Davis the Ace but Just Dont Forget No 1
Now, the question rages: who is second best? Weve gone through a roller-coaster of opinions this year already, and we havent even reached the first major.
Davis Love III is the flavor of the day now. He was terribly impressive Sunday in winning The Players Championship. Fred Couples said Love played either, A) the best round Freddie had ever seen, or B) the best round Freddie had seen Love play ' I couldnt tell which. But thats OK ' Love played magnificently all four rounds in winning a very difficult championship.
But before there was Davis, there was Ernie Els. You remember, dont you? He won the first two events, won a third in Australia, and lost a playoff in Malaysia in his next start. By the time he got back to America, though, his great early start was forgotten. Now hes hit a punching bag the wrong way at his London home and is out of commission.
Vijay Singh was next, but he pulled a rib muscle, missed six weeks, and he, too, seems forgotten.
Up stepped Mike Weir to win a couple of times and everybody started thinking ' Is he the one? But Weir faded to the back to be replaced by ' Tiger?
Scott Hoch and Justin Leonard filled in briefly while Tiger was taking vacations. They both were quite impressive. Hoch hurt his wrist, though, and stepped aside, who gave way to Leonard, who gave way again to Tiger. Suddenly everyone started thinking clearly again ' Tiger was the one who was gone for awhile while he rehabbed his knee, but sanity prevailed and everyone was able to see the big picture in a little clearer light.
So now its Davis ' again. Davis is a few days shy of his 39th birthday and has spent the last few years battling one ailment or another. He had a terrible back problem. And his neck gave him fits. But this year both cleared up, and what do you know ' this guy can really smoke it! He looks like he might be the genuine article.
So Love is the new No. 2 but wait a minute! What about Padraig Harrington! What about Jay Haas! What about the young guys ' Adam Scott, Aaron Baddeley, what about Chad Campbell? Dont forget Stewart Cink, Nick Price, David Toms or Robert Allenby!
Wait ' Sergio Garcia is changing his swing and will be back in a matter of a few months! Retief Goosen is just a little worn out and will recover that old magic as soon as he recuperates. And Phil Mickelson ' he had some family business to attend to, but hes back this week.
Hey, some of the fellas, guys like Fred Couples, Brad Faxon, Jim Furyk and Corey Pavin are beginning to stir a little. Have you forgotten them? And youngsters like Charles Howell III, Luke Donald and Matt Kuchar ' surely before the year is up, we will hear from those guys!
Er - Chris DiMarco, did I mention him yet? By the way, Jerry Kelly, Rocco Mediate, Frank Lickliter ' Frank Lickliter won at Tucson! Cant forget him.
Its difficult to believe that when last year ended, Rich Beem was the name on everyones lips. By the way, when was the last time Mark Brooks, John Daly, David Duval, Lee Janzen or Tom Lehman contended? Couldnt they just as easily pull a Davis Love and get right back in this thing? How about Greg Norman ' yeah, how about Norman, even with a trick back? And Jose Maria Olazabel, Bernhard Langer, Jesper Parnevik, maybe Hal Sutton? How about Nick Faldo and Mark OMeara?
Thats about 50 guys to consider. Its so easy to forget. So many great players, so little an imagination. Week by week, month by month, the present nom de jour is rushed over and another one is inserted in his place.
Sure, Davis Love was very impressive. Give all the praise accorded him. But just remember to keep these underlying truths in your mind at all times: Number 1, there are a lot of guys who are going to be the second-best player before the year is over; and No. 2, there isnt a hint of doubt who is No. 1 - Tiger Woods.
The mature gents are climbing back into the ring, reduxing past glories all over the place. Love is the latest ' wasnt he the one to beat some time ago? He was ' but times change, and situations change. Now its Davis. Forgotten is some guy who only a month or so ago looked unbeatable. Now ' hes beatable. Tiger must be smiling at us.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
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."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
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.'"
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."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
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."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
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.