After Further Review: Match Play continues to deliver

By Jason Sobel, Randall Mell, Rex HoggardFebruary 24, 2014, 1:25 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on the epic WGC-Accenture Match Play final between Jason Day and Victor Dubuisson, other compelling moments including Sergio Garcia's bizarre move to concede an 18-foot putt to Rickie Fowler and what the future of the tournament looks like.

The Match Play Championship's competitive rhythm may typically slow to a seeming crawl on the weekend, with the possibility the game's biggest stars won't even make it to the weekend, but that's OK. There is still more overall drama packed into a week of match play than in most regular PGA Tour events. There are more thrilling winning shots and dispiriting failures.  Heck, on the first day alone, there are 32 winners and 32 losers. That sense of finality lingering over every match is delicious fare.

The Match Play Championship is a refreshing departure from week after week of PGA Tour stroke-play tournaments. It would be a shame if the PGA Tour takes all the fun out of those whirlwind first two days with a switch to stroke-play qualifying. You lose two of the best weekdays in golf doing that. Yes, not every Sunday can be a riveting sudden-death gut wrencher like this year’s Match Play final, but I can live with that, given all the drama this week still unfailingly delivers.  Randall Mell

Something has to give when it comes to the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Jason Day’s second PGA Tour victory and the emergence of France’s Victor Dubuisson aside, the final Match Play at Dove Mountain proved that the circuit needs to overhaul its version of March madness. On Sunday, Tour commissioner Tim Finchem allowed as much, telling reporters that no options regarding future venues, sponsors or formats were off the table. A game changing venue combined with a format adjustment that would assure players of at least two rounds would likely go a long way to making the event a can’t miss stop, both for players and fans.  Rex Hoggard

The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is the game’s most unnecessarily overanalyzed event each year, even before it starts. We can look at match records and recent form and horses for the course, but very little of this previewing matters once it starts. As Simpson once explained, “It’s just a bunch of stuff that happened.” (That would be Homer, not Webb.) Likewise, in the aftermath of the tourney, this analysis often spins forward toward the Ryder Cup. Sorry, but I have a difficult time believing that results in the Arizona desert in February will have any bearing on those seven months later in potentially chilly, soggy Scotland. I stopped counting after hearing and reading a few dozen references of, “If Tom Watson is watching right now…” It’s largely irrelevant for the U.S. captain. In fact, let me finish that sentence: “… he should take it all with a grain of salt, because despite all of the instant (over)analysis, there is no evidence that Match Play results will have any bearing on the Ryder Cup.” - Jason Sobel

We’ll never know whether Sergio Garcia would have conceded the 18-foot putt if he was not in need of a major image rebuild. Or if he was competing in the Ryder Cup, not the thirdround of the Match Play. Or if he was playing against Tiger Woods, not good friend Rickie Fowler. Maybe yes, maybe no. Yes, the move was bizarre – perhaps even foolish – but acknowledge this, too: Sergio’s mind was in the right place. The emotional Spaniard was clearly upset after being wrongly accused of cheating at a European Tour last month, and he said this week that the “world is a little twisted at the moment.” Some view this episode as the latest example that Sergio lacks competitive grit and mental strength. Not me. I see a player who, finally, is showing signs of maturity. Ryan Lavner

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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.'"

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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.