Pros and Cons

By Mercer BaggsAugust 29, 2001, 4:00 pm
As the more familiar names in golf continue inch closer to the Senior PGA Tour, a host of amateur all-stars are consistently joining the professional ranks.
Last week, Bryce Molder, 22, and Luke Donald, 23, made their pro debuts at the Reno-Tahoe Open. This week, a trio of others will do the same at the Air Canada Championship.
Jeff Quinney, James Driscoll and Erik Compton are leaving behind their days of playing purely for fun.
Now, theyre playing for profit.
All three competed in last weeks U.S. Amateur Championship. Quinney, 22, lost in the quarterfinals; Driscoll, 23, in the third round; and Compton, 21, failed to qualify for match play.
Meanwhile, Molder and Donald skipped the Amateur to pursue their professional dreams.
Though highly criticized by many, both felt quite comfortable with their decisions. In fact, while Donald missed the cut in Reno, Molder finished in third place and earned $204,000.
The professional ranks are saturated with former amateur stars. Some of which burn brightly, many of which fade away.
All of the aforementioned greenhorns have impressive resumes. Quinney defeated Driscoll to win the 2000 U.S. Amateur. Compton, who underwent a heart transplant nearly ten years ago, is a second-team All-American from the University of Georgia.
Molder is a four-time All-America selection from Georgia Tech. And Donald is a former NCAA champion at Northwestern.
Still, amateur aptitude doesnt guarantee professional success.
For every David Gossett ' the 1999 U.S. Amateur champion who won last months John Deere Classic, there are hundreds of Hank Kuehnes ' the 1998 U.S. Amateur champion who is treading water on the mini tours.
Even Gossett can attest to the struggles in evolving into a professional player. Before his maiden triumph, the 22-year-old missed nine of his first ten cuts on tour.
Fellow 22-year-old Charles Howell III can relate. This year, the 2000 NCAA champion has earned over $1 million; though, hes had to do so as a special temporary member of the PGA Tour.
But, the fact is, Gossett and Howell have had success. And thats all a potential pro sees.
When a collegiate leaves early to play with the big boys, it hardly registers anymore; players have been doing so for decades.
But now, with a lucrative lure, players are forgoing college, altogether.Kevin Na and Ty Tryon, a pair of teenagers, have announced their intentions to turn pro ' prior to finishing high school.
Na, a 17-year-old Korean living in California, is entering his senior year in high school. Tryon, a 17-year-old in Orlando, Fla., has just started his junior year.
Both have said they will complete their secondary education while pursuing a professional career.
Tryon made the cut in each of the two tour events he has played in 2001 - the Honda Classic and the B.C. Open. Na missed the cut in the Buick Invitational.
When a player turns professional, the PGA Tour grants him seven sponsors exemptions in order to try and earn his card for the following season.
Compton, Quinney and Driscoll begin their treks this week at the Northview Golf and Country Club in Surrey, BC.
There is, however, a great difference between Quinney and Driscoll, and Compton.
Compton still has two years of eligibilty left in college. Quinney and Driscoll have already graduated.
Experience, no matter how miniscule, is maginfied on the PGA Tour. The more you have, the more it helps.
Think about the recent number of players who have won less than a year after leaving college - Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Scott Hoch and Gossett come to mind.
That's about it.
And think about the quality of player just mentioned. Four of the five will represent the United States in the upcoming Ryder Cup.
The road from amateur to professional is, at best, filled with stones. But in the rush to fame in fortune, there is apparently no time like the present.
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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."

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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.'"

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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."

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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."

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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.