Watson shoots 68, leads Masters by 3

By Will GrayApril 11, 2014, 11:24 pm

Displaying a deft touch to go along with his length off the tee, Bubba Watson carved up the second nine Friday at Augusta National Golf Club to take a three-shot lead at the Masters. Here's how things look after two rounds of the season's first major, where Watson is halfway to his second green jacket in the last three years:

Leaderboard: Bubba Watson (-7), John Senden (-4), Adam Scott (-3), Jordan Spieth (-3), Thomas Bjorn (-3), Jonas Blixt (-3), Fred Couples (-2), Jimmy Walker (-2), Jim Furyk (-2)

What it means: Watson was the only player without a bogey in the opening round, and he made it through his first 26 holes this week before dropping a shot. The 2012 winner caught fire on his inward half, with five straight birdies from Nos. 12-16. As a result he has distanced himself from the pack at the halfway point, but thanks to a late rally the defending champ remains within reach - as does Spieth, who could become the youngest Masters winner ever.

Round of the day: Watson's opening 69 was just the second bogey-free round out of 81 career rounds in the majors, and he kept things rolling right along Friday. Watson's run of five straight birdies on the inward half included a lengthy bomb from the back of the green at No. 14 and concluded with a near-ace at the par-3 16th. Despite a closing bogey, Watson tied for the lowest score so far this week and is the only player with two rounds in the 60s.

Best of the rest: Senden and Bjorn share this honor, as both matched Watson's 4-under 68 to move firmly into contention. Bjorn was out early and began his round with two straight birdies, adding four more across his final five holes to cap off a stellar round. Senden opened with a bogey and was 2 over after four holes, but birdied three of his next four and had six total birdies on his round. After a poor drive at No. 18, the Aussie got up and down to save par and earn a spot in Saturday's final pairing.

Biggest disappointment: There is no shortage of big names missing the cut, but topping the list is Phil Mickelson, who at +5 took one shot too many and will sit out the weekend at Augusta National for the first time since 1997. Mickelson made a triple bogey for the second straight day, taking three whacks from the sand on the short par-3 12th en route to a 1-over 73 in Round 2. Honorable (dishonorable?) mention goes to Rory McIlroy, who fell back after a 77 but made the cut on the number, and Marc Leishman, who was 5 under and in sole possession of the lead through 21 holes, then played his final 15 holes in 10 over to miss the cut.

Main storyline heading into Saturday: This feels like Watson's tournament to lose, but the southpaw is only 1-for-8 when trying to close out 36-hole leads on the PGA Tour. The chase pack includes the timeless Couples, who is a factor at the halfway point for the fifth consecutive year, and Scott, who struggled over the first five holes but managed to salvage an even-par 72 to mirror the exact same scores he put up in the first two rounds last year en route to victory.

Shot of the day: Justin Rose jarred a 40-yard pitch shot from left of the eighth green for an unexpected eagle, a spark that lifted the reigning U.S. Open winner to a 2-under 70 in the second round. After stumbling out of the gates with a 76, Rose was one of the few big names to rally after a poor start and make it past the cut line.

Quote of the day: "This year I’m trying to get the jacket back. You’re not the man. You want that feeling again, you want that back.” - Watson

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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.