Newsmaker of the Year, No. 10: Donald Trump

By Randall MellDecember 8, 2015, 8:00 pm

Donald Trump’s arrival at the Ricoh Women’s British Open this summer captured the nature of his increasingly awkward relationship with golf’s ruling bodies.

Invested in the game more than ever before, with his presidential bid taking his profile to new dimensions, Trump towered over golf in 2015 in ways that put the sport’s governing bodies in uncomfortable positions.

Trump’s shadow practically engulfed the Turnberry Ailsa course after the start of the first round of the Women’s British Open in late July.

Trump owns the Turnberry resort and course, and so he took time to fly to Scotland to watch the major championship in the midst of his presidential campaign. Trump was the biggest star on the property and so much bigger than the event itself. The proof was in the fact that there were more photographers awaiting his arrival outside the front gate of the Turnberry course than there were inside covering the action. Even the TV cameraman perched above the 18th green whirled his camera in the opposite direction of play to catch Trump’s arrival by helicopter.

This was after Trump’s pilot circled the course before landing with the first round in progress.

“Everyone’s asking me to be here,” Trump said. “The tour has asked me. The world has asked me to be here.”

In a paparazzi-style reception, Trump’s arrival was as chaotic as it was surreal for a major championship golf setting.

Why are you here? Won’t your presence detract from the golf tournament? Are you a racist?

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Those were some of the questions British media shouted to Trump as he stepped out of his helicopter. The question about racism was a reaction to controversial remarks Trump made about Mexico and border control. Trump’s stance on illegal immigration and his feud with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly after she asked him about sexist comments put golf’s governing bodies under pressure to respond.

While Trump’s passion and commitment to the sport are valued, and while his growing collection of prestigious golf properties are being targeted for more major events, Trump’s strong personality and opinions put the LPGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour and USGA in difficult positions with sponsors and other supporters within the game.

After the controversy over his comments about Mexican immigration, Trump told Golf Channel that the golf industry supports him because “they all know I’m right.” Golf’s governing bodies quickly responded to that on July 1.

“We feel compelled to clarify that those remarks do not reflect the views of our organizations. While the LPGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour and USGA do not usually comment on presidential politics, Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” those golf governing bodies said in a joint statement.

Trump owns 17 golf courses around the world, including Trump Turnberry and Trump Doral, home to the PGA Tour’s regular stop, the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. is scheduled to host the U.S. Women’s Open in 2017 and the PGA Championship in 2022. His Trump National Golf Club in Washington, D.C., is set to host the Senior PGA Championship in 2017.

The PGA announced in July that the organization and Trump had mutually agreed to move the PGA’s Grand Slam of Golf away from Trump National in Los Angeles. The event was set for October but was eventually canceled.

After LPGA commissioner Mike Whan announced his organization would prefer to play the Women’s British Open somewhere other than Turnberry if time permitted a move, Trump fired back, offering to let the event’s organizers out of their contract. Trump called Whan’s statement “nasty” and “an extraordinary disservice to women’s golf.” Trump later said Whan apologized and the two worked out any differences.

USGA executive director Mike Davis said in July he wasn’t sure what his organization was going to do about plans to play the U.S. Women’s Open at Trump National in New Jersey in ‘17.

“We are evaluating things,” Davis said. “It’s a complicated matter, and we want to get it right. The key is, we want golf to be very welcoming and open. Anything that hurts that is not good.”

Trump’s strong will influences golf at the highest level, even beyond his politics. After Trump’s major renovation of Doral’s Blue Monster, players grumbled about architect Gil Hanse’s redesign overly favoring the game’s biggest hitters during the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March. Trump agreed to modify the course with changes to be made mostly to bunkering before next year’s event.

Trump likes having his shadow fall over golf, and he likes having partnerships with the USGA, the PGA of America and the PGA Tour. He loves the game, but even he seems curious if, ultimately, the game is going to love him back.

“I have been very loyal to golf,” Trump told the New York Times in July. “We will see whether or not golf is loyal to me.”

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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.