Wie looking to end drought

By Randall MellApril 19, 2014, 4:17 am

This was laying out perfectly for Michelle Wie.

Coming off her best performance in a major, a promising runner-up finish to Lexi Thompson at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in her last start, Wie wasn’t just coming home this week to Hawaii and the Lotte Championship. She was coming home with momentum and confidence, and to a golf course she grew up playing. She was coming home with an entire state eager to see her end a nearly four-year winless spell.

Apparently, however, Angela Stanford didn’t get the memo that this is Wie’s home game.

The 36-year-old Texan is playing as if she were the one who grew up at Ko Olina Golf Club.

Stanford couldn’t look more comfortable if she were playing Shady Oaks, her home course back in Fort Worth.

“Just a windy day in Texas,” Stanford said after posting a brilliant 5-under-par 67 Friday in blustery conditions.

With a penetrating, low ball flight she honed in Texas winds, Stanford opened up a four-shot lead on Wie (70) and Hyo Joo Kim (69) going into Saturday’s final round.

“There’s not enough space,” Stanford said when asked about playing with Wie and the home crowd accompanying her. “I can’t create enough space between her right now.”

LPGA Lotte Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Stanford goes into the finish knowing she has already achieved something Wie hasn’t in Hawaii. Stanford has won as a professional in the Aloha State. She claimed the SBS Open at Turtle Bay in heavy winds over the North Shore of Oahu in ’09. Stanford is seeking her sixth LPGA title.

Don’t count out Wie. Her ball striking continues to impress, continues to give her chances to win.

For the third time this year, Wie will tee it up in the final pairing in the final round of an LPGA event. She tied for fourth the first time she played her way into the final group this year, at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February. She improved on that, finishing second to Thompson at the Kraft. Now, she’s looking to take the next step.

“Ideally, going into tomorrow, I wouldn't want to be this far behind,” Wie said. “I think it will make it more interesting tomorrow, just go out there and try to make some birdies early on and see what I can do.”

Cristie Kerr (70) will start the day five shots back with Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park (72) seven back. With the winds expected to be up again on Saturday, a low round could go a long way in helping the pack pursuing the leader.

Stanford’s and Wie’s crisp ball striking have helped them climb the leaderboard. Stanford’s putting has been the difference. She needed just 26 putts in the third round. Wie needed 29.

“My putter was great again,” Stanford said.

Stanford has taken eight fewer putts than Wie over three rounds.

Wie leads the tour in scoring and hitting greens in regulation, and her ball striking put her in good positions again Friday.

“A lot of birdie opportunities today,” Wie said. “It was one of those head-scratching days, where I'd hit putts, hit the perfect speed, right where I want to, and then it would go completely off the direction.

“It was really my day to do it.”

Wie was asked what it would be like to win at home.

“It would be a lot of fun,” she said. “It would be awesome. I'm just not going to think too far ahead. I have a lot of work ahead of me for tomorrow, just see what I can do. I'm going to play my hardest and just play my heart out tomorrow.”

Stanford won’t be easy to beat in the winds, even with a sore elbow. She shot a 64 in the second round.

“Growing up in Texas, I hit it low anyway, and it's a disadvantage at some golf courses, but here in Hawaii it helps,” Stanford said. “So, sometimes, I let it get up in the air, and I let the wind help me. I think that's been the fun part this week, is I've gotten to hit so many different shots.”

Ultimately, Stanford’s hoping to have some fun hoisting another trophy, but so is Wie, who will have the home-state fans rooting for her again.

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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."

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.