One Time With Tiger: Scott Brown

By Will GrayNovember 28, 2016, 11:00 am

It’s difficult to upstage Tiger Woods in any pairing, let alone the penultimate group on Sunday. But with one deftly struck 8-iron, Scott Brown managed to do that at the 2015 Wyndham Championship.

Brown was 32 years old when he walked inside the ropes with Woods for the first time. A diminutive man with a syrupy Southern drawl, Brown is not naturally drawn to the limelight. But he was thrust onto center stage last year at Sedgefield Country Club, when his third-round 66 tied him for second place and set up a final-round pairing with a certain 14-time major champ.

“He was an idol of mine growing up, so I mean not only is he probably – well he is the greatest golfer to ever live, so to be able to play with him was pretty sweet,” Brown said. “Obviously being in contention in the golf tournament made it even better.”

Brown had won before on the PGA Tour, edging out an upstart kid named Jordan Spieth at the 2013 Puerto Rico Open, so he was familiar with the pressures of contending. But nothing prepared him for the scene he walked into that day.

All week the Greensboro, N.C., course had been seized by Tiger Mania as Woods not only surprised tournament organizers with his first-ever appearance but also played his way up the leaderboard.

Brown was nervous before the start of their final round, but “when I got to the first tee, I kind of had this sense of calm come over me,” he said. “It was so weird. I would say I was more excited, once we got out there going, than I was nervous.”

Brown’s excitement peaked at the par-3 third hole, where his 8-iron tee shot from 162 yards landed just short of the hole, took three small hops and spun left, hitting the pin and dropping for a hole-in-one. The throng of fans, nearly all of whom were there to watch Woods, instead erupted over Brown’s shot.

“We had, I don’t know, I’m just guessing we had 20,000 people following our group,” Brown said. “I mean it was 10-deep, wrapped around every hole. It was unbelievable.”

Even Woods got into the act, offering a high-five and playfully slapping Brown on the head with his glove.

That ace proved to be the difference on the scorecard, as Brown tied for third after shooting a 68 while Woods faded into a tie for 10th after an even-par 70.

Brown recalled that Woods spent much of the rest of the round asking for the free drink traditionally purchased by the player who makes an ace. Woods explained that it was the first time he had played alongside someone who made a hole-in-one in competition.

They went their separate ways after the round, and 15 months later they still haven’t had an opportunity to toast Brown’s shot.

Brown moved on, and he even pulled off a remarkable repeat at the Wyndham one year later. This time playing alongside Boo Weekley, Brown once again aced the third hole during the final round, using one club more than he had in 2015.

The sparse gallery lining the hole cheered enthusiastically, as did Weekley. But that scene didn’t compare to Brown’s memorable day alongside Woods.

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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.