The Mechanic Quietly Doing His Thing
It was a big one ' the European Tours BMW International. It was the fourth time this year he has done it. Two of the victories, incidentally, were not in Europe, but that is the floating crap game that the European Tour is forced to become during the cold-weather months. It is during those months that Miguel Angel Jimenez leaves his native Spain and travels to Asia to pick up some loose change. This year he won the Johnnie Walker while playing in Thailand in January and the BMW Asia Open in China.
They call him The Mechanic on the European Tour because, in his youth, he used to work at a garage. No, he didnt tinker with the cars - he swept up the dirt in the body shop. But that was close enough to the grease-monkey business for his friends on the tour, so The Mechanic he became.
And though you may not have heard much about him if youre totally into American golf, this year hes become the most successful of all the Spanish golfers. That is going it a bit when you consider that Sergio Garcia is also from Spain. But The Mechanic was No. 1 on the European Ryder Cup points list this year, in addition to his four wins this season. There is no other Spanish golfer who can make that claim.
Jimenez hardly looks like a professional athlete. For starters, his hair is way too mod for this rather plain-looking guy. He used to wear it in a high Afro, but now he has clipped it into a little ponytail. Its been blond, then brown, then reddish-brown.
'People say to me, 'Hey, what you do to your hair?' Lots of jokes,' he explained. 'I said, 'Well, you see all the other people, they start to grow hair, the colors, you know. People start to wear nice funny shoes also.''
And he has a face that has a million miles on it. Jimenez looks like some guy 50 years old who hangs out at the corner pub. Instead hes only 40, 10 years removed from the Champions Tour.
The Mechanic tried it in America once. He dabbled around with the U.S. tour in 2002. But he wasnt overly successful here. Miguel is the ultimate homeboy. He feels relaxed on the European Tour, even when the tour isnt in Europe. America was just too far removed from his comfort zone to ever begin to feel like he was at home.
Jimenez missed five of his first six cuts in America and never remotely approached his success in Europe. His curiosity satisfied, he beat a hasty retreat back across the Atlantic and resumed tuning up his Ryder Cup engine.
Its family, he explained, like my wife and two kids at home. My kids are in school. Those are the hard things, you know.
I am a professional golfer, and I like to play with the best people. But you have the other side of the coin, you know. I cannot have everything in life. You have to sacrifice some things, and this time, I dont know how long I am going to compete. Everybody has to suffer something.
He was speaking in 02 at the Bob Hope, but it was his take on the Great American Experiment. The Great American Experiment didnt last too long. He teed it up in the U.S. 19 times, missed the cut nine times, and then happily headed back to Spain. In Europe, once again in the company of familiar surroundings, he resumed his highly successful ways.
You must enjoy yourself every moment you live, he explained. There are more important things than playing golf.
The Mechanic loves good wine, good conversation and good company. He was lonely in America, where he lived out of hotels for the year. He was, frankly, lost. He didnt speak the language quite as well as the others, and except for Garcia, there was no one else from Spain playing the American tour. He was never so happy to return home.
He played in the Ryder Cup one time ' in 1999 in Brookline. He made quite a splash, playing five times that year. His career, in short, has been very successful for a kid who didnt pick up the game until he was 15. He spent most of his younger life caddying.
But now, The Mechanic is on top of the world in Europe. In September, hell be back in America to try it again. He hopes the Ryder Cup will be more successful than the experiment of 02.
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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.