Singh Closing In on Tigers Domain
Singh came from six down Sunday to finish only one shot off Stuart Applebys winning score at the Mercedes. But thats not so unusual if youve been reading the papers the last nine months or so. Singhs been doing stuff like that every other week.
Heres what hes done since the Bell Canadian Open in October (a tournament in which he finished sixth, incidentally): John Deere Classic, won; WCG-American Express, tie for second; Funai Classic at Disney, won; Chrysler Championship, second; Tour Championship, terrible ' he finished tied for fifth; and this year at the Mercedes, second.
That means in five of the last six tournaments hes played, he either finished first or second, the lone exception being that one fifth place. Hes finished outside the top eight only once since last July 6 ' a skein of 13 tournaments. Thats a seriously long stretch, folks.
Im playing well, he said simply, and what an understatement. Hes playing great ' and even thats almost an understatement.
Right now, virtually all that separates Singh from Tiger Woods is Woods is a little more consistent putter. Singh was snakebit with the dadblasted roller practically the whole tournament at Mercedes. When the putting finally turned around on the back nine Sunday, Appleby had to clutch tightly at a lead which was six at the turn, but was down to a single stroke when Singhs l00-footer missed by two feet.
Dont get me wrong - he isnt a bad putter. He finished 18th in putting last year, and obviously thats pretty good. He understands the mechanics of the stroke, and hes been making them with a lot of regularity. Its just that Tiger is obscenely good with the little stick, and for now, thats the difference.
Im still learning about putting, Singh said, and if a man who puts the thousands of hours in practicing doesnt know it all yet, no one knows it all.
I think putting is always my problem. Not a problem - I'm not a bad putter. I'm just not a great putter. Great putters win a lot more tournaments.
I feel like if I can improve my putting part of the game - you know, I've always been able to hit the ball pretty decent. I'm driving the ball really good right now. My iron shots are not too bad. If I can make a lot more putts - and not saying every other putt I make, but my share of putts - I should be OK. You can see, if I'm putting well, I'm right up there winning golf tournaments.
Singh says it shouldnt be a surprise that his consistently high finishes should have carried over from the second half of last year to the start of this one.
I was swinging the club well, he said. I only took two weeks off. You cant go from swinging the club well for six months, coming over here (to Hawaii), and totally losing it. I kept practicing.
Hes a confident player right now, totally relaxed and in a smooth rhythm. Tiger seems a bit unnerved, ill at ease, with his swing. Not Singh. Hes striding up and bombing it, and he seems to know where its going ' every time.
I'm not fighting with my golf swing, he agreed. If I hit a bad shot, it's just a bad shot for me.
You know, I'm not going to say, Well, what went wrong with my golf swing? I just go out and tee it up and hit it again. I'm not really fighting that I'm going to hit a bad swing on a golf club. I'm just going to go tee it up and see the shot and hit it. That's what I've been doing the last six, eight months. It's a good feeling to have.
I think my golf swing is in tune with me, and I just feel comfortable with it. I'm going to keep riding it as long as I can.
Who knows how good Singh can be this year this may be the year when he finally passes Woods. Thats a bit strange, considering Singh will be 41 years old when the season ends and Tiger will still be 28.
But the gap closed considerably last year. Woods must continue to get better, if thats possible. Here comes Singh, flying low under the radar but getting louder and louder with each tournament. And its going to take a superlative effort to beat him.
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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.