Van de Veldes Folly Allows Lawrie to Win in 99
You know the story, have probably repeated it a hundred times. Van de Velde had an overwhelming lead as the 72nd hole is played at Carnoustie. He needs just a six ' a double bogey ' to win the Claret Jug. Instead ' well, you know what happened.
He lost. And Paul Lawrie, a local boy from less than 50 miles away, won in a playoff. Justin Leonard was the third name, the one everyone thought win, considering he had won before. But it was Lawrie who hit the spectacular shots in the four-hole playoff.
Suffice it to say the Lawrie was 10 shots behind after the third round. Suffice it to say that he had finished well over an hour earlier, convinced that his final-round 67 was good, but not nearly good enough.
Greenskeeper John Philp was at the center of controversy all week long with his murderous fairways, some of which were only 11 yards wide. On either side was knee-high gorse. The course was so difficult that 57 players failed to break 80 in the tournament that is hailed as the worlds Open.
Van de Velde survived with a brilliant putter, needing just 23 of them to open a five-shot lead after the third round. Behind him in second place were Leonard and Craig Parry. Lawrie was an afterthought, going out seven groups ahead of Van de Velde.
And so it happened that Van de Velde came to the 18th, difficult, it must be conceded, but easily within the range of a bogey. He was three shots ahead of the field as the engraver began working on the jug.
He began the strange odyssey by pulling out a driver and pushing it way right, into deep gorse. He tried to hit a 2-iron over the water hazard to the green, but pushed it also, the ball bounding off the iron railing of a grandstand and back behind the creek.
Now Van de Velde was in real trouble. His third shot was in deep rough, and he hacked away at it but could do little more bash it into the creek. The crowd gasped, realizing the unthinkable was happening. Van de Velde now lay four after the penalty.
But wait ' was he thinking of playing the ball from the steeply-lined creek? Van de Velde took off his shoes and socks and rolled up his trousers. After walking into the water, though, sanity prevailed and he took the penalty stroke. Again he trudged behind the creek, dropping into deep rough, and for his fifth stroke he plopped the shot into the bunker.
The gallery sat in stunned silence. Van de Velde got it out and to within six feet on his sixth shot. Could it be that the man who just moments before seemed like a certain winner, might not even make a playoff?
Fortunately, he holed the six-footer for a seven and a triple-bogey. But the playoff would hold more nasty surprises.
All three of the players hit poor drives the first playoff hole. But while Lawrie and Leonard managed to scramble for bogeys, Van de Velde took a six.
The 16th was another poor performance, all three taking bogey. But Lawrie was magnificent the last two holes. He stroked a 4-iron to 15-feet at the 17th and made the putt. And he hit 4-iron to the green at 18, again finishing up close and getting down with a birdie.
Jean should have won, conceded Lawrie. He had it in his pocket, no doubt about that. All he had to do was chip it down the fairway and made five.
I would have chipped it down the fairway. No disrespect, but Im glad he did what he did.
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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.