Meltdowns in majors are all different

By John HawkinsJuly 24, 2012, 3:00 pm

Jean Van de Velde’s 72nd-hole collapse at the 1999 British Open had a mythological quality to it, unfolding in the Scottish mist like one of those Charlie Chaplin movies from the 1920s. The lasting moments of regulation play at Carnoustie that day were defined more by comedy than tragedy. Van de Velde actually seemed to be posing for photographers when he hopped into the burn barefoot to contemplate his fourth shot.

Without question, it remains the most bizarre scene I have witnessed as a golf writer. A total unknown on the verge of the impossible, then booting it away in such a theatrical manner, all while sporting a mischievous smirk – it was almost as if Van de Velde were pulling off the biggest prank in sports history.

Adam Scott’s collapse at Royal Lytham obviously was very different: an established and decorated player on a far more playable course – even if he’d bogeyed Carnoustie’s 18th, Van de Velde would have won by two strokes at 4 over par. Scott needed four holes and the better part of an hour to blow his big lead, which made it seem more nerve-induced. Van de Velde’s folly took about 20 minutes and seemed more like a collision with reality.


Which collapse was worse: Van de Velde's or Scott's?


That said, the Frenchman holed a 6-footer for a triple bogey, which got him into a playoff with Paul Lawrie and Justin Leonard. Scott had a slightly longer par putt to force extra holes and missed. I’m not sure how you rank late meltdowns by guys about to win a major championship, but Scott, given the quality of his play through 14 holes and the variety of mistakes he made on the last four, was certainly the harder to watch.

There was a time or two when you might have wondered if Van de Velde truly wanted to win the tournament, as if he considered himself unworthy. Scott suddenly began laboring with his big advantage, much like Greg Norman did at the 1996 Masters, but that was a very different situation: a guy with a negative history playing alongside the only man who could possibly catch him – one of the wiliest and most strategtically sound competitors ever.

Norman’s six-shot lead was gone by the 12th tee. He was basically toast by the 13th green. The notion that Scott is Norman’s protégé and a fellow Australian doesn’t fly here; pressure doesn’t care about your nationality or background. Besides, the Shark was burdened by his past. Scott had no such scar tissue and performed like a champion until the 15th hole.

Watching Sunday’s gloomy homestretch with several thousand people on a live chat, what struck me was how the audience had barely shrunk a full hour after play ended. Most chat numbers take a serious hit after Tiger Woods finishes, or once the final outcome is official. This was golf-fan rubbernecking at its finest – people sticking around to absorb the ramifications of the accident, assess the damage and search for perspective.

You can’t give up a four-shot lead with four to play unless you make a series of errors, which Scott did, but it wasn’t until the 18th that he hit a bad tee shot. A poor approach and short miss for par at the 16th, then a dumbfounding blunder with an iron into the 17th, where he missed long and left – what began with a seemingly innocuous bogey at the 15th morphed into something very troublseome within two holes, at which point mental mistakes began amplifying Scott’s struggles.

The biggest occurred with the club selection on that 18th tee. Scott had hit an iron there the day before, leaving him well short of the bunkers and 173 yards in – probably a stock 8-iron for him. How on earth can caddie Steve Williams let his guy pull out a 3-wood and plant it in the face of one of those sand pits?

It made no sense, particularly when you consider how well Scott had hit his driver all week. If you’re playing for the win, go ahead and smash the big stick down there past the trouble and get yourself a wedge in. The 3-wood was the club most likely to bring a bogey into play, although it’s fair to say Scott was leaking too much oil for anything to come easily.

I don’t like giving caddies too much credit in victory, so I’ll avoid blaming Williams in defeat, but it was an illogical decision both men may live to rue. As ultra-gracious as Scott was after the collapse, I wasn’t surprised, having covered the kid from his early days as a Tour pro and dealing with him directly after several of his biggest wins.

He is as gentlemanly a guy as you’ll find, polite and courteous far beyond the norm, but there’s a part of me that wishes Scott had walked into the awards ceremony and busted something, forsaking his valor for the better part of dour. Blowing a four-stroke lead with four holes to play at the British Open is supposed to hurt. There’s noting wrong with letting people see your pain.

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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.