Singh Looking to Add a Little Defense

By Golf Channel NewsroomMay 10, 2004, 4:00 pm
Unlucky and ominous, 13 may be the appropriate number this week for Vijay Singh.
Singh is the defending champion of the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. This is the 13th PGA Tour title that hes had the opportunity to defend.
And judging by past Byron Nelson champions, Singh will have a difficult time sticking around for the weekend, let alone holding on to his title.
Tom Watson was the last player ' and one of only three in the tournament's 51-year history ' to successfully defend his title, when he won back-to-back-to-back from 1979-81.
But the Byron Nelson curse has been more than just players having trouble repeating victory; no defending champion since Fred Couples, who won in 1987, has even finished the following year inside the top 10. And during that stretch six defending champs have missed the cut the year after, including the last two to try.
Even if he does perform well, this will be a title defense like no other for Singh.
This time a year ago the vilification of Vijay began in earnest, when he made a few negative comments, got lambasted by the media, and then rode off into the Texas sunset on Sunday with his black hat and a fist full of dollars.
Singh was openly critical of Annika Sorenstams inclusion ' I hope she misses the cut, he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying ' in the Bank of America Colonial, which was contested the week after the Nelson. But despite the constant barrage of criticism fired his way thereafter, he managed to dodge the onslaught of bullets and win the Nelson by two strokes over Nick Price.
Singh then said he was skipping the Colonial.
It has nothing to do with the controversy, he said at the time. Ive played in four straight tournaments, and I need a break.
Singh went on to have his most fruitful and frustrating season in his 11 years on tour.
He won a total of four times, ended Tigers four-year reign atop the money list, and became the second-ranked player in the world.
He also endured a very testy relationship with both media and fans.
But time seems to have healed many of those wounds, to the point where the mention of Singh's name induces thoughts of briliance not boorish behavior.
Beginning at the Byron Nelson, Singh has played 30 tour events, which includes six victories, five runner-up finishes and 21 top-10s. He has cut his deficit to Tiger Woods in the Official World Golf Ranking from 10.74 to 2.58.
And, with one of the best fields ever comprised at this tournament, hell have an opportunity to gain more points and further close the gap.
Five of the top six players in the world are in attendance, with the exception of No. 4 Davis Love III.
And to make matters more exciting, four of those five have won this event: Ernie Els (No. 3 in the world) in 1995; Phil Mickelson (No. 5) in 96; Tiger Woods (No. 1) in 97; and Singh a year ago.
On the other hand, Mike Weir, ranked sixth in the world, has played this tournament five times, missing four cuts and tying for 11th in 2001.
For the 11th straight year, the tournament will use a two-course rotation. The TPC at Las Colinas (par 70, 7,022 yards) will serve as host, while the Cottonwood Valley Course (par 70, 6,846 yards) will be played by each competitor once over the first two days of the tournament.
Tournament namesake Byron Nelson won the inaugural event in 1944. He was followed by Sam Snead in 45 ' he also won in 57 and 58 ' and Ben Hogan in 46.
Other notable champions include Julius Boros (1959), Jack Nicklaus (1970-71), Raymond Floyd (1977), Ben Crenshaw (1983), Craig Stadler (1984) and Payne Stewart (1990)
This event was Watsons personal playground in the late 70s and early 80s. During an eight-year span, he won three consecutive times, and never finished outside of the top 4.
In those eight years, he banked a total of $275,571. This year, fourth place alone will get $278,400. The winner will get $1,044,000 of the $5.8 million purse.
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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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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."