2004 Rookie Class Loaded
The LPGA's 2004 rookie class is an illustration of the tour's standing as a true 'World Tour,' as the 29 players hail from 11 different countries. The group includes a 17-year-old, a 35-year-old, a lefty, five married women and one mother of two.
Of the 29 rookies, 26 qualified for the 2004 tour via the LPGA sectional and
final qualifying tournaments, with the final two - Ju Kim and Reilley
Rankin - qualifying by finishing in the top five on the 2003 Futures Tour
money list. Add in Shi Hyun Ahn of Korea, winner of last week's CJ Nine
Bridges Classic Presented by Sports Today, and the list becomes even more
impressive. Kim and Rankin, along with 11 other rookies from the LPGA Final
Qualifying Tournament, will be exempt in 2004, with the other 16 rookies
holding non-exempt status.
Perhaps the most highly touted of the lot is 17-year-old Aree Song, who has
been a mainstay in LPGA events for the past four seasons. Song has competed
in 16 LPGA events since 2000, including last week's CJ Nine Bridges Classic
Presented by Sports Today. She has made the cut in 12 of those events, with
her top finish coming at this year's U.S. Women's Open, where she finished
Ahn, a 19-year-old rookie on the Korean LPGA Tour, held off Se Ri Pak,
Gloria Park, Laura Davies and Grace Park by three strokes to become the
first non-LPGA member to win an LPGA event since Karrie Webb won the 1995
Weetabix Women's British Open. She will be one of 16 non-exempt rookies in
Kelly Lagedrost from Brooksville, Fla., will join Angela Buzminski as the
only two left-handed golfers on tour next year, while Juli Hilton of
Saratoga, Calif., joins the LPGA's list of mothers on Tour. The 12 rookies
from the United States come from 10 different states, while Korea has the
most number of rookies, five, of the 10 international countries claiming
The 2004 rookie class also includes Meredith Duncan, the 2001 U.S. Women's
Amateur champion and former U.S. Curtis Cup Team member, and Katherine Hull
of Australia, the 2003 NCAA Player of the Year and 2003 Dinah Shore Award
recipient. In addition, Vikki Laing (Scotland), a member of the 2002 Great
Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup Team, and Mikaela Parmlid (Sweden), the 2003
NCAA individual champion at the University of Southern California, are also
among the 29 rookies.
The LPGA will feature the 2004 rookie class in a four-part series in both
the LPGA News Release and on LPGA.com in February. The following is a list
of the rookie class in its entirety.
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.