No earthly way of knowing

By Jason SobelAugust 26, 2011, 1:15 am

EDISON, N.J. – With part of the opening round of the FedEx Cup playoffs now in the books – though not the entire thing, thanks to a lengthy weather delay – let’s take a quick look back at the PGA Tour's regular season: Parity ruled, with no player winning more than twice; a rookie playing his first major was victorious; and the world’s most famous athlete failed to finish inside the top 125 on the points list.

In what has been one of the most patently unpredictable golf seasons in years, we shouldn’t be surprised that more of The Great Unknown is permeating through Plainfield Country Club right now.

That’s not a commentary on the current state of the standings, although it easily could be. After all, entering these four playoff events, the favorite to win the $10 million first-place prize is … Nick Watney? Steve Stricker? Luke Donald? Phil Mickelson? None of the above? Pick a card, any card.

No, this is in reference to the actual Barclays itself. The event already endured a 3-hour, 16-minute suspension due to torrential rainstorms in the middle of the first round, which was only an appetizer before the main entrée, as Hurricane Irene is expected to rip through this area beginning Saturday night.

All of which leaves the PGA Tour with some decisions to be made, as this thing could finish up anytime between Saturday and next Tuesday. Let’s break down those possibilities.

Saturday finish: This would require a decision to play 36 holes in one day prior to the hurricane reaching New Jersey. It’s an ingenious idea, really, which would afford the tournament the chance to get ahead of the situation rather than linger behind it.

“I think they should,” said Ryan Palmer, who posted an opening-round 66. “If they want to play 72 holes, they should have us play as much as we can on Saturday.”

Perfect, then. They’ll finish up the second round on Friday evening and play the final two rounds the next day. Done deal. Um, right?

“No, we are not going to do that,” tournament director Slugger White contended.  “We don't have enough daylight, is one thing. We can't get it in. Plus, we have got not a very good forecast Saturday afternoon.”

Bad move. This would have been a popular decision amongst players and a way to potentially give it an effort, but it apparently won’t happen.

Sunday finish: Hey, the PGA Tour always finishes on Sunday, so why not this week, too?

Oh, right. That huge orange-red-purple blob on the radar, which has been referred to as “a 100-year storm” by New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

Monday finish: So, how long does it take to clean up a golf course after a massive hurricane? At least 24 hours.

Even if Irene has completely blown through Plainfield, the expected destruction left in its wake will require massive work on the golf course, from draining water in the bunkers to squeegeeing the greens to repairing any damage to grandstands and ensuring their safety.

“This golf course took about, I think, like 13 inches of rain last week,” White explained. “I just can't even imagine what another – if we are looking at five to seven inches of rain, what that's going to do.”

Tuesday finish: This is the doomsday scenario – well, doomsday as far as golf is concerned, which takes a backseat to any damage that could be done by the hurricane – but it looks like the most likely one to occur.

The best part about this scenario, if there is one, is the fact that next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship doesn’t start until Friday, so Tuesday is essentially equivalent to Monday of any other week.

“Just rough it out, I guess,” Vijay Singh, who shot 65, said when asked what he would do if he was in charge. “There's nothing else we can do. We can play till Tuesday, which is a big thing, so hopefully it's going to miss us. You never know.”

You never know.

That’s sort of been the motto for this entire season. With so much on the line in these upcoming playoffs, nothing has changed.

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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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."