A Little Late-Season Magic

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 17, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World ResortVijay Singh was like a dominant college football program a year ago. He was the hot knife. His fall schedule was butter.
From August to November, the Buick Open to the season-ending Tour Championship, Singh competed in nine tournaments. He won six of them.
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh has won 19 PGA Tour events over the last four seasons.
One of those three tournaments in which he did not prevail was the Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort. He tied for second, finishing three shots back of Ryan Palmer, who closed in 10-under 62 for his first tour title.
When Singh made his way to the Magic Kingdom last season, he had eight wins to his credit, including a major championship, and was officially ' and undisputedly ' the No. 1-ranked player in the world.
Fast-forward a year, and Singh is a four-time winner ' with no majors, and is much, much closer to the third position on the Official World Golf Ranking than the first.
Its not that Singh has had a terrible campaign. Hes second to Tiger Woods in both victories (4) and earnings ($7,733,503).
The difference between 04 and 05, however, has been The Close.
Singh repeated his victory at the Buick Open, but unlike last year, it didnt catapult him to greater heights. Though he has four top-10s in his five starts since leaving Grand Blanc, he doesnt have another win.
He looks to reapply the glass slipper this week in the shadows of Cinderellas Castle.
The event takes place on two courses: the Palm (par 72, 7,015 yards) and the host Magnolia (par 72, 7,516 yards). The 'Mag' is played exclusively over the weekend. It has been lengthen by over 300 yards.
Singh won this event in 2003. But its a fellow past winner ' a two-time champ ' who will likely be his chief opponent.
Five for the Title:
Tiger Woods
Woods has once again distanced himself from the rest of the golf world. He captured his sixth event of the season in his last start, a playoff victory over John Daly in the WGC-American Express Championship. In eight fewer starts this year, he leads Singh by over $2 million on the money list. Woods has had 42 opportunities to play on tour this season, but, including the Presidents Cup, has teed it up only 20 times. He certainly loves his time off. But he loves returning to competition even more. He is most dangerous when taking off just one week. He has played in 10 events this season after taking a one-week hiatus, and has returned and won four of those tournaments and finished runner-up in three of them. Thats again the scenario this week. Woods, who is still nursing some sore ribs he injured at the Presidents Cup, won this event in 1996 and 99, and was runner-up to Singh in 03.
Vijay Singh
Singh has again been impressive ' just not quite as impressive as a year ago. While the most glaring numerical difference between this season and its predecessor is in the win tally, a closer look shows why there is such a discrepancy between the two. Singhs statistical numbers are just a little bit worse this year in just about every major category: greens hit in regulation; putting average; birdie average; scoring average; scoring average before cut; third-round scoring average; final-round scoring average. It might sound bad, but he still ranks in the top 10 on tour in six of these seven categories. It just goes to show you how incredibly he played a year ago ' and how hes not too far removed from that form.
Retief Goosen
Retief Goosen is playing for the first time since the Presidents Cup.
Retief Goosen
Goosen is ready to return to action after being forced to pull out of the AmEx due to a groin injury. With his win in this years International, he continued a streak of five consecutive seasons with at least one tour title. Now hes in search of his second straight multiple-win season. He has played this event once before, tying for 18th in 2003.
Jason Gore
This would be the perfect place for Gore to win, as his year seems like it was scripted by Walt Disney himself. Gore has already had a dream season, but he would love to cap it by qualifying for the Tour Championship. He is currently 88th on the money list, almost $1 million behind No. 30. He has two more opportunities ' this week and next weeks Chrysler Championship ' to punch his ticket to Atlanta.
Chris DiMarco
DiMarcos search for that elusive fourth tour title continues this week, right down the interstate from his Orlando home. DiMarco has had some success in this event. He looked like a runaway victor in 2002. But after opening in 64-63, he closed in 69-68 and finished one shot higher than Bob Burns. He tied for 16th last year.
Playing Out the Front Nine
Four more to keep an eye on
*Fred Couples, who is trying to qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time since 1998. Couples is currently 32nd on the money list.
*Charles Howell III, who is also trying to earn a trip to compete at East Lake. The Orlando resident, whose only tour title came in 2002, has four top-5s this season and is 30th in earnings after his fifth place finish in Vegas.
*Briny Baird, who finished tied for second here a year ago. Baird was in danger of losing his card until a strong performance in last weeks Michelin Championship at Las Vegas. He may be able to ride the momentum of his eighth-place showing to his first tour win.
*Ryan Palmer, who is the defending champion. Palmer has amassed over $1 million for the second straight year. He tied for 12th last week in Vegas. He is trying to become the first repeat winner of this event since Tim Simpson in 1990.
Related Links:
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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.