Gators Win PingGolfweek Preview
Sophomore Billy Horschel (Grant, Fla.) captured his first individual medal of the season with a career-low 63 (-7) in the final round of the PING/Golfweek Preview Invitational on Wednesday to lead the fifth-ranked University of Florida mens golf team to its first victory of the year. The Gators posted a team score of 272 (-8) ' which ties for the 13th-lowest round in school history by score ' to finish with a team score of 834 (-6) and outlast defending national champion Oklahoma State by four strokes. The victory is the Gators first Preview title in 14 appearances at the prestigious event.
Ill be the first to admit that I didnt think we would win a golf tournament this early in the year, Florida head coach Buddy Alexander said. I was confident wed get better as the year went on, but I wasnt sure if wed be where we are now so early. The guys played great today, and it was a real treat to watch them. It was the first time in the final group with a legitimate chance to win for some of our players, but they showed what our team is made of today.
Horschel played a flawless round of golf on Wednesday, rolling in seven birdies, to take home his second career individual medal. He got off to a fast start with four birdies on the front nine and then continued his solid play with three more birdies on the back, including a clutch three on the par-four 17th with the Gators clinging to a three-stroke lead. His final-round 63 ranks as the second-lowest sophomore score in school history, behind only Camilo Villegas 62 in the second round of the 2001 Gary Koch Invitational, and his total of 203 ties his career low. With the win, Horschel increased his streak of consecutive top-10 finishes to seven tournaments, dating back to the 2005-06 season. Coupled with his victory at the 2006 NCAA West Regional, Horschel has now won two of his last five collegiate tournaments, and three of his last six events overall when his medalist performance at the U.S. Amateur is included.
Another key to the Florida win was the play of junior Manuel Villegas (Medellin, Colombia), who carded a final-round 69 (-1) to land in a tie for sixth with a two-under 208 for the tourney. He got off to a bit of a rough start to the day, finding himself one over through three holes, but bounced back with birdies on five, six and eight to make the turn at two under for the day. He countered a double-bogey on 12 and a bogey on 14 with birdies 13 and 18 ' the last of which sealed the victory for the Gators ' to sign his card at 208 for the week. The sixth-place tie marks the second top-10 finish of Villegas season and career.
Sophomore Toby Ragland (Jacksonville, Fla.) saved his best round of the tournament for the final day, firing a one-under 69 to jump a dozen spots and finish in a tie for 31st with a score of 215 (+5). He found himself in a hole early after bogeying the first three holes of the day, but he birdied five of the next 10 holes to get to two under for the day before a bogey on the last gave him his final total.
A pair of freshmen ' Andres Echavarria (Medellin, Colombia) and Tim McKenney (Scottsdale, Ariz.) ' turned in almost identical rounds of one-over golf on Wednesday to finish the tournament in ties for 18th and 34th place, respectively. Both players notched three birdies on the day to combat the four strokes they gave back on various holes. McKenney claimed his first collegiate top-20 finish with a total of 212 (+2), while Echavarria finished with a three-round score of 216 (+6).
Billy just decided that he wanted to win today, and that he wanted us to win today, Alexander said. Its fun to watch him take over like that. On the same token, the other four guys in our lineup were also terrific. Without Billys score, we still shot 280, which isnt good enough to win, but is a heck of a lot to ask from your two-through-five guys. It was great to see them all play like that.
The Gators will take almost three weeks off before their next tournament, the Isleworth Invitational in Orlando, Fla. The event will be hosted by UCF at Isleworth Country Club.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
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."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
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.'"
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."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
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."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
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.