Health Insurance Langham Leads Kemper
Langham fired a bogey-free 8-under-par 63 on the TPC at Avenel to top Bob Estes by two strokes. Chris DiMarco, the lone player in this weeks field ranked inside the top 20, is two back, tied with Brian Gay and the '3 W's' ' Willie Wood, Jay Williamson and Brian Watts.
'I didn't know it was a course record until I was done,' Langham said. 'My ball-striking was great today, my putting was good, my mind was good, you know, it was just an all-around good day. Those are the days you hope to have.'
Elbow surgery cut short Langhams 2001 campaign, and delayed his start to 02. He didnt make his first appearance until the Genuity Championship in March, and then took another three weeks off to further rehab.
'There were times I was scared,' Langham said of his injury. 'I never got to the point where I said I'm not playing again, but I was definitely scared. It hurt so bad from the stuff I did, like, `How am I ever going to grip a club again?' But I was real determined to do it.'
Langham finished last year 141st on the money list, but earned enough money in his first five events this season to garner exempt status for the remainder of the year.
The 34-year-old Augusta, Ga., native's 63 was his low round of the year by four shots, and tied his career best, established in the second round of the 2000 Genuity. His previous 63 led to a runner-up finish at Doral. Hes been a bridesmaid four times in his six years on tour, including a tie for second at this event two years ago.
He does have a bit of history on his side, however, as each of the past three Kemper winners have been maiden tour champions.
Opening on the back nine Thursday, Langham was 1-under through his first six holes before shooting up the leaderboard with five consecutive birdies beginning at the par-4 16th. Leading the field by one at 6-under, Langham stretched his advantage with back-to-back birdies on seven and eight. He's one of nine players to shoot 63 since the event moved to the Avenel venue in 1987.
This is the fifth time Langham has held at least a share of the 18-hole lead in a PGA Tour event. And hes found in the past that round two isnt quite as kind.
When leading after Thursday, Langham has never shot better than 73 on Friday. In fact, hes not only failed to convert 18-hole leads into victories, hes yet to ride his quick start to a top-10 finish.
Two-time Kemper champion Greg Norman is three behind Langham. Norman made this event his first tour title in 1984, and won again two years later.
'It would mean a lot to me right now,' Norman said of winning a third Kemper title, and his first on tour since 1997. 'It would be the reinforcement of the belief in myself that I can do it.
'If I didn't think I could put myself in a position to win, I wouldn't be here, trust me. I've got too many other things I love to do in life to come out here and feel like I'm just walking around the golf course.'
Phil Taturangi also shot 67, though in less than customary fashion. He recorded one eagle, eight birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey.
Full-field scores from the Kemper Insurance Open
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.