Irwins 98 Senior Open Reflected His Golf Philosophy
Irwin began playing the Senior Tour in 1995, and by the end of 1997 he had rang up 13 wins ' nine in 97 alone. In 1998 he was still sizzling, reeling off seven victories and finishing second six times. And that was the year that he picked up again on his U.S. Open conquests, adding the U.S. Senior Open to an already glittering array of trophies.
Winning an Open takes a certain mentality, he was saying. Take Donald in 90 at Medinah. Donald never again was quite the same, after Irwin made a 40-foot putt on the 72nd green to tie him, then won it in 19 holes the following day.
I still feel badly for Mike Donald, Irwin said. He had that tournament won ' I say won, because obviously he didnt win ' but he had two really golden opportunities to win and he just couldnt step across the threshold.
Irwin seized the moment when it was there for the taking on the Senior Tour, too. He had a 15-foot putt at Riviera to win the Open over Vicente Fernandez, and he sank it.
I couldnt see any break in the putt, and I wanted to see a break, Irwin said. You just cant believe greens around here have straight putts.
It was Raymond Floyds tournament all the way, just like it had been Donalds tournament at Medinah. Floyd led each of the first three days. Irwin had to come back from an opening-round 77 just to make the cut. He had to sink a chip shot at 18 Saturday from 35 feet to stay within shouting distance ' three shots ' of Floyd.
You can dig your way out of a hole if you have a belief and a plan for going about it, said Irwin.
Irwin must have had a belief and a play on this day in 98. He birdied the 16th hole to finally get around Floyd. Fernandez, playing two groups ahead of Irwin, had fired a 68 to shoot a 285 total. Irwin missed a birdie putt at 17, falling to the ground in disbelief. But when fate afforded him a second chance for birdie on 18, Irwin did indeed step across the threshold. He drilled the putt dead-center, winning his fourth U.S. Open, and his first Senior Open.
He won it just like he had won the three previous Opens. You sort of keep it in sight, you know, he said, half joking, half serious. Dont hit it so far you cant find out where it is, but keep it right there in front of you so you know where to find it and kind of walk down the fairway. You manage yourself.
Irwin is 57 now, but he still won three times last year despite creeping up the age ladder. He did it despite a flourishing course-design business which consumes much of his time, and the joys of being a new grandfather.
But he prevails while others sit and spin their wheels because he had the proper life goals.
I think it just comes down to how you want to live your life, how you want to conduct yourself professionally out there ' not conduct as your personality, but how you want to spend your career, he said in a 1999 interview.
I played in 35 tournaments a year, I am the 30th leading money winner on tour. Are those acceptable standards, finishing in the top 10 three times? No, for the players that are achievers. They want nothing to do with tops. They want the top. They want to win.
Winning is what they talk about. Its not finishing high ' making a cut, getting a check, all that locker room talk. They talk about achieving at the highest standards.
Those are all things, Irwin was saying, that make an athlete a winner. There is a difference in being good, and being at the top. Irwin has tried throughout his career - even though it has not always been possible - to be a winner, just as he did at the 98 Senior Open.
That is what people respond to, he said. If you are comfortable in that zone (of being a winner), then yes, its a comfort zone. And if you are comfortable, you wont play to it. You just will not do it. Your mind will not let you do it.
Irwin still has his three regular Opens and the Senior Open, so apparently his mind his allowed him to succeed in this environment. And he says that he never has had any regrets since he decided to perform in this environment and in this sport.
Not a single one, he says. The greatest thing to me, its been the opportunity to meet the people I have met. I played some great golf courses and had some great events and been very successful and all that stuff, but its the people that, to me, have been fantastic.
Its been an education all into itself. Nothing in school, in a textbook anywhere, could teach you the kind of things that I have been to learn and forget as I have out here.
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.