Experience Pays at Buick Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 27, 2006, 4:00 pm
2005 Buick ChampionshipThe Buick Championship has been contested 54 times on the PGA TOUR. Throughout its history, it has but one repeat winner: Phil Mickelson.
 
Mickelson won this tournament in 2001 and 2002. He returned in 03 for a chance at a three-peat, but ultimately finished tied for 58th. And he hasnt been back since ' a streak of absence that will be extended this year.
 
Brad Faxon
Brad Faxon is trying to join Phil Mickelson as the only repeat winners of this event.
Mickelson is a no-show once again in Cromwell, Conn., but this time hes got a pretty good excuse. The worlds No. 2-ranked player is still trying to recover from a devastating defeat two weeks ago at the U.S. Open.
 
He was scheduled to compete in the two-day ING Par-3 Shootout, which began Monday, but pulled out, saying: Its always about having fun and I didnt think it was fair to the event to act like I could have a lot of fun right now.
 
Mickelson isnt the only top-10 player taking off this week ' just the most notable, given his history in this tournament, and his most recent history on a golf course. None of the top 10 ranked players in the world are in attendance. In fact, only two of the top 30 players in the world are here ' Kenny Perry and Nick OHern.
 
That means good news for a bunch of players in need of a good paycheck.
 
This is the 26th week on the 2006 PGA TOUR calendar, meaning, including the Buick Championship, there are only 19 weeks remaining.
 
Its not yet time to panic ' that doesnt happen until after the PGA Championship. But, if players dont make a move over the next couple of months, they will have to endure much grief trying to secure their card as soon as the major season is over.
 
Last years Buick Championship was contested in late August after the PGA Championship. Its been moved up two months for this year. It will keep a similar spot on next years FedEx Cup schedule, but will have a new sponsor, The St. Paul Travelers Companies. The Travelers Championship will be contested the week after the U.S. Open.
 
While it would seem that, without a star-studded field, this would be a great event for a young player like Camilo Villegas to earn a break-through victory; the Buick Championship has recently catered to TOUR veterans. And not only TOUR vets, but those with lengthy winless droughts.
 
In 2003, 49-year-old Peter Jacobsen won for the first time since 1995. The next year, 40-year-old Woody Austin won for the first time since 95. And last year, 44-year-old Brad Faxon won for the first time since 2001.
 
Will the trend continue this week, or will someone new establish his name? Here are our favorites at the TPC at River Highlands:
 
Paul Azinger
Perhaps its Azingers turn. He certainly fits the criteria: hes 46 years old and hasnt won on TOUR since 2000. Now that his primary focus has returned to playing golf and not broadcasting it, Azinger has seen some positive progress recently. He has made the cut in each of his last four starts, posting a tie for 16th and a 10th-place finish among those results. Hes currently inside the top 100 on the money list right now and a good finish this week would secure his card for next season (hes using his Top 50 on the Career Money List exemption this year). In 19 career starts in this event, he has only three top-10s; two of those, however, are victories (1987 and 1989).
 
Woody Austin
Austins two-year exemption for winning the 2004 Buick Championship runs out this year. However, he is a pretty good bet to keep his card, as he is safely inside the top 90 on the money list at the moment, thanks primarily to a tie for seventh at the Memorial Tournament. It took a while, but Austin may have finally figured out how to play this TPC at River Highlands course. He had three missed cuts and not a single top-40 in his first six starts here. Over his last two trips, however, he has a win and a tie for ninth.
 
Kenny Perry
For a man who has never finished outside the top 100 on the money list over his 19-year career, Perry is having an atypical season in 06. He has yet to post a top-10 and is 114th in earnings; though, he is exempt through 2008 due to his two-win season in 2005. Part of that has to do with his being sidelined for two months due to a knee injury. He came back in May, a finally got a good result at last week's Booz Allen where he finished tied for 13th. This could be a good tournament for him to build on that momentum. Perry has played this event 17 times and has six career top-10s, including four in his last six appearances.
 
Kevin Sutherland
Outside of winning the 2002 WGC-Match Play Championship, Sutherland has never done anything spectacular in his 11-year career. But hes been very consistent, finishing inside the top 125 on the money list every year since 1996. A good finish this week could help keep that streak alive. Currently 128th in earnings, Sutherland has eight top-20 finishes in 10 starts at the Buick Championship.
 
Jerry Kelly
Thanks to a runner-up finish in Tucson and a couple of other top-10s this season, Kelly has secured playing status for next year. If he can win this week, hell have it locked up for 08 as well. Kelly, who is seeking his first win since 2002, when he won twice, missed the cut in each of his first four trips around River Highlands. But he has three top-20s over his last four starts, including a tie for fourth a year ago.
 
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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.'"


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    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.