Indiana father and son make Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship history

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 17, 2016, 4:46 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- It was a storybook ending for both Rick Burton and his son John at this year's Golf Channel Am Tour National Championships at Innisbrook Resort. 

For dad, it was the pursuit of a repeat, while for the son it was all about redemption.

All told, the two can point to a neat piece of history for years to come: the first father-son duo to win Nationals the same year. And for Rick, the first time a player won nationals twice in a row having moved up a flight year-to-year.

We told the story last year of John Burton's tough ending to nationals. In contention in the Sarazen flight, he was disqualified for a scorecard mishap after the third round, and was left to watch his father win his flight. 

This season, John was on a mission, but it took him some time to find his groove.

"I had a rough start to the year," he said. "But at the end of the year I had a few lessons and got it taken care of and peaked at the right time."

John played steady enough to make his way back to Nationals, thanks to five local event wins on the season. This time, he made it to the first tee of his flight's final pairing in the final round - where he should have been last year.

To say he relished the opportunity would be an understatement: he birdied the first two holes.

He would be tested on the backside, eventually seeing his lead dwindle down to one. But he wasn't to be denied, and won by two shots over Ross Gonzales from Hockley, Texas. Burton's 78 was good enough for co-medalist honors on the day with third-place finisher Dennis Ryker. 

"Coming back this year -- knowing I had a chance in 2015 --and getting it done made it that much better," said John. 

Meanwhile, his father Rick, moved up to the Jones flight after winning the Snead championship by 16 shots, chose to compete once against the pups in order to be here the same week rather than compete the following week in the Senior National Championship.

"They hit it 40 yards by me," said Rick of his younger competition in the Jones flight. "You just have to learn to get the short game better."

But, bombers take note: you don't have to hit it a mile to score. In the Jones flight, where golfers can be prone to high numbers, Rick used a steady diet of short game and putting to stun his new flight with a 12-shot victory.

Rick credits a practice regimen heavy on the range - often four times a week - as well as trips to the course to work on approach shots, for his ability to improve so quickly. John has taken notice of his father's improvement.

"He's getting better at hitting it straight," said John. "He hits greens, and once he gets on a course that fits his distance, he's a very good player."

From Rick's perspective, he now has a new, but equal reason to be proud of his boy.

"[What happened in 2015] made him more determined this year," said Rick. "I was very proud to be his dad last year, and he handled this win very well."

Next year, Rick will move up another flight to the Sarazen (12.0-15.9), but he concedes he'll likely compete in the Senior Nationals. But first, the Burtons plan to take their talents to Am Tour's famed team competition in Las Vegas: The Duel in the Desert at Las Vegas Paiute.

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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.