Lowry plays for the love of the game

By Jason SobelMarch 1, 2013, 6:41 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – There is no calculable way of measuring this. No statistics, no numbers, no world ranking to forge a decisive order. Instead, we’ll just have to go on educated opinions and a little blind faith.

If you took all of the world’s elite golfers, lined them up in a row based on how much they really, truly love the game, the man standing at the front of that line may very well be Shane Lowry.

Just consider the last two weeks in the life of the 25-year-old Ireland native.

As the lowest-seeded player in the WGC-Accenture Match Play field, he knocked off old buddy Rory McIlroy with a smile on his face, then defeated Carl Pettersson for good measure. After losing in the third round to another friend, Graeme McDowell, rather than pack up and catch a plane, he walked the course in the gallery watching McDowell’s next match.

From there, he flew cross-country to Monday qualify for the Honda Classic. OK, not such a big deal; a handful of other players did that, too. But nobody else did this: When he missed getting into this week’s field by a stroke, Lowry paid his $690 entry fee and played a Golfslinger.com mini-tour event on Thursday. Yes, that’s right. The world’s 62nd-ranked player, exactly one week removed from beating the world’s top-ranked player, teed it up in a mini-tour event.

Why? Because he wanted to, that’s why.

As if that’s not enough, he followed a round of 1-under 71 at that event – with seven birdies – by returning to PGA National, the very place he had his heart set on competing this week, and once again walked amongst the gallery, this time keeping tabs on McIlroy.

“Even Rory looked at me yesterday and he was like, ‘What are you doing here?’” Lowry said Friday morning. “I’m a golf fan, so why not go out and watch the best golfer in the world play?”

The fact that it doesn’t seem like a big deal to Lowry should in itself qualify such behavior as a pretty big deal.

“It’s the greatest game in the world, isn’t it?” he said with a smile. “I’m privileged and honored to be able to do what I do for a living. It’s amazing.”

That attitude – coupled with a wicked short game – is quickly making Lowry a fan favorite here in the United States. It should serve him well, too. His end goal is to become a global player, much like McIlroy and McDowell, competing on both the PGA and European tours.

The short-term goal is a chance to play in the year’s first major at Augusta National. Lowry needs to climb at least a dozen spots on the world ranking between now and the end of the month, which means he’ll need a strong performance at next week’s Puerto Rico Open.

He’ll also need a few more opportunities. Lowry is hopeful to receive sponsor’s exemptions into the Tampa Bay Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational and Shell Houston Open, the latter of which carries a lone, final invitation into The Masters field with a victory.

And yes, Lowry has the kind of talent to accomplish such a feat. He won The Irish Open as an amateur – in a downpour against veteran Robert Rock, no less. His defeat of McIlroy last week served as further proof that he’s on the verge of bigger and better things.

“It was good to see,” McIlroy told Irish Golf Desk this week. “Yeah, he’s good enough. He’s definitely good enough.”

He also loves it enough. There are few elite professional golfers who take their careers for granted, who don’t understand that hitting a little white ball around a course for millions of dollars each week is a dream come true. But there are also a healthy number who view it a job more than a hobby.

In other terms: They love the game; they’re just not in love with the game.

The same can’t be said for Lowry. From beating the No. 1 player in the world to watching him play from the gallery, from traversing the globe in hopes of Monday qualifying to competing in mini-tour events, you get the sense that he’d do this even without promise of fortune and fame somewhere down the road.

“To be able to play the game that you love for a living, I’m one of the lucky ones,” he said. “I just have to try and make the most of my luck.”

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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.