Mickelson, McIlroy have right attitude on Quail Hollow greens

By Jason SobelMay 2, 2013, 11:42 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – There’s an excellent chance that if you showed up at your local muni and plunked down 35 bucks to play a quick 18, only to discover the greens as patchy and scratchy and splotchy and blotchy as they are at Quail Hollow Club this week, you’d soon find yourself back in the pro shop, demanding a refund or a rain check or at the very least an explanation as to whom should be blamed for ruining your afternoon.

In this case, as in the case of so many other pratfalls on the PGA Tour already this season, the blame has fallen to an increasingly stubborn woman named Mother Nature – whether it really is her fault or not. A damp, cold first four months to the year have left these normally impervious putting surfaces looking like something out of Carl Spackler’s worst nightmare.

Competitors in the Wells Fargo Championship can’t demand any refunds, but they can take their balls and go home, which is what several big-name players did prior to the opening round, offering excuses from minor injuries to “personal reasons” that only thinly veiled their true rationale. It left what was already a severely weakened field even thinner, meaning its few marquee stars were needed to carry even more of the load.

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Enter Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson.

There are no hard and fast rules about playing on greens that aren’t hard and fast. There are no step-by-step programs for rolling the rock on greens that are inconsistent from step to step. If there is one trick, though, it would be all about maintaining the right attitude. Like ripping a page out of Chicken Soup For the Putter’s Soul.

So it should come as little surprise that McIlroy (5-under 67) and Mickelson (4-under 68) were among the early leaders on a cool, overcast day if you had listened to their perspectives prior to teeing it up.

McIlroy: “I guess if you start missing putts, then you've got to just accept it. I don't mind because I'm not a guy that relies on my putting, per se. So it will eliminate quite a lot of the field. I don't mind that at all.”

Mickelson: “I just think we should cut the tournament a little bit of slack. It’s not that big of a deal. It should not affect scoring at all. I think we’ll make more 20- and 30-footers because we can be aggressive, and we might miss more short ones, but it shouldn’t affect scoring overall.”

Like the old slogan says: Attitude is everything.

It was Joe Ogilvie who earlier this week said of these bentgrass greens, “If you hit a good putt, it will go in. If you hit a bad putt, it might go in.” That may have been true, but attitude had plenty to do with it, too.

McIlroy needed just 29 putts while posting seven birdies, numbers which helped share not just his first overnight lead of the year, but his first under-par opening round of the year, as well.

“They're not the best greens that we've ever putted on, but they're certainly not the worst either,” he said. “The ball still rolls pretty well on them. As long as you give yourself chances for birdies, that's all you can ask.”

Mickelson struggled from Tee to Green, hitting just six fairways, but flourished where others faltered, taking just 25 putts to tie for the tournament lead so far.

“I hit the ball pretty well today and made a lot of putts on the greens,” he explained. “It was a good round.”

On a leaderboard filled with blue-collar overachievers, journeymen seeing an obvious opportunity and up-and-comers looking to make their mark, McIlroy and Mickelson are those two marquee names needed to keep mainstream interest in the tournament burgeoning throughout the weekend.

Not all elite players witnessed the day through such rose-colored glasses. One top-50 man could be heard muttering as he left the premises, “What a waste. What a waste of a day.”

It can only be assumed that he was speaking about trying to compete on greens that would leave you asking for a refund at the local muni. It obviously wasn’t easy. But if there was a trick to the trade on Thursday, it was all about attitude. So far, McIlroy and Mickelson have figured it out.

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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.