Only Thing Hot Is the Sun on the Course
Tiger Woods has called for mandatory testing of drivers to see if those clubs get more yardage that the PGA Tour allows. Tiger stopped just short of saying some of his peers are fudging with the weapons. The tour has called for VOLUNTARY testing. Somehow, that seems to beg the question of the entire issue.
If a player knows he is playing an illegal club, he would no sooner want it to be tested than a bank robber would want his picture taken. And if the player doesnt know, doesnt believe he is playing with illegal equipment, then what would be the point of going through the rigmarole of testing?
Haas and Roberts, both old birds of 49 and 48 years old, respectively, would seem to know all the tricks of this issue. But they say golfers are conspicuously honest and would not attempt such shenanigans. Even more important, club manufacturers have millions of dollars at stake here and wouldnt monkey around with the rules.
Haas said essentially the same thing:
Number 1, I don't think that the companies would put drivers in our hands that are illegal, just because if we found out they were, we wouldn't play with them and now we're going to have to have another driver and break that in.
We're pretty funny about changing clubs. Most of the guys out here get a club they really like and they don't want to change. They don't want to try something new. If you're going to take that out of their hands after they find out it's illegal, that's going to affect them.
And theres more, he said.
Number 2, this is a game of honor and integrity and all that. If you trust in us that we're not going to tee our ball up in the rough, and mark it properly and not touch it in the sand, while all of a sudden we're going to have guys use illegal clubs - that's not right. That's just part of the rules. So I don't think you're going to have guys knowingly break the rules.
Roberts gave the idea of someone tinkering around with the clubhead an equally short shrift. Of course, he jokingly said that he, personally, might be tempted.
I'm 180th in driving distance out here, 182nd or 185th in driving distance, he said, grinning. If I had one (a hot driver), who would know?
Yeah, hes right. If he goes from 185th to 175th, no one is going to yelp. But then, getting down to serious business, Roberts defended his fellow pros.
If it (the testing) is voluntary, first, there is no player out here that is knowingly playing with an illegal driver. I can't fathom that, he said.
We get it from the manufacturer, and you go out and you hit 20 drivers and you're going to pick the one you hit best out of 20 drivers. So nobody is really going to be knowingly playing with an illegal driver. You're not going to measure the face. The only way you can find out is do voluntary testing.
If it's voluntary, why would you do it? That would be my point. I think it ought to be mandatory.
In other words, no one is going to knowingly use a hot driver to win. But Roberts can see a situation where he might use one totally by mistake.
Haas is not so sure there is a need for even voluntary testing.
I know there's been a push - or some guys have said, I think this should be tested after a guy wins a tournament, test his equipment, Haas said.
Well, if my equipment is legal in January and I haven't made any changes, it should be legal for the rest of the time. There's a rule that says your clubs cannot become illegal just through play. There was a groove issue, and they're saying the grooves get kind of wavy after so many bunker shots. The club cannot become illegal if it was legal one time just through practice and play and things like that. To me, if my driver is legal in January, if I test it, it should be legal in September.
Its a moot point anyway, says Roberts. You count the strokes AFTER the ball plinks into the cup. You dont count it after your first whack, regardless of how far it goes with a hot club.
It's still a game of getting the ball in the hole, he said. I always felt, the farther you hit it, when it's off line, the farther into trouble it goes.
I just don't think length is really the way to make a golf course play hard. I really don't. I think when you play a golf course firm and fast, and you have got bunkers and you've got some rough and whatnot, that's the challenge. If you can hit it a long way and hit it straight, you have it made. Just to hit it long and off-line or play out of the rough, I don't think is an advantage.
He, of course, is right. The so-called hot clubs may give you an extra three yards, but unless theyre also straighter, youve lost your advantage. You still have to pop that prodigious drive out of the rough, and then youve still got to use the putter to get it in the hole.
Hot putters, anyone?
Email your thoughts to George White
DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.
The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.
''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''
In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.
''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''
The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.
''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.
Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member
Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.
Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:
Matt Kuchar— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 17, 2018
"It's been a passion of mine to explore & see the world, and I'll now be joining the European Tour as an Affiliate Member, which is very exciting." pic.twitter.com/7wDbuGXz8j
As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.
Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.
Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early
The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...
Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy
McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.
McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.
Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.
“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.
And that was an offseason event.
“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.
As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.
So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.
“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”
Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson
Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.
His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.
It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.
There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.
There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.
While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.
There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.
Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth
Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.
He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.
Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.
CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats
The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.
How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):
Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)
Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.
Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.
Notables in the field
* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.
* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.
* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.
* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.
* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.
* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.
* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.
* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.
* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.
* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.
* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.
* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.
* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.
* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.
* This is his first start of 2018.
* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.
(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)