Here We Go Again
OK, so according to locals, last weekend they had the biggest storm in some 20 years. Big deal. Thirteen inches of rain in two days. Seven inches fell on Friday and eight on Saturday when my plane touched down.
But guess what? The courses drain so well, and the grounds crew is so good that youd never know it by the looks of things. This place is paradise!
So we begin anew after a year of the amazing. Thirty-one players won the PGA Tours 48 events in 03. The field this week, however, totals 30 because David Toms is out with a bad wrist that required surgery and will keep him out until at least the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Would you believe that some 72 players earned at least $1-million last year? Its true.
There were eight multiple winners including Tiger Woods, who, at last check during a rainy Saturday had his agent on the phone to Mercedes Championships officials checking on the weather before jetting over for a few early practice rounds.
Seven first-time winners made their way here this week. None more recognizable than British Open champ Ben Curtis from Kent, Ohio who told me that Kent States football team had a surprisingly decent season. (Always love a guy who can go beyond golf.)
Shaun Micheel is here too. The PGA champ was hanging out in the Ritz Carlton Hotel lobby with his grandparents, wife and six-week old child. Steve Flesch is on board this week at the Mercedes. He has two kids in tow. Young son Griffin was holding court in the same lobby about two hours earlier. Griff was checking out the band, asking questions to the guitarist about the number of strings he had on his instrument.
The Mercedes Championships means success. Its as simple as that. Winners only ' thank you. Its old hat for guys like Tiger and Davis, Ernie and Vijay. But for others like J.L. Lewis and Tommy Armour, Jake and Stads this is big doings.
As I see it, this is as big an event as they come on the PGA Tour. You have to have done something to get to the lobby at the Ritz or the Kapalua Bay Hotel. Just ask Crane or another first timer like Jonathan Kaye ' who, by the way, was eating macaroni and cheese for dinner Monday night.
Simple tastes turn into complicated lives for PGA Tour winners. Theyre finding it out this week. And by the way, with all that rain, dont expect another 31-under par victory total like Ernie Els put up last year. Its too wet and theres too little roll in the fairway as I see it. How about 26-under? Sound about right? I think so.
More than a $1-million will go to the winner and dont be surprised if it goes to Tiger Woods. Do you think he has the money title in his mind in 04? Gee, I wonder.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
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."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
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.'"
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."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
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."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
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.