What we learned: AT&T National

By Jay CoffinJuly 1, 2012, 11:58 pm

Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent events and news developments. This week we learned about Tiger passing Jack on the all-time wins list and that the intimidation factor is back.


That Tiger Woods may not be the player he once was but he’s closer than many gave him credit for. On an Open-like golf course with a quality field closing around him it was vintage Woods, playing 41 holes without a bogey and keeping time while those around him fell away. A perfectly executed drive and approach into the 18th hole on Sunday at the AT&T National served to prove the point that he may have lost a little on his fastball, but Woods is still the game’s best closer.

We also discovered that Congressional has more bite than last year’s record scoring at the U.S. Open suggested. The Blue Course featured a scoring average more than two strokes over par (73.043) and just 14 players under par for the week, compared to 20 at last year’s Open. Given the proper conditions, Congressional can still be plenty cruel. – Rex Hoggard


Hoggard: Woods' dominance building quickly


I learned that while the case of whether Tiger Woods is “back” remains a matter of personal opinion – some people think he’s been “back” for a year; some think he won’t be “back” until he wins another major – we can safely claim that Tigermania is “back” in a big way. That may sound like I’m stating the obvious, considering the dude is the game’s most polarizing golfer ever. But without a major win since 2008 and with mediocre finishes at both the Masters and U.S. Open so far this year, it wasn’t difficult to sense that public patience with Woods had started to wane in recent months. Even after victories at Bay Hill and Muirfield Village, there was an undercurrent of disillusionment with his overall game. Not anymore. In my eyes, his third win of this season once again pushed Tigermania into overdrive – a phenomenon that will only increase with more titles as the year continues. – Jason Sobel


Tiger Tracker: Review the round hole by hole


I learned that Tiger Woods is again the closest thing to a dominant player in the sport. It's not Luke Donald or Rory McIlroy, and it's no longerYani Tseng, who is surprisingly mediocre at the moment.  If this is all a process, Woods has taken the necessary steps to be considered (reconsidered) the game's best player. – Mercer Baggs


Discussion: Will Tiger win a major this year?


I may not have actually learned this, but certainly was reminded at the AT&T National – Tiger Woods still has the intimidation factor. If you think he doesn't, how do you explain contenders wilting in each of his three victories this year? Graeme McDowell failed to mount a charge at Bay Hill, Rory Sabbatini and Spencer Levin caved down the stretch at the Memorial and Brendon de Jonge and Bo Van Pelt handed Woods the AT&T National. It's not a coincidence. If Woods had found himself in a similar situation Sunday at the U.S. Open, it would've happened there too. Since the intimidation is back so quickly, was it ever gone in the first place? – Jay Coffin


I learned the one nagging knock on Tiger Woods' quickly redeveloping game and confidence is no longer a hindrance. Woods has been struggling for most of the season inside 125 yards - basically, the part of the course that had buttered the bread of his former dominance over the golfing world. Despite wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Memorial Tournament, Woods did not flex short-game muscle at those venues quite like he did this week to win the AT&T National. In picking up PGA Tour win No. 74, Woods was largely a maestro with wedges. Time and again, he hit crisp wedge shots to give himself looks at birdies, chances to save par and maintain the momentum so crucial to winning. The third shot on Sunday to No. 16 aside, if Woods can transport this wedge game to other venues - particularly Lytham in three weeks' time - he will be tough to beat.. – Ryan Ballengee
John Hancock Pivotal Moments

Getty Images

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.

“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. 

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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."