Haney: Major record not 'driving factor' for Woods

By Will GrayFebruary 6, 2015, 9:49 pm

Following Tiger Woods' early exit from the Farmers Insurance Open, speculation has run rampant over his long-term prognosis and competitive future. Hank Haney, Woods' former swing coach, hit the airwaves Friday to dispel a long-held notion over how Woods views his own place in the game, and how he might view it if the entirety of his on-course accomplishments are already in the past.

Haney worked with Woods from 2004 to 2010, and he relayed a story on SiriusXM PGA Tour radio about Woods' response when he questioned Woods' "work ethic" back in 2007.

"He said, 'If my career ended today, I'd be happy with what I've done,'" Haney said. "And I'm just telling you, that's what he told me. So I think he is fine with where he is. If his career ended today, I think he'd feel great about what he has done.

"This thing that the media has drum up that Tiger's No. 1 goal, the No. 1 driving factor in all of Tiger's life is to beat Jack (Nicklaus)'s record - I'm just going to tell you that I was with him for six years, 110 days per year and I never got that feeling," Haney continued. "Never, never did I get that feeling that that was driving him."

Woods withdrew Thursday after completing 11 holes of his opening round at Torrey Pines, again hampered by back pain after withdrawing from two events because of similar injuries in 2014. He spoke earlier this week about limiting his practice as his focus shifts to being a father for his two children, a notion Haney supported - even if it means Woods may never again return to the form with which he dominated the game for the better part of a decade.

"If his priorities have changed, who's to blame him for that? I don't really see that there's anything wrong with that," Haney said. "He's got children, he's got other things he wants to do. If that's the case, that's the case. Clearly, it is. But to expect him to just come back and be the same player, it's just not going to happen."

Woods, 39, has 14 majors to his credit, leaving him four shy of Nicklaus' 18. While Haney oversaw major changes to Woods' swing in the mid-2000s, he believes Woods would own the most recognizable record in the game if he had stuck with the swing that won him his first eight majors from 1997-2002 under Butch Harmon.

"He has been his own worst enemy if you look at all these swing changes he's gone through," Haney said. "If he never changed his swing from Butch Harmon, he probably would have already broke Jack Nicklaus' record. But he did change his swing, and even though he won a higher percentage of tournaments during the time I helped him, it still cost him time because he had to re-group a little bit. It took him a year to start winning again, so this is just time that he keeps wasting."

Woods has been working with new coach Chris Como since November, a partnership that Haney described as an "epic failure." He detailed his view of the path back to relevance facing Woods, who on Monday will slip to his lowest spot in the world rankings in nearly 20 years.

"He's got to get this swing organized so it doesn't hurt his back," Haney said. "Then he's got to deal with the driver issue, then he's got to deal with the short-game issue. Lots of issues to deal with, not much time. Clock's ticking fast now."

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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.