Sandy Lyle Relives the Past With 92 Volvo
In 1988, Lyle won the Masters. He also won at Phoenix and Greensboro on the PGA Tour, and on the European Tour he won the British Masters and completed the year by winning the World Match-Play Championship.
Norman and Ballesteros certainly had good years. Norman won the Heritage Classic in America, four tournaments in Australia, and the Italian Open in Europe. Ballesteros won the Westchester Classic in the U.S., the British Open, and the Mallorca Open, the Scandinavian Open and the German Open. Both men were impressive, but their years were not like Lyles year.
Who would win a hypothetical tournament where all the great players of 88 were entered? It is obvious, said Ballesteros. Sandy would win, and I would come in second.
Then the golfing world of Sandy Lyle collapsed. In 1989, he lost it. The hardest thing to do is go out and not play with the swing you were born with, Lyle said. It was like being caught up in a landslide. It got so bad that at the end of the year, in an unprecedented move, Lyle graciously gave up his position on the European Ryder Cup team.
In 1992, an exasperated Lyle finally went to English instructor Dennis Pugh, after he had made the rounds of all the other notable instructors ' David Leadbetter, Jimmy Ballard, Simon Holmes, Bob Torrance. Coincidence or not, in three weeks he had won again ' at the season-ending 92 Volvo Masters. It might have been pure coincidence because Lyle would never win again. But for one glorious week, Lyle had the satisfaction of knowing what winning a major tournament felt like.
Lyle was about to hook up in a memorable battle with 29-year-old Colin Montgomerie, who was to go on to win seven straight money championships on the European Tour beginning in 1993. Only 54 men, the elite of the European Tour, were eligible to start. They were competing on a difficult course, Valderrama, on Spains Costa del Sol, in typical European weather.
Lyle had led the tournament after 54 holes, but he lost the lead on the 14th hole via a three-putt bogey. But he turned right around on the 15th, a long par-3, when he covered the 225 yards with a 3-iron to 16 feet. He then sank the putt for birdie to tie Montgomerie.
At the par-5 17th, Lyle appeared to be hopelessly out of the hole when he badly shanked a 9-iron approach. But the ball careened into a tree that was out of bounds and bounced back into light rough. Lyle got it up-and-down for par, parred the 18th, and it was off to the playoff.
Montgomerie, as it developed, wouldnt be so lucky in the trees. On the first playoff hole, Lyle nailed a perfect drive. Montgomerie, tying to fade the ball in a left-to-right wind, hit a tree 60 yards out and the ball dropped straight down.
Montgomeries second was a 3-iron which missed the fairway, then he poled a 3-wood which came up just off the green. Lyle had played the hole perfectly, putting his second shot on the green in two.
Montgomerie, lying three, had to chip for par. He very nearly made it, but it stayed out for a five. Lyle was able to two-putt for his par and the victory.
Lyle is 45 now, and where his talent has gone is the most mysterious story in golf. Only recently did he show some signs of life. At mid-season he made four out of five cuts in Europe, finishing in a tie for sixth at the English Open. But he has missed the cut in his last three tournaments, provoking new fears that his golfing career is again on the decline.
However, there is still the wonderous year of 1992, and one wonderful tournament ' the 92 Volvo Masters. Lyle will always remember.
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.