Masters Decompression at MCI
If you remember 2004 and the MCI, the 16th at Harbour Town Golf Links gave us a little drama of a different kind. The 16th at Hilton Head is a par-4, not a par-3. And golf fans werent talking about a chip-in for the ages. Instead, it was a sand shot by Stewart Cink that sent folks into a tizzy. Did he or didnt he brush away sand from behind his ball. Cmon ' you remember. His play from the waste area at the 16th set up par on the fifth playoff holeultimately helping him to edge Ted Purdy.
The approach Cink took was re-played as often during the next few days as Tigers 16th hole Sunday deposit at the Masters. Stewart, who took the next week off and ultimately said he felt like a prisoner in his own home, brushed off the controversy and then went on to win a WGC event later in the year. At years end hed posted his best-ever finish on the money list ' fifth with $4,450,270.
Cink arrives this week as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 11. Thats right, no big four. And as Cink arrives, hes looked at far more differently than he was a year ago.
The 2005 version of Cink is that of a strong-willed, hugely talented player who worked his tail off for success, contention, victories and ultimately a Ryder Cup spot at Oakland Hills.
To know Stewart Cink is to know a player who goes about everything the right way. He handles the media with class. He visits with the fans. He appreciates the game. And ' despite what some believe about last years Sunday at Harbour Town ' he respects everything about playing it the right way.
A Sunday battle with Davis Love (now 12th in the World Golf Ranking) would hardly be a letdown after Augusta. In fact, Cink and Love would be a battle of multiple MCI Heritage champions. Love has five, while Cink tows two tartan jackets behind him.
Hard to believe that with none of the Big Four/Big Five in the field, we could manage to luck our way into a great finish. But, I guarantee that a Cink-Love dual down the stretch would provide a huge gathering of satisfied customers around the famed Lighthouse.
Here are a couple of thoughts on the Masters after thinking things through over the last few days and spending time on various sports talk radio shows:
1. Tiger Woods is the only needle that really moves the PGA Tour. He might not always be at his best (which right now makes him more intriguing than ever) ' and we saw that via the bogey-bogey finish in regulation ' but he seems to find magic like no other. The ratings prove that when hes in contention, its just different. People love him, and people love to hate him. (You know where you fall on that one.) But the bottom line is ' hes the best. His moments of greatness, in the greatest of moments, are far superior to anyone else playing the game today. Period.
2. Jack had his Yes Sir!!! moment in '86 that has been replayed and replayed and replayed. Now Tiger has his.
3. Nike Golf isnt feeling too slighted, given that the ball with the swoosh sat on the lip for all the world to see (and for long enough that I could go to the vending machine for a Diet Coke, come back and still have time to watch it drop.) Nice commercial in the making.
4. Tiger Woods proved that he is golfs superstar of superstars. Chris DiMarco stood taller than the Georgia pines himself and became a true star as well. You can love Woods ' thats easy. But now, youve really gotta love Chris DiMarco.
5. Woods and DiMarco paired together in every Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. Bank it. Tell me Woods doesnt respect him and Ill tell you youre crazy.
It might not have been the greatest Masters of all time. But given the week of delays and the fact that only two men had a sliver of hope to win, it was the greatest Masters that could have come our way.
So, its time to decompress a bit. Hilton Head Island is the perfect resting place for the PGA Tour this week, and if you know anything about the MCIs history, we wont be disappointed.
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.