Willis Talkin About a Turnaround

By Golf Channel NewsroomSeptember 8, 2003, 4:00 pm
Garrett Willis won in his first start as a card-carrying member on the PGA Tour. No one can ever take away the gold, shiny conquistador helmet that came along with his maiden victory.
 
But that tour card was only on loan.
 
Willis is nearing the end of the two-year PGA Tour exemption he received by winning the 2001 Tucson Open. And hes got his work cut out for him if he wants to keep that full exempt status.
 
The 29-year-old Tennessee resident tied for 11th in last weeks Bell Canadian Open. He enters this weeks John Deere Classic 128th on the seasonal money list ' with the top 125 by seasons end getting tour cards for 2004.
 
Willis has been riding a downward spiral since his unlikely triumph. He has made only 38 cuts in the 86 starts following that victory. Included in that dismal stretch are seven withdrawals after first-round blow-ups and a pair of disqualifcations.
 
This is his first-ever visit to the TPC at Deere Run (par-71, 7,183 yards) in Silvis, Ill., which will play host for the fourth consecutive year.
 
Its the 32nd edition of the event. J.P. Hayes is the defending champion. Hayes took control of the tournament a year ago with a course-record 10-under 61 in Round 2. He then shot back-to-back 67s over the weekend to hold off Robert Gamez.
 
Hayes isnt in the best of shape as he returns to the site of second-career tour victory (1998 Buick Classic). He injured his ankle prior to the Deutsche Bank Championship, where he missed the cut, and then pulled out of the Bell Canadian.
 
While Hayes wont have to worry about losing his card for another year, others, like David Frost, are just beginning a critical stretch of tournaments.
 
There are eight full-field events remaining on the 2003 tour calendar. And many of the top-ranked players are taking time off over the next three weeks.
 
Frost is a two-time winner of this event. In fact, hes the only player in tournament history to successfully defend his title, doing so in 1993. Both of those victories, however, came at Oakwood Country Club in Coal Valley, Ill.
 
Oakwood was the host from 1975-99. Crow Valley Country Club in Bettendorf, Iowa, was the original site, from 1972-74.
 
Frost, who will turn 44 Thursday, is 140th on the money list. He finished 126th in earnings a year ago, missing the magic number by less than $6,000.
 
Frost is one of three multiple John Deere winners (Scott Hoch 1980, 84; D.A. Weibring 1979, 91, 95).
 
Three of the last four winners have made this event their first tour victory: J.L. Lewis started the trend in 1999; Michael Clark continued it in 2000; David Gossett won on a sponsors exemption in 01.
 
But the John Deere is more likely to be a players final triumph than his first. Seven of the last eight champions have yet to win since riding the big green tractor into the winners circle.
 
David Toms, who won in 1997, is the lone exception. The then-named Quad City Classic was the first on his winning resume, but certainly not the last ' hes won eight times since.
 
Toms isnt in this years field. Davis Love III, Vijay Singh and Justin Leonard are the only top-20 players on the Official World Golf Ranking in attendance.
 
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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.