College Review: Oregon only team to start 3-0

By Ryan LavnerOctober 8, 2014, 3:11 pm

Each week on, we’ll take a look back at the main storylines in college golf.

Biggest takeaway: Oregon is a legitimate top-5 team

The Ducks are the hottest team in the country, the only squad with wins in their first three starts, the latest coming Tuesday at the Nike Collegiate Invitational, where they beat top-tier programs like Stanford, Washington, Texas, Vanderbilt and Georgia en route a the six-shot victory. It is only the second time in school history that Oregon has won its first three fall tournaments (2011). Never have the Ducks won four in a row, so history could be made at their final start, Nov. 7-9 in Hawaii. It’s ill-advised to make predictions during the fall season, but there’s no denying the Quack Attack looks really good. 

Team of the week: Alabama

The two-time defending-champion Crimson Tide headed into the long offseason on a high note, winning their own Jerry Pate Intercollegiate by 13 shots for their first win in four tries this fall. After failing to convert 36-hole leads at both the season-opening Carpet Capital and last week’s event at Shoal Creek, Alabama had three players finish in the top 10 at Old Overton, led by Robby Shelton (fourth) and Dru Love (career-best fifth), the son of 20-time PGA Tour winner Davis Love III. Tom Lovelady also carded a career-low 64 in the final round to tie for eighth individually. This team may look drastically different from the one that captured back-to-back national titles in 2012 and ’13, but it is still plenty dangerous. 

Player of the week: Thomas Lim, Oregon

One of only five players to break par over three rounds at Colonial, the Ducks sophomore birdied three of his last five holes to earn medalist honors Tuesday at the Nike event in Fort Worth. Even better: His victory, the second of his career, came with an exemption into the PGA Tour’s Crowne Plaza Invitational next May. “It’s a huge carrot for a college kid,” coach Casey Martin said. Lim already has a pair of top 3s this young season.   

Texas' Beau Hossler at the 2014 World Amateur Team Championships.

Biggest disappointment: Texas

Three shots behind entering the final round at Colonial, the Longhorns carded three rounds of 74 on the final day to finish fifth, 12 shots behind Oregon. Beau Hossler (sixth) and Gavin Hall (seventh) recorded top-10 finishes, but this event underscored how there is often a steep learning curve for freshmen, even those as highly touted as Scottie Scheffler and Doug Ghim (both finished outside the top 20). The Longhorns, No. 2 in Golf Channel’s preseason rankings, have now finished outside the top 4 in each of their first two starts, though Hossler was out of the lineup for the season opener, participating in the WATC in Japan. Not that the Longhorns’ uneven start to the season is a surprise to your correspondent. Last month I wrote this piece on how success was far from a guarantee for Texas’ all-star lineup. Its next event is the Oct. 17-19 U.S. Collegiate, one of the biggest events this fall season.

Keep an eye on: UCLA, Stanfords Maverick McNealy

• The Bruins, No. 9 in Golf Channel’s preseason rankings, won their second event in as many starts Tuesday with a 12-shot victory at Erin Hills, site of the 2017 U.S. Open. What began as a back-and-forth battle between UCLA and SMU turned into a rout, thanks to the Bruins’ 14-under 274 in the final round. Leading the charge was Jonathan Garrick, whose closing 66 vaulted him into a tie for seventh individually, while Manav Shah and Lorens Chan shared second place.   

• This was supposed to be a down year for Stanford after the top two players in college golf, Patrick Rodgers and Cameron Wilson, headed to the pro ranks. Maybe not. Maverick McNealy, a sophomore, has finished 1-1-3 in his first three starts this season for the Cardinal, which finished second in Fort Worth. He’s a (very) early contender for national player of the year. 

What you may have missed: Alison Lee’s days numbered?

UCLA sophomore Alison Lee, the reigning player of the year in women’s college golf, tied for second in LPGA Q-School’s second stage and advanced to the finals in December. If she finishes in the top 20 at LPGA International, she’ll be fully exempt on tour in 2015. Her potential departure would leave a huge void for her college team. The Bruins had national-title hopes – they won four times last season and were No. 3 in GC’s preseason rankings – but struggled mightily without Lee in the lineup in their most recent start, finishing ninth at the Annika Invitational. 

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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.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.