Newlywed Leads in Canada
The 27-year-old fired a 5-under 65 and is tied with Aaron Barber of Orlando, Fla., one shot in front of others, including Canadians Philip Jonas, Zoltan Veress, Doug McGuigan and Andrew Smeeth. Americans Mario Tiziani, Hank Kuehne and Jason Bohn, who played together Thursday, are also just one shot back, along with Michael Harris.
Hend married his longtime sweetheart Leanne in front of the British Columbia Parliament buildings Wednesday and, less than 24 hours later, began the honeymoon on the opening tee at Uplands Golf Club. With his new bride caddying Thursday, Hend played a bogey-free round (33-32) to get the early jump out of the gate.
We planned the wedding back in March, and weve been looking forward to it ever since, said Hend, adding this is Leannes first visit to Vancouver Island. The day after her wedding, and she is caddying for me. Hows that for a honeymoon? But I couldnt have found a better girlshe has been there every step of the way.
In seven events played this season, Hend has made six cuts and finished second to Canadian Derek Gillespie at the Myrtle Beach Barefoot Championship earlier this spring. Hend feels it will be a race to the wire right through Sundays final round, and if Thursday is any indication, his prediction seems like a safe bet. After the opening round, players were within three shots of Hend and Barber.
Its nice to get off to a good start - last week I shot 1-over on Thursday (in Vancouver) and was way behind right away. If you cant shoot even or better, all of a sudden you are seven or eight shots off the lead. Today I kept pace, lets hope we can do it right through Sunday.
Barber, 29, won two events last season on his way to the Order of Merit title but has struggled most of this campaign. Lately, he seems to be picking up steam, with three top-10 finishes in his past four events. Last weekend at the Greater Vancouver Classic, Barber wound up a season-high tie for third.
Its been very frustrating for me, but there are so many good players out here right now, it can be a fine line between being in contention and missing the cut, admitted Barber. But I am getting confident, and when you are playing with confidence, you seem to be more patient. And if this competition prepares me for (PGA Tour Qualifying in) October and November, Im all for it.
Jonas, a 13-year Tour veteran, also had his own bogey-free round Thursday and agrees that in order to have a chance on the weekend, a solid opening round is the key.
Any time you can make four birdies and no bogeys, you have to be happy, said the 2000 QuebecTel Open champion. Its a lot easier to play this game when you are under par. Golf can be tough at times, and I hope this will be a start for me. The guys on this Tour can take it low anywhere.
News, Notes and Numbers
*The hard-luck story of the day belonged to Darren Griff of Salt Spring Island, BC, who finished T3 last week at the Greater Vancouver Classic. Griff locked his keys in his car Thursday, with his golf clubs still in the trunk. After borrowing a putter, a 3-iron and an 8-iron from fellow golfer Jason Schultz, Griff played the first five holes with the same three clubs until his original sticks were retrieved.
*Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Vernon aced the par-3 fourth hole at the Victoria Open Pro-Am on Tuesday and won a new car. Vernon then took cash instead of the 2002 Toyota Echo and donated the money to three charities in Calgary.
Full coverage of the Victoria Open
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.