What we learned: Bradley Medinah-bound with win

By Mercer BaggsAugust 5, 2012, 11:10 pm

Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent events and news developments. This week, we focus on Keegan Bradley WGC-Bridgestone victory and what it means for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

That Keegan Bradley won't have to sweat out a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. With his win in Akron, Bradley moved from ninth to fourth on the points list, guaranteeing him an automatic berth on the Medinah-bound squad. Bradley was denied a wild-card selection for last year's Presidents Cup. This will more than make up for that rejection. – Mercer Baggs

I learned the American Ryder Cup team is going to look pretty incredible. With his win at Firestone on Sunday, Keegan Bradley jumped from ninth to fourth in the standings. He's on the team. But, he bumped Hunter Mahan – twice a winner this season – from the automatically qualifying top eight with one week to go. Behind Mahan? Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler.

While that exposes a clear flaw in the Ryder Cup points system, it's pretty remarkable a player with two wins is on the outside looking in at Davis Love III's team. – Ryan Ballengee

I learned that having a 71-hole lead isn't all it's cracked up to be. Throughout this season, we've witnessed a rash of 54-hole leaders failing to close out tournaments on Sunday afternoon. Lately, though, that trend has extended another 17 holes – to the point where playing follow the leader may be a better position than being leader itself. Much like a NASCAR race in which a contender can draft off someone before swiftly making a passing move, golf is becoming a game won on the final lap. It makes for high drama and entertainment, but also causes heartache for the loser and a subdued celebration for the champion. Nobody ever said winning is easy. We've learned lately just how difficult it can be. – Jason Sobel

That Keegan Bradley, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker made life easier for U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III on Sunday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Although a net loss for Furyk, who double bogeyed the last hole to finish a stroke back, the threesome’s win-place-place finish will help clarify Captain America’s team for this year’s matches. Bradley, who was passed over for a spot on last year’s Presidents Cup, secured a place at Medinah with his victory, while Stricker, Tiger Woods’ go-to partner in team play, moved to 10th. Furyk, who hasn’t missed a Ryder Cup since 1997, is 11th, well within the margin of error for a pair of captain’s pick. – Rex Hoggard

Keegan Bradley isn’t just the defending champion at next week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. He ought to be the favorite.

Bradley didn’t look ready to defend most of this summer. After a strong start to the 2012 season, including a tie for second at the Nissan Open, Bradley cooled off. Since his T-4 at the Shell Houston Open in early May, he has failed to post a finish better than a tie for 24th in his last 10 starts. 

Still, with his gritty finish Sunday to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, with four birdies on the back nine and that clutch 15-foot putt for par under pressure at the last, Bradley showed his game is right where he wants it. He ought to take more confidence and momentum to Kiawah Island than anyone in the 156-player PGA Championship field. – Randall Mell

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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.