New Name New Time Slot for Tampa

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 6, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 PODS ChampionshipA new name and a new date welcome the PGA TOUR to the Tampa Bay area for this week's PODS Championship.
 
And K.J. Choi is in the unique position of defending a title he won little more than four months ago.
 
During the last week of October the Korean-born veteran pasted the field for a four-shot victory at the Chrysler Championship, earning his fourth PGA TOUR win (second in the event) and enough money to gain entry into the Tour Championship the following week.
 
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh is the highest ranked player in the field this week in Tampa. (WireImage)
The Chrysler Championship is now the PODS Championship, and Choi will back to defend the title he won at Innisbrook the weekend before Halloween.
 
Not since 2000, when the U.S. Open and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am were played within three months of each other, has the PGA TOUR seen such a short turnaround between events at the same course.
 
Putting it into perspective, Tiger Woods has played only four times worldwide since Choi's win, and just twice in PGA TOUR-sanctioned events.
 
Following a strict schedule in which he only plays in the world's biggest tournaments, Woods is skipping the second leg of the TOUR's Florida swing. Among the top golfers, he's not alone: world No. 9 Vijay Singh and No. 13 Sergio Garcia are the highest-ranked players in the field.
 
But Choi will be back, as will 2006 runners-up Paul Goydos and Brett Wetterich and a host of other players with good records in the event. Players like Jesper Parnevik, who owns three top-25 finishes and is 4-for-4 in cuts made here.
 
The GOLF CHANNEL will broadcast the first two rounds, with NBC taking over for the weekend.
 
Next week the TOUR continues its Florida swing with the Arnold Palmer Invitational (formerly the Bay Hill Invitational), where Rod Pampling picked up his second career win last year.
 
But, as for this week, here are our five favorites for the PODS Championship:
 
Vijay Singh
Despite sitting in the No. 3 spot on the FedExCup points list and already with a win under his belt, there's a sense that Singh is off his game a little bit. Of the six events in which he has teed it up, only twice has he finished in the top-10. But the big Fijian comes into this event with great credentials having taken home the trophy in 2004 and a runner-up finish the season prior.
 
Charles Howell
Howell has already missed the cut two times in his five starts here in Tampa, but not to worry; that was the old Charles. Since the beginning of the 2007 season, the 27-year-old has started showing the golf world the new and improved Charles. He's first on the aforementioned FedExCup points list, first on the money list, and he has risen all the way up to 15th in the world rankings. He took last week off and should be well rested and ready to continue his roll toward Augusta.
 
Trevor Immelman
The up-and-coming South African really has showed his mettle the past year, especially against strong fields. The 2006 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year beat Tiger at last year's Western Open to go along with another seven top-10s. He started off this season with a tie for third at the Mercedes-Benz Championship and is closing in on becoming the highest ranked South African with his current rank of 13th, just seven spots below Ernie Els and five behind Retief Goosen.
 
Camilo Villegas
The young gun had a decent if not yet impressive debut in this event in 2006 with a tie for 31st. But playing his college golf at the University of Florida, Villegas knows the area well and is coming off a big week at The Honda Classic. Although he missed a short putt in the playoff, the Columbia native will be riding a wave of confidence into the Innisbrook Resort.
 
K.J. Choi
When South Korea's Choi returns this week to Tampa, not only is he returning as the defending champion, but he is also returning to the site where he has earned half of his four career PGA TOUR victories. The man they call 'Tank' obviously likes what he sees at this course. In last year's four-shot win, Choi finished in the top-10 in both putting stats and in greens in regulation, and his 19 birdies led the field for the week. He started the year with an eighth-place showing at the Mercedes and followed it up with a fourth at the Sony.
 
Another foursome to keep an eye on this week in Tampa:
 
Chad Campbell
Campbell had an impressive run at the WGC-Match Play Championship, where he was the lone American to make it to the weekend before bowing out in the semifinals to Geoff Ogilvy. He has two top-4 finishes here in Tampa in the last four starts.
 
Jesper Parnevik
Jesper came close to notching his fifth career PGA TOUR win here in 2004 when he finished second to Singh. He had another good run last year, closing with a 66 to tie for sixth.
 
Bill Haas
Haas is starting to come into form in his sophomore season with five top-30 results, including a solo fifth in Mexico. He currently stands 40th on the money list.
 
Carl Pettersson
After missing the cut in his first go around at the PODS Championship in 2003, the 'Redneck Swede' came back with a top-10 in '04 and then captured his maiden TOUR title the following year with his one-stroke win over Campbell.
 
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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.