Reed, Walker provide needed juice for American golf

By Rex HoggardJanuary 13, 2015, 2:44 am

In the tense moments following the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s five-point loss last fall in Scotland, Phil Mickelson made a telling observation.

No, it wasn’t that 500-pound elephant regarding Tom Watson’s leadership style that should cause American golf fans to sit up and take notice, it was a much more subtle observation.

“The youthful energy that Jordan Spieth brought this week, that Patrick Reed brought, they are the ones that kept us in it. ... They are just brilliant players,” Mickelson said at Gleneagles.

Lefty didn’t mention Jimmy Walker, but it was only out of semantics. At 35 years old, Walker defied the traditional definition of a Ryder Cup rookie, but given the state of golf in the New World the journeyman is a welcome exception to a growing trend.

With just four Americans currently ranked in the top 10 and perennial pace setters Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson struggling, it’s a telling headline that two of those American outliers – Reed and Walker – ended up going head to head in primetime on Monday at the year-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, with Reed coming from behind to force and then win a playoff.

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Walker appeared to be heading for his fourth PGA Tour victory in the last 16 months when he went two shots clear of the field at the turn, but Reed chipped away, first with a birdie at the 15th hole, and then with a wedge shot from 83 yards at the 16th hole that bounced once, spun and dropped into the hole for an eagle.

Reed may still not technically be a “top-five player,” although his victory at Kapalua will propel him into the top 15, but the Texan, along with Walker and Spieth, are emerging as America’s best options for future international matches.

“The confidence level is really high and I continue working on my game. Everybody gets on a hot streak, the main thing is to stay consistent and keep moving forward,” Reed said following a closing 67.

At 24-years-old, Reed became just the fourth player, along with Woods, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, to win his fourth Tour title before turning 25.

That it came in a mano-a-mano duel with Walker was apropos for an American side still stinging from last year’s loss. As bad as Gleneagles was for the U.S. team, Watson’s three rookies continue to be a source of optimism.

“Jimmy was so jacked up to play in it (the Ryder Cup),” Walker’s swing coach Butch Harmon said on Monday. “He played so well there and he and Rickie were such a great team together. He said I want to be on this team and the Presidents Cup every year.”

All three of last year’s rookies are currently inside the top 10 for this year’s Presidents Cup team and in the last two months Spieth has won two high-profile events - the Australian Open and Hero World Challenge - while Reed and Walker put on a show in Hawaii to kick off 2015.

“I just stayed patient and tried not to get ahead of myself,” Reed said following his birdie at the first extra hole.

Good advice for an up-and-coming Tour star, as well as U.S. golf fans.

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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.