Tour players reveal goals for 2013

By Jason SobelJanuary 4, 2013, 2:50 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Lose weight. Quit smoking. Eat better. Exercise more. Get organized. Play better golf.

Congratulations. At least one of your New Year’s resolutions mirrors that of every professional golfer.

Most of us are seeking a fresh start to the year and those who tee it up for big bucks are no different. With this week’s season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions set to begin Friday, even those who have reached the pinnacle of the game have set goals for the upcoming campaign.

And yes, they all include playing better golf.

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“I don't know about other players, but my goal is to make it to Maui. This is what we have always wanted to do is to play here, qualify for this event and then come here,” Masters champion Bubba Watson opined this week. “So for me it's about winning a golf tournament. And the second thing is making the team event. In the U.S., we have a team event every year. We don't have a year off. This year it's the Presidents Cup, so that would be the second goal. I got my Tour card for five years now. So that would have been No. 3, to keep my Tour card, but I'm good for five years.”

It’s a familiar refrain here in paradise, where the relaxed local atmosphere matches the competitors’ attitudes. With everyone in the field already fully exempt through at least the end of the 2014 season, they can each focus on bigger and better goals than those primarily just hoping to stay afloat.

“I definitely want to make sure I'm ready to play every time that I tee it up,” Rickie Fowler said. “I want to be in contention more often and work towards having a multiple-win season. Finally got the first one out of the way, so started trying to pick off a few more from there.”

For some players, these preseason goals are less about certain accomplishments and more about the process …

“There are certain things that I set goals on,” explained Hunter Mahan. “Not so much wins or losses or anything like that, trying to win this tournament or put myself in this category. That's too hard I think; that's too broad. I think it needs to be more specific and so I've got some things I want to improve on. It's not about winning or putting myself up in this category, because if I do these things well, that will put me up there, but there's things I need to improve on and get better at.”

… while others dive right into specific achievements.

“Presidents Cup is a big goal of mine,” Brandt Snedeker revealed. “Never played on one of those and I want to do that, especially with Freddie [Couples] being the captain, pretty special. I think to start the year, my main goal is to make the FedEx Cup finale and Tour Championship, to get there and know that you have to play some pretty great golf and win some tournaments. That's my main goal.

“And obviously majors are a big goal going into this year, a bunch of really good setups for me. I don't say my goal is to win a major; my goal is to get myself in contention to win a major. Did it last year at the British Open and want to try to do it a couple more times – a couple chances a year at it, so those are the main goals. Whether that happens or not, I don't know, but I feel like I can make those happen pretty easily.”

Whether specifically stated in a neatly written checklist or vaguely considered in ambiguous terms, every single PGA Tour player has some sort of goals for the year.

You won’t find many – any, really – whose list doesn’t include working harder, playing better and receiving improved results.

“Good, bad or indifferent, I’ve never been one to set goals,” said J.J. Henry, who captured last year’s Reno-Tahoe Open. “I just do the things I need to do; I let things fall the way they may. If I work on my short game and wedges, I feel like a lot of things take care of themselves. That’s everybody’s goal. It’s easy to sit here and say it, but another thing to go out there and do it.”

Henry then pauses for a moment, considers what else he’d like to accomplish this year and realizes, “I’d like to lose about 10 pounds.”

OK, so maybe you have more than one resolution in common with the world’s best golfers after all.

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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."