Healthy Park eyes annual awards, HOF credentials

By Randall MellNovember 11, 2015, 8:12 pm

Inbee Park had a small cyst removed from the middle finger of her left hand in South Korea last week and says she is nearly completely healed and ready to compete this week at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico City.

“It wasn’t a major injury, but being where it was, it made it a little bit hard to grip my club,” Park told Wednesday after Ochoa’s pro-am. “It was just getting bigger and bigger.”

Park, the Rolex world No. 2, says the nature of the cyst didn’t require surgery as it was near the surface of her skin.

“They just massaged it hard and popped it,” Park said.

It wasn’t a blister, she said.

“It was definitely a cyst,” Park said. “I couldn’t do it myself because it hurt too much. They numbed it, and they just popped it and it went away in a couple days.”

Park said she struggled with discomfort for about a month before deciding to withdraw after the first round of the Blue Bay LPGA in China almost two weeks ago. She returned to South Korea to have doctors examine her finger.

“I took about 8 days of rest without doing anything,” Park said. “I just started to practice a couple days ago.”

Park said the finger is healing so quickly that she won’t likely even have a bandage on it when she tees it up Thursday in the first round.

“I feel quite comfortable,” Park said.

There’s a lot at stake for Park over the next two weeks, including possibly qualifying for the LPGA Hall of Fame. While she has won four LPGA titles this year, two of them major championships, Park trails Lydia Ko in tight races for the tour’s most important season-long awards and honors. She’s second to Ko in Rolex Player of the Year points, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, money winnings and Race to the CME Globe points.

Park is two points shy of the 27 points required to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame. Winning Lorena Ochoa’s event would count as one point, so would winning next week’s CME Group Tour Championship. Park could also qualify without even winning an event. The Rolex Player of the Year Award is worth one point, so is the Vare Trophy.

Park needs to finish eighth or better at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational to remain in the hunt for the points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award. Ko withdrew from this week’s event to get some extra rest for next week’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. If Park doesn’t finish among the top eight in Mexico, Ko clinches the POY award.

After Wednesday’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational pro-am, Park reiterated what she said earlier this fall, that she achieved her top goal this year winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open for the first time, and she is trying not to press to claim these other prizes. Park said she thought she tried too hard in the final weeks last year, with Stacy Lewis going on to sweep the POY Award, Vare Trophy and money title.

“If I have a good two weeks, I could get them,” Park said. “If not, that’s too bad.

“Lydia is playing so well. The golf she’s been playing is unbeatable. I’ve played good golf, but she has just played better. I’m really happy with my season, and I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself now.”

Park has already claimed the Rolex Annika Major Award as the outstanding player in this year’s women’s majors. She won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June and Ricoh Women’s British in August for her sixth and seventh career major championship titles.

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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.