Second Its Not a Bad Perch

By Kraig KannApril 7, 2006, 4:00 pm
This weekend at Augusta National Golf Club, Tiger Woods takes aim at his fifth green jacket and his 11th major championship.
A look at the Official World Golf Ranking says Tiger is number one by a very large margin.
Tiger Woods 18.09
Vijay Singh 8.72
Retief Goosen 8.28
Phil Mickelson 8.13
Ernie Els 7.07
Sergio Garcia 6.58
Is that a large enough margin? So much for the battle to overtake Tiger. But the battle to be second right now is a good one. A real good one.
Right now, Woods has his 10 majors. Vijay Singh and Ernie Els have 3 each. Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson have two.
Should Goosen or Mickelson win this weekend (and both shot 70 on Thursday), theyd join Singh and Els. Should Singh or Els make it four majors, wed have another good tale to tell.
Before you think this is a battering page against those behind Tiger, consider their consistent great play at the Masters.
The collection of those behind Tiger (Singh to Garcia) has a combined 24 Top 10 finishes at the Masters. Mickelson, while the owner of one green jacket to Tigers four, has nine Top 10 finishes compared to Tigers six.
Tiger is the best player in the world. There is no argument.
But theres nothing wrong with being number two in this sport. Looking up at Tiger from his immediate bumper is better than looking at him from a few car lengths back. You cant catch Tiger if youre not riding shotgun to start with. And their battle to separate themselves has become a pretty good one.
Vijay Singh is already set for the Hall of Fame. He was the man to overtake Tiger. He was the man to make us question whether Tiger was truly the best. At 43, Singh still has plenty more in the tank and you can bank on more majors. Vijay Singh seems more likely to finish with seven majors than he does with three.
Ernie Els has long been looked at as the man with the greatest chance to match Woods. His smooth-operator approach seemingly the perfect recipe for greatness. Two U.S Opens and an Open Championship seem a small total ' Tiger World or not. And you can bet hes hardly satisfied.
Phil Mickelson has always been the peoples choice. The man with arguably as much talent as one could be born with. His major championship totals have seemed limitless and perhaps now is the time to cash in. If he wins this weekend, he makes it three in three years and two in a row.
Goosen is Goosen. A complete player. A classy professional. A cool customer who ' when hes on ' makes winning look easier than any of those mentioned. Two U.S. Opens seem like just the beginning.
And then theres Sergio Garcia. Like Tiger and Phil, hes a showman and a showstopper when hes on his game. His ball-striking is pure. His putting has been purely perplexing. When Garcia gets it figured out ' look out.
In todays world of sport, we love the superstar. We love the dominant team.
But perhaps as much as any of that, we love the chase to beat the best. And this weekend, the chase is on.
Somebody has a chance to make a statement. Go back and look at the World Golf Rankings and see what a win would do for any of those ranked second ' sixth.
For the last 10 years weve wanted a rival for Tiger Woods. And unless something changes soon, we might not have one. This weekend we have an opportunity for someone to step up.
And if we never get a true rival for Tiger, it sure is fun as a golf fan to watch the battle for second best. In any other era, where Tiger Woods wasnt hanging around with an eye on dominance, we might just be talking about the greatest and deepest collection of superstars in the games history.
And thats not all that bad ' now is it.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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."

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.