Hurley can't imagine a better place for first win

By Nick MentaJune 26, 2016, 12:50 am

Sure, there’s the prospect of Ernie Els overcoming the yips to win for the 20th time, or of Jon Rahm taking the title in his pro debut.

But with 18 holes to play at Congressional Country Club, it’s tough to find a better story than Billy Hurley III’s.

Thanks to a bogey-free 67 Saturday, Hurley leads Els by two and Rahm by three at the Quicken Loans National. 

This is the second 54-hole lead of Hurley’s career. The first came two years ago at The Greenbrier and ended with him seven shots behind winner Angel Cabrera after a closing 73.

A resident of Annapolis, Md., just an hour away, Hurley is facing the added pressure of trying to lock up his first PGA Tour win in front of his friends and family.

“I'm probably making it look a little easier than it is, but I'm also probably a little more relaxed than I have been in the past, too,” Hurley said.

“I've been here before and so, yeah, hopefully that experience and just the growth and maturity that comes from having been in the position to win golf tournaments before will show tomorrow and we'll be able to get it done.”

In his second attempt to close, he’ll be chased by a 19-time Tour winner and a kid who evidently wants to win 19 majors. Els and Rahm are both compelling, but a victory Sunday would likely mean even more to Hurley given his unique relationship to this event.

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Following a standout amateur career at the Naval Academy, Hurley spent five years in the Navy, rising to the rank of lieutenant. In addition to supporting the Tiger Woods Foundation, the Quicken Loans National also supports the men and women of the U.S. armed forces, with special perks for military members in addition to a tribute wall and a pavilion on site.

Asked about the relationship between the tournament and the military, Hurley answered: “I can't think of a better one for me to win to be my first win on Tour. It would be probably the best one of kind of the regular-season Tour events for sure.”

The military connection aside, there’s also what this tournament means to Hurley personally. It was during a news conference at the Quicken Loans last year that an emotional Hurley asked for help in finding his missing father, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound two weeks later.

Now, one year later, at this same event, Hurley finds himself on top of the leaderboard.

“You know, obviously I think about my dad a lot. Today was interesting,” Hurley said. “I was walking from 9 to 10 and I've never really had a whole lot of police officers following my group, you know. I'm not like that cool. But playing in the lead, you know, they have a couple police officers following you around.

“It dawned on me like, ‘Hey, this is what my dad did.’ He walked inside the ropes and did this at Presidents Cups and stuff. So that kind of made me think about him for a second there between 9 and 10.”

In addition to the hunt for his first win, Hurley is looking to lock down an invite to the Open Championship at Royal Troon and, with a victory, his first trip to Augusta National next year. It's a big deal for a guy who's played just 12 events this year out of the reshuffle.

He and Els, who won the U.S. Open at Congressional in 1997, will go off in the final pairing Sunday afternoon.

"Yeah, it should be fun. Ernie's been really nice to me over the last couple years here on Tour," Hurley said. "Obviously he's a great player and he's got great success around this place, too, so it should be a good day."

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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.