Punch Shot: Most memorable moment of the season

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 1, 2015, 3:00 pm

With the 2014-15 PGA Tour campaign in the rear-view mirror, GolfChannel.com writers offer up their pick for most memorable moment of the season. Click here for their pick for best shot.


It’s not the most pleasant memory, but years from now when we look back on 2015 the singular image will be Dustin Johnson giving away the U.S. Open on the 72nd green.

The emotional roller-coaster that ensued from Johnson’s three-putt at Chambers Bay was certainly tumultuous, as players and viewers alike were left in a state of shock – none more so than Johnson, who took off his cap, adjusted his hair and looked around as if to try to identify a driver in a hit-and-run. For a player already with plenty of major championship scar tissue, Johnson added another layer that could prove even more painful than his bunker episode from Whistling Straits.

Doug Sanders. Scott Hoch. Short misses with a major on the line go down in the annals of the game, and Johnson had the misfortune of joining them in the Pacific Northwest. In a year with plenty of wins worth celebrating, it will be a loss that lingers the most.


There is no more iconic place in golf than the corner of Golf Place and The Links, the two byways that frame the Old Course’s 18th hole, which makes it apropos that the year’s most memorable moment would occur at the famous crossroads.

It was a compelling snapshot in the Monday gloom as Zach Johnson was cementing his legacy with his second major triumph at July’s Open Championship as Jordan Spieth waited quietly behind the Royal & Ancient clubhouse to congratulate him.

More than an hour had passed since Spieth’s historic bid to become the first player in the modern era to collect the first three legs of the single-season Grand Slam had slid past the cup on the same 18th hole, but there he was waiting in line to applaud Johnson.

Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller, stood quietly with him, clearly still stunned by his man’s missed birdie putt at the last that would have secured “Team Jordan” a spot in the playoff, but Spieth simply smiled as he embraced Johnson.

“To have a champion like Jordan take the time on 18 to give me best wishes,” Johnson said. “He's a phenomenal talent, and I'm telling you right now he's a better person than he is golfer.”


Rickie Fowler’s eloquent answer: After knocking his tee shot to 5 feet at the famed 17th island hole in May to set up his playoff victory at The Players Championship, and after kissing his then bikini model girlfriend coming off the green, Fowler was asked about being voted overrated by his peers. He patted his new trophy and smiled.

“If there was any question, this right here answers anything you need to know,” Fowler said.

Fowler couldn’t have been more eloquent with his shot making that remarkable Sunday in May. He didn’t have to say much afterward.


The Open Championship had an odd feel this year. Torrential rain and a 10-hour wind delay led to the first Monday finish since 1988, and over the weekend there was a strangely eclectic leaderboard that included, among others, Dustin Johnson, Paul Lawrie, Adam Scott and Danny Willett.

Jordan Spieth, trying to win his third consecutive major, seemed like he had putted his way out of contention; midway through the final round, he four-putted for double bogey. He was done. Except then he made back-to-back birdies. Except then he played steady as the others faltered. Suddenly, he was only one shot back.

The action was reaching a crescendo, so I made a beeline for the 16th green. I got there just as Spieth was stalking his 40-footer birdie putt. He looked at it from every angle. Caddie Michael Greller nodded in agreement. The Old Course stood still. Spieth stroked the putt, and with a few feet to go he knew it was in. He pumped his fist, and the place exploded, and in that moment it all felt possible – that a 21-year-old was going to with the Open, capture the first three legs of the Grand Slam, and head to Whistling Straits as the biggest story in sports, with a chance to author the greatest golf season ever.

We all know what happened next, of course, but the electricity of that single moment was something I’ll never forget.

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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.