European Flavor at Honda Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 6, 2006, 5:00 pm
2005 Honda ClassicSituated in southwest Florida, with its beautiful, blue skies; bright, shiny sun; and ever-present palm trees, the Honda Classic would appear to have very little European flavor.
 
And yet it does.
 
A look back over the last 12 years of the tournament reveals a strong connection between the tournament and its Atlantic Ocean neighbor.
 
Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington earned his first of two PGA Tour victories last year in the Honda Classic.
Nick Price won the Honda in 1994, the same year in which he won the British Open. Mark OMeara was Honda champion the following year, and then three years later also captured the claret jug. Mark Calcavecchia won this event in 98. It was the second such triumph for the man who also won the 1989 British Open. Justin Leonard, 1997 Open champion, was the 2003 Honda winner. And, two years ago, Todd Hamilton won the Honda and the Open four months apart.
 
Then there are the European winners of this tournament during that stretch: Swedens Jesper Parnevik (2001) and Irelands Padraig Harrington (2005).
 
Harringtons playoff victory over Vijay Singh last year extended a European winning streak on the PGA Tour to 23. Beginning in 1983, a European-born player has won at least one official event ' regular, major or WGC ' on tour.
 
The Honda was the first of two wins on the 05 season for Harrington, as he also won the Barclays Classic. Spains Sergio Garcia (Booz Allen) and Swedens Carl Pettersen (Chrysler Championship) won as well a year ago. The four victories by European-born players tied the largest number on tour since 1988, when Scotsman Sandy Lyle and Spaniard Seve Ballesteros accounted for five titles.
 
European winners on tour are far from common-place, but an even smaller number is the total of different European winners.
 
Since the start of 2000, Europeans have claimed 15 tour victories ' by only six different European players. Garcia has six victories; Parnevik three; Harrington and Northern Irelands Darren Clarke two each; and Pettersen and Spains Jose Maria Olazabal one apiece.
 
Thus far this year, the Euros are 0-for-10. And if tournament history is any indication, then Harrington will not be repeating this week at the Country Club at Mirasol. Jack Nicklaus is the only player in tournament history to successfully defend his title, doing so in 1978.
 
But if not Harrington, then perhaps another European player. Here are five possible Honda champions ' European-born, British Open winner, or otherwise.
 
Davis Love III
Love is neither European nor an Open champion, and hes never won this tournament. But he has had plenty of success in Palm Beach Gardens. Love has played this event 11 times and has never missed a cut. He has five top-10 finishes, including runner-up finishes in both 2003 and 2004. Love has been playing well of late. He made it to the finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and tied for 12th last week at Doral. This will be a great test for his new fitness plan. While this will be his fourth consecutive tournament, it will seem like five in a row, as he played seven 18-hole sessions at La Costa.
 
Luke Donald
Donald is one of those players who you dont know whether to classify as a serious contender on a weekly basis or a big disappointment for not having won on tour since 2002. Were going to go with the former this week based solely on the fact that he is European. The Englishman has twice before played this tournament. He tied for 30th in 2002 and tied for 21st in 2004. Donald has gotten off to a decent start this season, finishing in the top 25 in each of his three stroke-play events. He also made it to the third round of the Match Play, before losing to Retief Goosen.
 
Camilo Villegas
Though he didn't win last week, the Ford Championship was Villegas' coming-out party on the PGA Tour. The 24-year-old Colombian held a share of the lead during the third round at Doral, before a late stumble dropped him three off the 54-hole pace. He recovered nicely on Sunday, however, shooting 5-under 67 to earn a second-place tie with David Toms.
 
Bubba Watson
Watson has had a stellar start to his rookie campaign. He already has a pair of top-5 finishes in just five starts. He tied for third two weeks ago in Tucson, where he became the first player since Lee Trevino in 1974 to play a 72-hole PGA Tour event without making a bogey. The big hitter then bombed his way up the leaderboard at last weeks Ford Championship, but fell hard on Sunday with a 77. The 7,468-yard, par-72 Mirasol course should suit him just fine.
 
Bubba Dickerson
This Bubba hasnt gotten a lot of publicity this year, but that could change this week. Dickerson has made four of five cuts in his rookie season, including a career-best tie for 18th two weeks ago in Tucson. The 2001 U.S. Amateur champion is plenty long enough to compete on this course, averaging over 297 yards off the tee. Like Watson, who grew up and lives in northwest Florida, Dickerson is very familiar with the Bermuda greens, as he, too, grew up and still resides in the Sunshine State. Dickerson was born in Jacksonville, lives in Hillard (northern Fla.) and went to school briefly at the University of Florida in Gainesville. This event has been kind to Florida residents: six straight winners, from 1997-2002, lived in the host state.
 
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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.