Tiger No Certainty to Win This British Open
So instead of saying he wont win, lets just say that a victory at the British Open is a little less likely than, say, your average everyday Memorial.
The reason? He has been a non-factor in his last three events. He finished tied for 12th in the first, the U.S. Open. He went to the Buick and finished in a tie for 16th. And then he tied for 20th in the Advil Western. Does that sound like someone you would pick to go to Royal Lytham and win?
Well, no. He has just about made heretics out of those who saw 10-win season after 10-win season piling upon each other. Tiger himself never hinted that such was his destiny, even though Tigers father would have you believe that. But then, I guess my father would get a bit carried away by me if I possessed such awesome ability. So you must forgive Mister Woods the Senior. Hes understandably a proud pappa.
Woods, it appears, is not immortal. Hes just very, very good. He really can lose occasionally. On paper at least, this week would seem to be one such time. On paper a win seems unlikely. In reality, its quite possible that the unlikely will happen. You really look stupid if you pick someone else and then Eldrick wins ' who else do you choose but a man who has won four times already on the U.S. tour, including Bay Hill, the Players Championship, the Masters and the Memorial? And he won in Europe at the Deutsche Bank Open to give him five wins in six tries.
But if not Tiger, then who? Well, it looks like a European, perhaps Sergio Garcia, perhaps Darren Clarke or Thomas Bjorn. Perhaps it will be South African Retief Goosen, the unlikely U.S. Open winner. Perhaps an American will win ' is this old-timer Scott Hochs turn? Perhaps Phil Mickelsen?
Lytham will not be overpowered as Woods did at St. Andrews at last years British. However, Woods has won at finesse courses - quite often, in fact. But it makes it a little more difficult when you absolutely, positively must keep it in the fairway. Lytham has had a great deal of rain this year and the rough is, well, lush.
No one is hitting it as far off the tee or as straight as Garcia. Hes been avoiding the roughs quite well of late. The only question is if he has had the experience to win a major. If he learned anything at the U.S. Open where he was in position to win the final day, then the questions are moot.
Woods is more likely to win than Clarke or Bjorn, but Clarke won the Smurfit European Open two weeks ago and Bjorn has played well all year. Neither would be a great surprise if they won. And neither would Goosen, who won again last week after capturing the U.S. Open in a playoff.
Which brings us to Mickelson and Hoch. If this course were in America, Hoch would certainly be one of the favorites. Its just what the golfing gods ordered, tailor-made for a short, straight, accurate hitter, and Hoch has been such a hot golfer the last month or so.
Unfortunately, Royal Lytham and St. Annes is not in America. Hoch has only played the British three times in the 90s. He thinks there are much better things to do than travel 3,000 miles for one week of golf. But the first round this week is crucial for him. If he has a couple of bad holes, forget it. If the weather is cold and rainy, forget it. But if he scores well in the first round and becomes convinced he can play over there for one week ' watch out!
Mickelson? Who can tell? He will figure somewhere on the final day for the championship. He has everything it takes to win. But he also has the one thing it takes to lose ' a putter than misfires on short putts at the most crucial of times. As such, he is so difficult to predict. Is this Phils week? Or the week of Phils evil twin who blows the short ones?
Its likely on a course as difficult as Lytham that the eventual winner will be someone who hasnt been named. Another European, perhaps, one whom no one ever thought of as major championship material? Possibly.
Of course, theres our old buddy Tiger. Hes been in the country a week already. Hes proven he can win in Europe ' several times, in fact. And hes proven he can jump up from a string of mediocre play and win ' several times, in fact.
Its just not so certain that this is the time.
Who do you like for the British Open, and Why?
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.