Upsets Aplenty at Match Play But Is That Upsetting
The point here isnt to make light of his victory. He might still have won if the conditions were different, such was the state of his game and his putter.
No siree! The point is, how do so many of the worlds best players fall to the lesser ones? You can understand two or three, but when 11 of the worlds top 13 go to the showers the first two rounds, some kind of negative mojo must be at work. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval ' the top three ' were only in town long enough for a quick cup of coffee and a Danish. They all lost in the first round.
Woods has been searching for something lost for quite awhile now. The worlds best player ' over-all, at least ' has been taken down a rung or two over the past eight months. Mickelson was more of a shock, but dont forget, he missed the cut at nearby Torrey Pines only two weeks before. Duval led, 2-up, with two holes remaining in the first round against eventual champion Sutherland, but managed to salvage a defeat from the jaws of victory.
Has this whole world gone topsy-turvey? Should we just throw out the world rankings and replace it with a simple worlds top 100, worlds second 100, worlds third 100, etc?
In a word ' no. And on the issue of why the carnage the last week, you need look no further than La Costa.
La Costa is a beautiful golf course in an area of stunning Pacific Ocean vistas, and the setting is perfect for a tournament of this size and magnitude. But, it is resort, with a resorts clientele and a resorts degree of difficulty.
That evens out the field considerably. And in a tournament where the 64th seed is still an awfully good player, that is all that needs to be done to have upsets all over the place. The course isnt difficult enough to sort out the exceptional from the very good. Everyone can find the fairway with a driver, and even if they cant, everyone can hit the green with their approach shot. The tournament then becomes a putting contest.
Of course, there are probably less than 10 courses in the U.S. capable of separating the great from the merely good. And none is in Southern California. None is in Florida, where the PGA Tour also is considering having the Match Play. In short, weather limits the geographical considerations ' the tournament must be played in February and there are only so many courses which can hold a tournament at that time.
So you can get some prodigious upsets ' No. 64 seed Peter OMalley, coming all the way from Australia a couple of nights before, beats Tiger Woods, who went home the week before to practice for this one. The No. 63 seed, John Cook, defeats No. 2 Mickelson rather easily, 3 and 2.
But why not just throw them all into the pot and see who comes out the victor? After all, they are the top 64 (minus an injured player or two) in the world out of 30 or 40 million golfers. The winner does deserve it ' he just played six different world-class players, and he beat them all in five days. The years to come will see many more upsets, but is that such a bad thing?
Jeff Maggert, the 24th seed, won the first one in 1999. Darren Clarke, the 19th seed, came from Northern Ireland to upset Tiger Woods in the second. The Match Play moved to Australia for the third one last year and more than 40 didnt attend. But the winner was Steve Stricker, ranked 91st in the world at the time. And this year it was Sutherland, ranked No. 65 in the world. The best in the world have taken a hammering at match play.
There were undoubtedly lots of folk who would rather have seen Woods vs. Mickelson in the championship match instead of Sutherland vs. No. 45 Scott McCarron. But Sutherland vs. McCarron was the offer, and it was a good storyline, not the least of which were two guys, both raised in the Sacramento area, both within one year of each other who were rivals in high school.
If you want Woods vs. Mickelson, better wait until July when they have a pick of ALL of the golf courses. Otherwise, better get ready for lots of upsets, because there is going to be no favorites when they all get together on a resort golf course. The top 64 are invited, and any of the 64 has a real chance of winning.
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.