You Oughta Know: WGC-Accenture Match Play

By Will GrayFebruary 23, 2014, 12:16 am

The week began with 64 players, but now we’re down to four at the season’s second WGC event. Here’s what You Oughta Know heading into the final day of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where by sunset, one player will leave more than $1 million richer:

  • Jason Day has made it to the semifinals for the second consecutive year at Dove Mountain. While the Aussie has only one career PGA Tour victory, he’s had a number of close calls and has now improved his record at this event to 12-3 following last year’s third-place result. A winner at the World Cup last November in his native Australia, Day entered the week at No. 11 in the world, but will crack the top 10 next week after his second top-10 finish in 2014.

  • Rickie Fowler entered this week as a No. 14 seed, but has made it to the semifinals despite a difficult draw. Fowler defeated Ian Poulter, Jimmy Walker, Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk in order to reach the final day of competition. As the 53rd overall seed he is the highest seed to reach the semifinals since Zach Johnson made the final four as the No. 59 seed in 2006. Should he win two matches Sunday, it would be his second career PGA Tour victory following the 2012 Quail Hollow Championship.

  • This week's tear through the bracket comes as somewhat of a surprise for Fowler, who has dropped to No. 56 in the world after reaching as high as No. 18 during the summer of 2012. Fowler has yet to reap rewards from a swing change in the offseason, and actually entered this week's event off three straight missed cuts dating back to the Farmers Insurance Open. His lone made cut in 2014 was a tie for 33rd at the Humana Challenge, and Fowler has not cracked the top 10 since a tie for ninth at The Barclays.

  • If this is the first you’ve heard of Victor Dubuisson, you’re likely not alone. The 23-year-old hails from France, and up until this year had only one career PGA Tour start. He won last year in Turkey over a field that included Tiger Woods, and already notched a tie for 13th earlier this month at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He entered this week at No. 30 in the world and will only rise from there after earning a spot in the semifinals at Dove Mountain.

  • At 44 years young, Ernie Els serves as the elder statesman remaining at Dove Mountain after bouncing top seed Justin Rose and rising star Jordan Spieth. This is the second time that Els has made the semifinals, but the first since 2001 when the event was played in Australia. His list of opponents that week included Jean Van de Velde, Craig Stadler and Pierre Fulke, who defeated Els before losing to eventual champion Steve Stricker.
  • Even with the inclusion of Els, this remains the youngest group of semifinalists in the event’s 16-year history, with the average remaining player just 29.93 years old. In addition to the four-time major champion, those teeing it up Sunday include Dubuisson (23), Fowler (25) and Day (26). When Fowler and Day square off Sunday, it will be the first semifinal match ever between two players younger than 27.

  • This is the third time in the event's history that the tournament has included four semifinalists from four different countries. The other two instances were in 2001 (Fulke/Sweden, Stricker/U.S., Els/South Africa, Toru Taniguchi/Japan) and 2007 (Henrik Stenson/Sweden, Trevor Immelman/South Africa, Chad Campbell/U.S. and Geoff Ogilvy/Australia).

  • Els is the second-oldest semifinalist ever at this event, behind only Tom Lehman who made the final four in 2006 less than two weeks shy of his 47th birthday. Should Els win it all Sunday, he would become the second-oldest winner of a WGC event behind Vijay Singh, who won the 2008 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at 45 years old. With the win, he would also join Tiger Woods and Geoff Ogilvy as the third player with three or more career WGC titles.

  • On the flip side, a win by Dubuisson would make him the second-youngest champion of a WGC event. The only player to win one in less time was - not surprisingly - Tiger Woods, who claimed the 1999 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational when he was 23 years, 7 months and 30 days old. Dubuisson will turn 24 in April.

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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.