Teammates Turned Adversaries

By Mercer BaggsAugust 24, 2001, 4:00 pm
In one month, theyll be teammates playing for their country. But, for now, theyre competitors battling for a $1 million first-place prize ' and, perhaps, a little more.
Jim Furyk leads fellow Ryder Cuppers Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods by two shots heading into the weekend in the $5 million WGC-NEC Invitational.
Furyk shot a 4-under 66 Friday to finish 36 holes at the Firestone Country Club at 9-under-par 131.
Two shots is nothing, Furyk said. Two shots can change on one hole. I still think we are very early in the golf tournament.
Mickelson matched Furyks 66 to move to 7-under, while Woods shot 67 to do the same.
Stuart Appleby (64), Padraig Harrington (66) and Darren Clarke (68) are tied for fourth place at 6-under.
Furyk started the day tied at the top with Greg Norman, but the Shark sank in round two. Norman, who said Thursday he was as confident in his game as he had been in years, bogeyed two of his first four holes in the second round and never got on-track.
Proving the fickle nature of Sport, Norman followed a head-turning 65 with a head-dropping 1-over 71.
The 46-year-old now stands five off the lead at 4-under.
Furyk set the pace early Friday, birdieing two of his first three holes.
He dropped a shot at the par-4 4th, but steadied himself with five straight pars to close his outward nine.
Furyk started the back with a birdie at the 10th, and then added another at the 14th to tie Woods for the lead at 8-under.
Tiger appeared ready to run away with his third consecutive NEC title when he birdied holes 6-8 to make the turn in 4-under-par 31.
Tiger took a two-shot lead at 9-under with his fourth birdie in five holes at No. 10, but ran into some serious trouble coming home.Woods tee shot at the par-4 13th nestled near a tree in the left rough. Laying caution to the wind ' as he is oft to do ' Tiger played a full shot, hitting a large root on his downswing.
Tiger, who was forced to hit a shot left-handed earlier in his round, released the club at the moment of impact with the trees base. And after shaking the sting out of his hands, he walked briskly to where his ball landed ' about 30 yards away.
It was the best shot I had, said Woods, who admitted to hurting his elbow when he hit the root. The healthiest shot would have been to take two-club lengths and drop. But the best shot was to go for it, try and put the ball in the fairway, edge it up there and make your par.
Instead, Woods made bogey ' his first of the day ' and dropped into a tie at the top with Furyk.
The 625-yard, par-5 16th was the deciding hole between the two leaders. Furyk made a routine birdie; meanwhile, Woods recorded an uncharacteristic double bogey.
It took Tiger three shots just to find the fairway at the 16th. He then hit the pin with his fourth shot, but the ball caromed 12 feet from the hole.
Woods then misjudged a couple of putts. Four swings + three putts = double bogey.
Having watched a two-shot lead turn into a three-shot deficit, Woods stuck his approach shot at the 18th to 10 feet, from where he converted the birdie putt.
However, Tiger wont be in Saturdays final twosome. That distinction belongs to Furyk and Mickelson.
The left-hander, who didnt arrive in Akron, OH until 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, played a cautious round on Friday.
Mickelson recorded four birdies to nary a bogey.
I didnt hit the best shots, but I scored well, Mickelson said.
With his wife, Amy, expecting their second child later this year, Mickelson has but one more tournament on his 2001 schedule ' the WGC American Express Championship.
Yet, though he has two victories to Tigers four this season ' and lacks the major that Woods has ' Mickelson still believes he can win Player of the Year honors.
If I can win this week, I move to the top of the money list, he said.
I know theres one player thats won more tournaments, but I dont know who has played better (than me) throughout the year.
A victory this week is a must if he wants to keep alive his POY hopes.
News, Notes and Numbers
*Lee Westwood withdrew after his second round after sustaining an injury to his left wrist on the 13th tee. The Englishman completed his round of 8-over-par 78 and went straight to the physio unit, where his wrist was strapped and ligament damage was diagnosed. He is expected to be sidelined for a little while and has flown home to England.
*Mickelson declined to come to the pressroom after the second round. He had to throw out the first pitch in an Akron Arrows minor league (AA) baseball game.
*Playing alongside Woods, Thomas Bjorn shot 9-over-par 79 to fall from 4-under to 5-over.
Full-field scores from the WGC-NEC Invitational
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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.