Who Will Be the Michelin Man

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 10, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 Michelin Championship at Las VegasThe Michelin Championship at Las Vegas is the most important event of the year ' at least to the winner. Thats the way its been over the better part of the last five seasons.
In 2000, Billy Andrade was fighting for his professional livelihood. His two-year exemption from winning the 1998 Bell Canadian Open was about to expire. He entered the Las Vegas event mired in 159th place on the money list.
And he left in 43rd place.
Andrade edged Phil Mickelson by a stroke and renewed his PGA Tour card for another two years.
Andre Stoltz
Andre Stoltz' surprise victory last year in Las Vegas extended his PGA Tour life.
Last year was a similar story.
Andre Stoltz, a rookie on tour, was in danger of heading back to the secondary circuit, until he hit the jackpot in Vegas.
Stoltz, who had just six sub-70 scores all year, fired four rounds in the 60s to beat Harrison Frazar by a stroke and catapult from 217th to 89th in earnings.
For others, this event wasnt about making some much needed money, but about ending some much unwanted schneids.
Phil Tatuarangi had never won a tour event until he did so at Vegas in 2002. That gave the oft-injured Kiwi much needed security.
And Stuart Appleby had gone four years without a victory until he beat Scott McCarron in a Vegas playoff in 2003.
Over the last half-decade, the Michelin Championship has indeed been the biggest tournament of the year ' to the winner. The lone exception was Bob Estes, who in 2001 made Vegas his second win of the season. That victory was a bonus; though, it did tack on an additional year of exempt status.
With just four full-field events remaining on the 2005 tour calendar, it is quite possible that Vegas will once again greatly influence a players future.
That is, unless the winner happens to be someone like Jim Furyk. Which is quite possible.
Five for the Title:
Jim Furyk
Long before he was Tiger Woods team partner of choice, and long before he was a major champion, Furyk was golf's Wayne Newton. Furyks maiden tour victory came in Sin City in 1995. He won again in 98, and yet again in 99. Its been six years since he stood next to the token showgirls with trophy in hand, but its not as if hes gone bust during that winless span. In his last five Vegas starts, Furyk has four top-20s, including a fourth-place finish in 2002. Furyk already has one win this year, prevailing at the Cialis Western Open. Its the ninth time in the last 11 years that he has had at least one win on tour. However, he has only one other multiple-win season; that coming in 2003, when he won the U.S. Open and the Buick Open.
Stuart Appleby
Stuart Appleby is in search of his first multiple-win season on tour.
Stuart Appleby
Like Furyk, Appleby has won this tournament before, doing so in 2003. He also already has a win under his belt this season, at the Mercedes Championships. But what he doesnt have is even a single multiple-win season in his career. Appleby has been playing well of late. He has four top-15 finishes in his last five starts.
Chris DiMarco
The good news for DiMarco is that he has had success in this tournament. He owns the course record at Southern Highlands GC (61). The bad news is that Southern Highlands is no longer in the rotation. The tournament was reduced from 90 holes to 72 last year, and SH was replaced with Bears Best. The event is still 72 holes this year, but the courses have been pared down to the host TPC at Summerlin and the TPC at The Canyons. DiMarco missed the cut in this event his first four times, but has made his last four cuts and tied for fifth in 2000.
Scott Verplank
While much is made about DiMarcos winless streak on tour, which reaches back to the 2002 FBR Open, Verplank hasnt won since the 2001 Bell Canadian Open. He has two runner-up finishes this season, which gives him four over the last three years. He has three top-10s in his last seven Vegas starts.
Phil Mickelson
Because of the time of the season, Mickelson hasnt been mentioned among the favorites in his last few starts. But he might have a chance to win just his second tour event ever after the month of August (2000 Tour Championship). Lefty has four top-10s in 11 Vegas starts and was runner-up in 2000. Hes back this year after withdrawing after two solid rounds a year ago due to illness.
Playing Out the Front Nine
Four more to keep an eye on
*Tom Lehman, who was the 54-hole leader a year ago. Lehman closed in 69 to tie for second. It was his second runner-up finish in the last four years in this event.
*Chris Riley, who went to school at UNLV. Its been a long, difficult year for Riley, who has struggled ever since the 2004 Ryder Cup. Hes in need of some home cooking, having made only 10 of 21 cuts this season.
*Ryan Moore, who also went to UNLV. Moore had one of the greatest ever amateur seasons in 2004. Now a professional, he is on the verge of getting his tour card for next year through sponsors exemptions. He could clinch his card this week.
*Andre Stoltz, who is the defending champion. Stoltz is lucky to have a two-year exemption, as he has been limited to just 12 starts this season and has but three made cuts. Furyk is the only player to successfully defend his Vegas title.
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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.