Lehman Gets Ryder Cup Nod
The PGA of America announced Wednesday that Lehman would be the man in charge of reversing American fortunes in the Ryder Cup, when the biennial matches resume for the 36th time at the K Club outside Dublin, Ireland Sept. 22-24, 2006.
'The Ryder Cup to me is the ultimate golf experience,' Lehman said at a news conference in Amelia Island, Fla. 'Including my British Open victory, my greatest moment in golf was being part of the Ryder Cup team. To be part of this next team, this is a thrill beyond belief.'
Lehman is a three-time U.S. Ryder Cup team member. He competed in 1995, 97 and 99, compiling a 5-3-2 record, including a flawless 3-0-0 mark in singles.
He was chosen to be the 24th different U.S. captain over the likes of Larry Nelson, Paul Azinger (who is considered the favorite for 2008), Corey Pavin, Mark OMeara and Fred Couples.
Lehman has a tall task ahead of him. The U.S. has lost four of the last five Ryder Cup Matches, and their latest defeat was by a record margin. Under the leadership of Hal Sutton, the heavily favored Americans fell mightily to the Europeans, 18 -9 , in September at Oakland Hills.
'We always go in as the favorites, but no matter how talented we are, how many major championships we've won, we always seem to have difficulty with the Ryder Cup,' Lehman said.
'For the first time ever, without disrespect to our players, the facts show we will be the underdogs, and that's fine with me.'
A native of Austin, Minn., Lehman qualified for the PGA Tour via Q-school in 1983. He played on tour from 1983-86, before spending the next six seasons playing in Asia, South Africa and other locations far more remote.
In 1991, he won three times on the now Nationwide Tour and was its money leader and player of the year. That got him back on the primary circuit, where hes since been a fixture.
Lehman has won five times on the PGA Tour, including the 1996 British Open. He was the 1996 player of the year and was ranked No. 1 in the world for one week in 97.
He hasnt won since the 2000 Phoenix Open, but played quite well at the end of this season, finishing with three consecutive top-10s.
The 45-year-old said he still holds out hope that he could qualify for the team in two years time, but added that he would only serve as a player-captain under the right circumstances.
'I'm looking for guys on top of their game, and winning is a big thing,' Lehman said. 'If I was winning, it would be unfair for me not to play. That said, what are the chances? Probably pretty slim.'
Lehman last participated in a Ryder Cup at Brookline in 1999. He was among those who led the charge onto the 17th green in celebration after Justin Leonards famous ' and infamous ' 45-foot birdie putt ' before Jose Maria Olazabal had a chance to putt out.
He said hes not worried about any backlash by the Irish fans.
Lehman will have other challenges. He will have to figure out with whom to pair Tiger Woods. Woods has had 10 different partners in four Ryder Cup appearances, and has compiled a 7-11-2 record (2-1-1 in singles).
He was one of the spearheads that we had a Valderrama and one of the leaders in the locker room at Brookline, so I think he'll do a great job, said Woods, who partnered with Lehman in foursomes in 1999.
Lehman will also be in discussion with the PGA of America as to if and how they may revise their qualification process. Players currently accrue points based on top-10 finishes, with more points awarded during a Ryder Cup year. PGA president M.G. Orender said changes may be made by the end of this year.
The European team is expected to announce their captain early next year.
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.