After Further Review: U.S. women are afterthought

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 7, 2016, 12:40 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On American irrelevance in women's golf:

The American challenge continues in women’s golf. For the first time since the Race to the CME Globe was created, no American will be eligible to win the $1 million jackpot when the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship begins in Naples, Fla, in two weeks.

You have to be among the top nine in the CME Globe standings to have a chance at the jackpot, and there isn’t an American among the top nine. Yes, there is one more event (the Lorena Ochoa Invitational) to qualify for the top nine, but no American headed to Ochoa’s event this week can crack the top nine, even with a victory in Mexico. This comes in a strange year for the Americans, who claimed the UL International Crown as the “best golfing nation” in women’s golf and saw one of their own (Brittany Lang) win the U.S. Women’s Open. But it’s also a year in which only two Americans (Lang and Lexi Thompson) have won LPGA events. In the 66 year-history of the LPGA, Americans have never failed to win fewer than four LPGA events in a season. It’s also a year that saw Americans steadily tumble down the Rolex world rankings, with Thompson the only American left now among the top 10. - Randall Mell

On Rod Pampling's patience and persistence:

Rod Pampling’s wife, Angela, is a clinical psychologist, which means she’s uniquely qualified to tell her husband that his time had come. After more than two decades as a professional, it may have been time, Angela could argue, for Pampling to move on to his next chapter considering he hadn’t finished inside the top 125 in FedEx Cup points since 2012 and last won on the PGA Tour in 2006.

But on Sunday in Las Vegas, Pampling outdueled the likes of Brooks Koepka and Lucas Glover to win his third Tour title. Maybe Pampling was a little crazy to keep plugging away, but you might have to be a little crazy to play professional golf. - Rex Hoggard

On the PGA Tour's fortuitous clerical error:

Rod Pampling will snag most of the headlines, but he wasn’t the only player to benefit from the “clerical error” that let a dozen extra players into the field this week in Las Vegas.

Eight of the 12 players in question – all of whom gained entry when the PGA Tour failed to trim the field from 144 to 132 as it had planned – made it past the 36-hole cut. Pampling’s win was the most notable result, but rookies Ryan Blaum (T-31) and Trey Mullinax (T-36) also netted solid finishes, as did veterans Will MacKenzie and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who both tied for 48th.

There is plenty of golf to play between now and next August, but chances are one of the eight beneficiaries who made the cut could be on or near the FedEx Cup bubble because of points earned this week at TPC Summerlin. And from here, the momentum and confidence a player might gain from making a cut, or perhaps finding something in his swing over the weekend, can’t be measured.

Each and every year at the Wyndham Championship, we are reminded that every shot truly counts as decimal points sometimes separate those retaining their Tour cards from those heading to the Tour Finals. This time around, the pivotal shots and points might turn out to be the ones accrued this week in Sin City, all thanks to the friendliest clerical error in Tour history. - Will Gray

On Bernhard Langer's unwatchable putting routine

Bernhard Langer is truly one of the great stories in golf, excelling on the senior tour even as he nears 60. He's overcome the yips and a rule change to become an outstanding putter. But his performance on the greens this weekend was unwatchable. Playing with an injured knee, Langer had his caddie, Terry Holt, line up his ball on the greens. It was a process that often took several times to get right, slowing play to a crawl. The most often-heard phrase on the Golf Channel broadcast? "While we wait, let's go to [a different hole]." Langer is a slow player under the best of circumstances, but this was ridiculous. - Al Tays

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

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."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

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.'"

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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."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

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."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

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.