway Farms
 2012 T-2 69-67-64-70—270 Crooked Stick
 2011 T-56 72-73-71-75—291 Cog Hill
 2010 T-8 72-71-70-67—280 Cog Hill
 2009 T-30 71-69-70-76—286 Cog Hill
 2008 T-17 68-65-71-70—274 Bellerive 

It’s worth noting that Mickelson was T-2 at Crooked Stick, another new BMW venue that isn’t normally used for PGA Tour events. And, in addition to his win at altitude at the 1990 U.S. Amateur, Mickelson has won two PGA Tour events in Colorado - the 1993 and 1997 International -which was held at Castle Pines. He was second at the International in 1998 and 2000, and had seven top 10s in 14 starts at what was the Tour’s annual Stableford event.

Here’s a look at other players in this week’s field who fared well at the International before it disappeared from the schedule in 2006.

How selected players in the BMW field fared at the PGA Tour’s International: 1991-2006

 Player International record
 Ernie Els 15 starts, 15 cuts made; 9 top 10s, with a win in 2000
 Jim Furyk 5 starts, 4 cuts made; 1 to 10 (T-7 in 1997)
 Charles Howell III

7 starts, 4 cuts made; 4 top-20 finishes with a best of fifth in 2005

 Phil Mickelson

14 starts, 11 cuts made; 7 top 10s, with two wins and two seconds

 Bubba Watson 1 start, 1 cut made; T6 in 2006

Although the International’s champions were often long hitters – think Els, Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Davis Love III for example – there were some shorter hitters who won, notably Brad Faxon, Lee Janzen and Dean Wilson, who won the last event in 2006.

Granted a stroke-play playoff event has a different atmosphere than a modified Stableford event midway through the long season, but the point remains: A long hitter only has an advantage in altitude if he controls his ball flight and avoids danger.

The BMW Championship has been the third event of the PGA Tour playoffs since the FedEx Cup was formed in 2007. In that time no player ranked outside the top half of the 70 players who make up the field has won. Justin Rose, 34th in 2011, was the highest seed to win.

FedEx Cup ranking of the BMW Championship winner

 Year Player FedEx rank Deutsche Bank finish
 2013 Zach Johnson 27 T-27
 2012 Rory McIlroy 1 1
 2011 Justin Rose 34 T-68
 2010 Dustin Johnson 16 T-57
 2009 Tiger Woods 2 T-11
 2008 Camilo Villegas 25 T-3
 2007 Tiger Woods 3 T-2

Although the BMW champ has tended to play well at the Deutsche Bank, with four of the seven champions finishing in the top 11 at Boston. Only Rory McIlroy won both events. In fact the Deutsche Bank winner has not fared particularly well in his playoff follow-up. In additon to McIlroy, who was a world-beater in 2012, only Webb Simpson in 2011 managed better than a top-30 finish the week after his win.

How the Deutsche Bank winner fared at the BMW Championship

 Year Deutsche Bank winner BMW finish
 2013 Henrik Stenson T-33
 2012 Rory McIlroy 1
 2011 Webb Simpson 5
 2010 Charley Hoffman T-30
 2009 Steve Stricker T-53
 2008 Vijay Singh T-44
 2007 Phil Mickelson Did not play

That doesn’t bode particularly well for Chris Kirk’s chances at Cherry Hills, but the Boston champ already has two wins this PGA Tour season.

One final thought: Jim Furyk lost in the third round of the 1990 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills (to David Eger). Morgan Hoffmann and Cameron Tringale played for the U.S. in the 2009 Palmer Cup at Cherry Hills (won by Europe, 13-11), and Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama played in the 2012 U.S. Amateur at the course (Matsuyama didn’t make match play, Spieth lost in Round 1). With Mickelson, this is about the extent of the BMW field’s competitive history at Cherry Hills.

If you haven't already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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."

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.