McIlroy headlines Quail co-leaders; Mickelson 1 back

By Will GrayMay 2, 2013, 11:06 pm

With cool, damp conditions greeting players during Thursday's opening round at Quail Hollow, low scores were abundant despite the much-discussed condition of the greens. Here's the skinny heading into the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship, where Rory McIlroy headlines a large group atop the crowded leaderboard:

The leaderboard: Rory McIlroy (-5), Ryan Moore (-5), Nick Watney (-5), Robert Garrigus (-5), Derek Ernst (-5), Daniel Summerhays (-5), Nate Smith (-5), Phil Mickelson (-4)

What it means: Though the putting surfaces tended to give players fits, several were able to start their week with a fair share of birdies. None was more notable than McIlroy, the only player in this week's field ranked in the top 10, who once again finds himself among those in front in Charlotte, having won at Quail Hollow in 2010 and lost in a playoff here last year.

Round of the day: Faced with problematic putting surfaces, Moore found an ideal solution: create the maximum number of birdie putts possible. The UNLV grad hit each of the 18 greens in regulation Thursday, beginning his round with eight straight pars before notching five birdies in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 9-15. The bogey-free 67 was the fifth sub-70 round at Quail Hollow since 2011 for Moore, who tied for fifth here a year ago.

Best of the rest: Like Moore, Watney started slowly and ended with a flourish. The veteran began his day on the 10th hole, and parred his way around the back nine before three straight birdies on holes 1-3. Watney added two more birdies coming in, grabbing a share of the lead with six others after a bogey-free 67.

Biggest disappointment: With a pair of top-five finishes at Quail Hollow since 2006, Bill Haas was among a short list of players expected to contend this week in Charlotte. Instead, the Wake Forest grad finds himself near the bottom of the field after a 7-over 79 that included a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 seventh hole. In addition to that 'other,' Haas carded five bogeys against just two birdies, and after one round sits ahead of just one player in the 156-man field.

Main storyline heading into Friday: With more calm conditions expected, a myriad of top-ranked players are in position to emerge from a crowded leaderboard. McIlroy and Mickelson are the most notable near the top, but players like Watney, Zach Johnson and former Wells Fargo champion Lucas Glover all find themselves either tied for the lead or within one shot of those setting the pace after one round. As was the case Thursday, players will be – challenged – by the various imperfections on the greens.

Shot of the day: Always a long hitter, Garrigus struck his tee shot 311 yards on the par-5 seventh Thursday, but found the fairway bunker lining the left side of the fairway. From there, he struck a bold approach from 217 yards, successfully attacking a pin perched just over a greenside water hazard. The ball rolled to within four feet of the hole, and the consequent eagle helped propel Garrigus to a share of the lead.

Quote of the day: 'I don't support the belly putter. I think it's bad for the game of golf.' – Padraig Harrington, who despite his post-round comments used a belly putter during Thursday's opening round, where he struggled to an 8-over 80.

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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.