McIlroy, G-Mac say no bad blood, but may not partner

By Jason SobelSeptember 23, 2014, 5:55 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – If we are to believe the insistences coming from Camp Europe, then we should understand that Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell still like each other. They still like each other enough to overcome the former pursuing a lawsuit against the latter’s current management company and that company pursuing a countersuit. They still like each other enough to coexist in the same team room all week. They still like each other, we must imagine, to hug and sing and dance and spray champagne on each other should the opportunity present itself come Sunday evening.

They just might not like each other quite enough to play together again.

Or maybe they do and the entire account is just wildly off-base speculation.

These are the types of stories which materialize in the early hours of a Ryder Cup week, ones which might have a semblance of timeliness and relevance to them, but may just as well have little bearing on the impending proceedings.

There is some juiciness to this one, though.

During his formative years as a young professional, McIlroy often looked toward his fellow Northern Irishman for mentorship and consultation. That relationship sparked a partnership. They played three matches together in 2010, finishing with a 1-1-1 record, and three more in 2012, going 1-2-0.

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But now, it could have an effect on whether they’ll tee it up together once the four team sessions begin Friday morning, despite persistent claims from all involved parties that there is no lingering palpable tension.

“There’s no doubt our personal issues have been well documented the last couple of years,” McDowell admitted. “And I believe that we’ve both come out of the other end of that probably better friends than we were going into it. Our personal issues are not a problem this weekend, so that’s a fact.”

Here’s the CliffsNotes version of the impending legal matters: When McIlroy left Horizon Sports Management to form his own management agency, his lawyers sued in part for claims that McDowell received preferential treatment. Not long after, Horizon countersued for breach of contract. Add in the gossipy tidbit that McDowell is a shareholder in the company, which means that in essence the two teammates are trying to get into each other’s pockets, and the entire process leaves a juicy subplot entering a week during which the European team has been renowned for its camaraderie.

Even so, everybody in the team room has been whistling the same happy tune.

“It's not an issue and it's not been an issue for me in terms of Ryder Cup captaincy over the last year – certainly since these court proceedings started,” team captain Paul McGinley stated. “Both of them have assured me all along that there's no issues, and that's the way I've always seen it.”

For anybody reading those words and waiting for the “but…” it came in reference to them once again being paired.

“Whether they come together or not is another story. Three or four months ago, I had a very strong view that they would have been, but the more I look at their statistics and the more I look at the different value I have with them, I'm thinking there may be a value in not doing it. But if I don't do it, it certainly won't be because of any issues. As both of them have said, there are no issues between them and both of them will be happy to play together. But it will be my decision ultimately.”

Among the massive sections of agate in this week’s Ryder Cup media guide is, unfortunately, no statistic showing how players have fared when paired together while embroiled in legal proceedings against each other. This would undoubtedly be a first in this 40th edition of the competition, but stranger things have happened over those years.

Even if it doesn’t, McDowell insists that we shouldn’t read anything more into it than an overflow of wealth on the European side, with so many players capable of teaming up with so many others.

“I would really embrace the opportunity to play perhaps foursomes with Rory at some point this weekend,” he said. “We are both up for it. Like Paul says, though, he feels like I could be best used somewhere else … and Rory certainly can play with anyone. So we might be best served apart. Who knows?”

Three days before the first meaningful shot of the week is struck, with the Gleneagles course ready to play host and so many pairings materializing so quickly, these are the types of stories which seem important right now.

Once it all begins, though, we’ll likely hear little about it. Heck, even two guys trying to get into each other’s pockets might still team up to get into those of their American counterparts.

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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.