Garrigus cards 66, leads by 3 in Tampa

By Will GrayMarch 14, 2014, 10:36 pm

The leaderboard in Tampa remained bunched for much of the day Friday, but Robert Garrigus was able to pull away from the pack by late afternoon. Here's how things look after two rounds of the Valspar Championship, where Garrigus leads by three shots as he looks for a second career PGA Tour victory:

Leaderboard: Robert Garrigus (-7), Kevin Na (-4), Matt Every (-3), Justin Rose (-3), Pat Perez (-3), Matteo Manassero (-3), Jim Furyk (-2)

What it means: Garrigus lost in a playoff on the Copperhead Course in 2012, but two years later he's halfway toward improving on that runner-up finish. He'll look to remain in front Saturday over a group of contenders that includes Na, suddenly resurgent after battling injury, and Rose, looking to win for the first time since claiming the U.S. Open at Merion last summer.

Round of the day: Garrigus began the day one shot off the pace, but played his way to the top of the leaderboard thanks to a round that included six birdies. The 36-year-old had a trio of circles on his front-nine card, then added three birdies across a five-hole stretch from Nos. 11-15. His 5-under 66 was the lowest score of the day - and thus far, the week - by two shots.

Best of the rest: Na missed much of the 2013 season due to an injury, but since returning to action in October he has shown signs of the form that had him ranked among the top 50 players in the world in 2012. Na carded a bogey-free 68 Friday to move into second place behind Garrigus, in position to add to a string of high finishes this season that includes a T-3 at the Open and a T-4 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Biggest disappointment: A runner-up last week in Puerto Rico, Danny Lee appeared headed for another good week after opening with a 68 Thursday to hold a share of the 18-hole lead. The Kiwi backed up in a big way Friday, though, carding an 8-over 79 to make the dubious drop from a share of the lead to a missed cut in the course of about five hours. Lee's birdie on the opening hole was his only one of the day, as he added seven bogeys and a double bogey before slamming the trunk.

Main storyline heading into Saturday: Garrigus has had a number of close calls over the years, but his win at Disney to close out the 2010 season still serves as his only PGA Tour triumph to date. In order to add to that haul, he'll need to continue to capitalize on his length advantage off the tee on a Copperhead Course that remains eager to punish even the slightest error. While many near the top of the leaderboard are not yet in the field for the Masters and could punch a ticket to Augusta with a win, the two biggest names among the 36-hole contenders are Rose and Furyk, a winner here in 2010 who, like Garrigus, lost to Luke Donald in a four-man playoff here in 2012.

Shot of the day: Harris English moved back into contention thanks to a 2-under 69 Friday, a score that was largely sparked by an eagle at the par-5 11th. English stood 255 yards away in the right center of the fairway but carved his lengthy approach around a myriad of greenside bunkers and watched as it rolled to within four feet. The kick-in eagle took him to 3 under for the round and English will tee off Saturday at 1-under 141, six shots off the pace.

Quote of the day: "It was a good 12." - John Daly, who carded an octuple-bogey 12 on the par-4 16th en route to a 90, his highest career score on the PGA Tour.

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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.