Duval plays through pain to shoot 66 at Nelson

By Jason SobelMay 15, 2014, 11:38 pm

IRVING, Texas – Just seeing David Duval on a PGA Tour leaderboard these days is a blast from the past, like running into an old college buddy at some random location.

Seeing him on the Byron Nelson Championship leaderboard, though, after a 4-under 66 that included three straight birdies to finish, is more startling than usual, especially after his untimely injury on the eve of the opening round.

If Twitter is the modern-day equivalent to unconventional poetry, then Duval launched into an epic ballad Wednesday night. He wasn’t bemoaning his famously downtrodden performance since once being world’s No. 1 and a major champion. He was simply alerting the masses to one of the many travails of being a professional golfer.

It can be a bumpy road back.

When he arrived here on Tuesday, his right elbow hurt. He doesn’t know what happened, only knows that he was in pain. He hit 20 balls on the range, maybe 30. That was all he could handle. He met with a doctor that night, who gave him a cortisone shot to help alleviate the pain.

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A shot in the elbow is not fun. The things we do to play golf.

He returned on Wednesday, tried to play again, but the pain continued. It was so painful, in fact, that he couldn’t drive after leaving the course.

“My oldest boy, who was caddying for me, he had to drive,” Duval admitted. “I was like, I can't drive a car. I can't use my right arm.”

Appreciate the great wishes. Just a hiccup. If I can't peg it tomorrow I will be ready the next time.

That might sound more optimistic than he really was. Deep down, Duval believed Thursday might be a wash, just another in a long line of disappointments in his career over the last dozen years.

“It's fair to say that as of 11:30, a half-hour before I was supposed to tee off I was contemplating if I should play,” he said, “because my arm has been so bad for this week, and it was hurting again.”

The difficulty with the decision is in trying to be fair to the list of alternates. Do [I] want to start if I can't finish.

There has been what some players call “an epidemic” this year, with a handful of big-name players competing for one day, deciding they’re either too injured or too ill or – let’s just say it – too far back to contend, and then withdraw, leaving the first alternate with a bad taste in his mouth as he travels home.

Duval isn’t one of these players.

As serendipity would have it, the first alternate entering Thursday morning was a fellow major champion who has also struggled in recent years. Lee Janzen’s name was at the top of that list and Duval was cognizant of the fact that he didn’t want to take a spot in the field if he couldn’t compete to the best of his abilities. And he certainly didn’t want to take a spot away from Janzen.

I should know pretty quick in my warmup tomorrow.

Actually, he didn’t. The injury didn’t miraculously heal itself during his warmup, but Duval figured that maybe hitting a shot every three or four minutes on the course would serve him better than banging a ball every 30 seconds on the range.

“I went over and talked to Lee and said, ‘I’ve got to try to play. ... I have to tee off. I think I can finish. I think I'll be OK.,’” Duval said. “They say it's 24 to 48 hours before [the injection] starts to kick in. I don't know what time it is, but it was 4:30, so I got it 39, 40 hours ago and I'm starting to feel better.”

His game is starting to feel better, too.

Three weeks after a T-25 at the Zurich Classic – his best result since late 2011 – all those years of trying to find past glory could be on the verge of coming to fruition. Duval found himself at even par with five holes to play on Thursday, but birdied four of the last five. That left him one stroke behind leader Peter Hanson, in a share of second place – the first time he’d gotten into that position on a leaderboard in almost exactly 12 years.

Luckily my problem is muscular. Time will help. Just don't have much of it right now.

As it turns out, he had just enough time. From the injury to the cortisone shot to the painful warmup, Duval’s inclusion in the tournament was a question mark from the start. He said afterward he was more surprised that he actually played than played well, which should speak volumes about how much the injury was bothering him.

There’s an old axiom in golf: Beware the injured golfer.

Following his opening round, Duval professed that he’d never heard that one before, but it might turn out to be prophetic.

As for his score, well, there could be a little symbolism there, too. Just when we least expect him to succeed, he surprises us.

In this instance, Duval even surprised himself.

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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.