Is Parity Better for the PGA Tour
The headline in our local paper read: Top Trio Prepare to do Battle. Obviously the article focuses on this weeks Bay Hill Invitational and the fact that No. 1 Tiger Woods, No. 2 Vijay Singh and No. 3 Ernie Els are all teeing it up this week. As you may know, there are scenarios whereby each of the top 3 could end the week as the No. 1 ranked player.
And the way each has been playing, youd have a hard time betting against any of them laying an egg at Arnies place.
Throw in No. 4 Phil Mickelson (whos not playing) and the race for the top of the World Golf Ranking is as hot as the weather here in mid-August. Each man has a legitimate argument for the title as worlds best player ' right now.
The one thing that caught my attention in the article was a quote by Chad Campbell ' the defending champion ' who ran away with the title last year and is certainly no mans sand-filled divot to step on.
Its tremendous for golf that its that competitive up top, said Campbell. I just wish I was a part of it.
Interesting huh? A part of it. A part of it. A part of it.
Arnold Palmer himself chimed in by saying, This is the kind of thing you want to see more and more of.
Is The King right? Do we love the Top 3 of 4 players in the world getting in each others way every week for the tours given title?
Heres the list of winners this year:
Stuart Appleby, Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Justin Leonard, Phil Mickelson, Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Geoff Ogilvy, Tiger Woods & Padraig Harrington.
Each man, aside from Ogilvy who won in Tucson opposite the WGC Accenture Match Play which went to Toms, has been a fixture this year among the Top 20 in the World Golf Ranking.
So whats happened to the trend of 18 first time winners we saw just a few years ago? Where are the titles available to guys like Vaughn Taylor and Bart Bryant? Heck, what about the poor stars like Jerry Kelly and Charles Howell III?
OK, take it a step higher. Where do superstars like Love and Garcia and Weir fit in anymore if Woods, Singh, Els and Mickelson are playing? Lately they dont.
Whats happened to parity?
Take nothing away from Stuart Appleby and Justin Leonard and David Toms and Padraig Harrington. Each man is more than capable (Toms did it a few weeks ago) of winning the biggest of tournaments. But the PGA Tour today seems reserved for four men.
Arent all these guys good?
Its not just media hype surrounding the Big 4. Its galleries. Its television ratings. Its trophies. And its rounds of 59 and 61. And its 337 yard drives on par 5s and 387 yard drives to the green on par 4s that make guys like Jim Furyk seem like your buddy playing in the A Flight of his Club Championship.
My question is: Do we miss the chance each week where everyone seems to have a chance? A week when parity stands out on the PGA Tour and a look down the leaderboard at the end of Sunday finds Tiger, Singh, Els and Mickelson no better than a T11?
Or is a win by Darren Clarke simply not any good unless he beats Tiger and Ernie?
Is parity good only if were talking about a level of consistency among the Big 4?
From where I sit, this has been the best start to a PGA Tour season in the 10 years Ive been at The Golf Channel. The run for No. 1 is as good as it could be.
My confusion in all of this, I guess, is about assessing the depth of field. Is parity what we want and demand in golf at the highest level?
Should we hope for a tour where any of the fully exempt 125 could win on any given week ' or a tour where we continue to see golfs Big 4 battle it out at the expense of airtime and publicity and promotion for guys like Chad Campbell.
Arnie, himself, said this run of dominance by the best of the bet is the kind of thing you want to see more and more of.
And I think I agree. But how much more and for how long?
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.