Male Pros Get Older Females Get Younger
Adam Scott sorta messes up the storyline here. Yeah, hes just 23, and yeah, he won last week. But the only under-30 winner this year prior to Scott was Tiger Woods. Tiger seems like hes in his 30s ' hes going on his eighth season and he already has 40 tour wins. But he was the full extent of the under-30s until Scott skewered the age thing at the Players.
Last year, there were 11 guys 40-and-over who won. Davis Love III was a four-time winner. One winner ' Craig Stadler ' was 50. Only six winners were in their 20s.
The stars of the LPGA could pass for most of the tour winners daughters. Oh, Annika Sorenstam is entering middle-age, golf-wise, at age 33. But on the LPGA, youre pretty much washed up by the time your 40, unless your last name is Inkster or Jones.
In the case of one particular 14-year-old, a 50-year-old winner on the PGA Tour could almost be her grandfather. Hey, Michelle Wie is young even for the kiddies who do female gymnastics. And 17-year-old Aree Song had to be given permission from LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw before she could join the tour. Wie, thankfully, hasnt taken that step yet.
Song set a record when she was in the final group at the Nabisco four years ago at age 13. That record was tied a year ago when Wie ' yes, just 13 ' played in the final group. Wie has already taken on the men of the PGA Tour ' she shot a 68 in this years Sony Open and missed the cut by just one stroke.
Grace Park is a grand old dame of 25. Yes, she remembers eight or nine years ago when she was a hot commodity on the American Junior Golf Association. But she interrupted her march to LPGA stardom for something called college ' a phrase with which much of the LPGA newcomers are not familiar. Grace has to think hard ' very hard ' to recall when she saw someone with as much potential as the teen-agers Wie and Song.
I played with Michelle for the first time today, she said during last weeks Nabisco, and she is incredible. She is more than what you all know. I mean she really impressed me and not only in her golf game. She was such a sweet 14 year old that I really enjoyed playing with her.
And Aree, she's got a tremendous amount of talent. She's already had a successful career and she just has much more to come.
At last weeks Nabisco ' an LPGA major won by Park ' only two players over 30 finished in the top 12. That, incidentally matched the number ' two ' who are teenagers - Wie and Song.
Sorenstam swallows hard when she considers what she was doing at age 14. Wie has broken 70 on the mens tour. Sorenstam still had a very difficult time breaking 100 on the Bro Balsta course in Sweden. She, too, has a difficult time comprehending it all.
Well, I mean, overall, she (Wie) is so talented, Sorenstam says. It must be great to be 14 and hit it that far, and I love her attitude. I think she's very brave on the golf course and just outside the golf course. I think she has improved since I played with her last year, just watching her on the range, et cetera. But still, she's very young, she has a lot to learn and I think she will do that by being out here.
Wies youthful physique stretches over 6 feet ' very tall, even for a young male. But she has learned to generate tremendous power with those long arms and legs. She routinely hits her driver 280 yards. Her short game has a ways to go to catch up, but she has made tremendous improvement in the last year.
I tell you what - I was watching Michelle's game from the beginning, said Park. Not because I wanted to create any kind of whatever - it's just she's 14, and it was my first time playing with her.
And somehow, Wie has kept a certain little-girl innocence. The other women have noticed it on the LPGA. Fame ' even as a teen-ager ' has not gone to her head. She still is a kid, and a genuinely nice one, at that.
I've known Michelle since she was 12, said Park. And she's always been sweet, funny, like to joke around and do that.
But on the golf course, she was deadly serious. There was not a sign that showed that she was 14 years old. And that was really impressive.
Lorena Ochoa was playing golf with the boys in Guadalajara, Mexico, when she was 14. She, too, cant believe how nice a person this 14-year-old Hawaiian is.
Shes unbelievable, Ochoa said. I wish her the best She brings a lot of people out to watch the tournaments. She's nice and people like her. It's positive for all of us that she's here. I respect her and I wish her the best.
The men are getting older, wiser ' and more skillful. The girls ' you cant really call teen-agers women yet ' seemingly are getting younger. But they are getting more skillful, too. Wie is a kid, but what a player. Song isnt quite as much a kid, but what a player, too. Grace Park, Annika Sorenstam ' are you listening?
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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.