Murray details caddie split, deactivates Twitter account

By Ryan LavnerMay 9, 2017, 4:42 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Grayson Murray says he was thinking about making a caddie change even before the final round of last week’s Wells Fargo Championship.

He just didn’t expect to have to make it so suddenly.

On Sunday, Murray, a 23-year-old PGA Tour rookie, had an argument with his caddie, Mike Hicks, that resulted in the veteran looper dropping the bag in the middle of the ninth fairway and saying, “Go find someone else.”

Murray signaled to a friend outside the ropes, and they finished the final nine holes together. Murray shot a second consecutive 76 and tied for 63rd.

“I thought it was kind of unfair that it happened in the ninth fairway,” Murray said before his practice round Tuesday at The Players. “There could have been a way that we both managed to get through the next nine and a half holes and figured it out after that. It’s too bad that it happened that way because I had a chance to make some birdies and have a better finish. But that’s beside the point. In my head, I’m upset about it and ready to count down the holes to the finish.”

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Murray has known Hicks, who was on the bag for Payne Stewart’s 1999 U.S. Open victory, since he was 10, and their families have been close for several years. Murray says that neither he nor his caddie did a “very good job of separating the friendship and business.”

Hicks declined to elaborate when reached Tuesday morning.

Murray and Hicks have worked together for the past two years, since Murray graduated from 2015 Tour Q-School and claimed his PGA Tour card with a successful year in the minors. He earned the most money in the Tour Finals, giving him fully exempt status for this season and a spot in this week’s event at TPC Sawgrass.

This season has been a struggle, however, as Murray has amassed just three top-25s in 15 starts. Player and caddie have had differences in decision-making and course strategy, and Murray felt as though “I wasn’t able to use my strengths.”

“I was scared to tell him ‘no’ in a sense because Hicksy is like a father,” Murray said. “I was raised to not talk down to a guy I respect or is older than me, so I never wanted to approach him or say, ‘This is what I’m having issues with, let’s fix it,’ because he’d perceive it the wrong way.”

Their issues boiled over Sunday, after Murray was talked into hitting 3-wood instead of a driver (wound up short, in a greenside bunker) on No. 7 at Eagle Point and then flew a gap wedge over the green on 8.

Walking off the green, Murray smacked his putter against his bag, breaking the secondary strap. He received an “earful” from Hicks as they walked to the next tee.

After hitting his tee shot on 9, Murray found his father, Eric, outside the ropes.

“Dad, I’m done after this round with Hicksy, I just want you to know that,” Murray said.

His father told him to get through the next 10 holes and they’d deal with it later. But Hicks apparently overheard Murray’s comments and confronted him in the fairway.

“He was very upset and asked me what I told my dad,” Murray said. “I told him that I think we probably need to split ways after today, and that we’re just having our differences. And he wasn’t really getting that.”

“I think he’s had his thoughts about this whole thing like I have,” Murray continued. “It’s hard to talk to one another in a way that one of us wouldn’t get mad at each other. He had frustration built up, too, and he let it out on me on the ninth hole. He basically threw my bag, said, ‘Here’s the bib, go find someone else.’”

And so ended their player-caddie relationship.

“It’s very hard,” Murray said. “I just wanted a caddie out here, and Hicksy tried being a lot of different roles, and that was probably hard on him. It’s definitely hard on me, because I just wanted him to be the caddie but I couldn’t tell him that. I didn’t want him to think that I’m questioning his knowledge of the game. But he was trying to play the roles of caddie, mentor, father figure, swing coach, and I think it finally got to him, too. It wore him down.

“It’s too bad we couldn’t have figured it out between the two of us, but that’s the nature of the business.”

This week, Murray will use a fill-in caddie, Barry Williams, who is normally on the bag for Bobby Wyatt. 

The Sunday drama was a hot topic on Twitter on Monday – Robert Allenby and his caddie also parted ways mid-round in 2015 – and Murray later tweeted an explanation of the incident. He has since shut down his controversial account.

“I deactivated it for now,” he said. “I don’t want anything to do with it.” 

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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.