Hot Seat: Phil the Burn

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2012, 3:30 pm

You might want to loosen your collar, it can get warm in here.

It’s time to see who is taking their place on golf’s Hot Seat this week.

Here’s our special heat index with the PGA Tour making its way to the Humana Challenge, with the European Tour to the Volvo Golf Champions and with the Champions Tour opening its season at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.

Smokin’ britches – Phil Mickelson

It’s difficult to believe Mickelson will turn 42 this summer.

It’s equally difficult to believe he has slipped to No. 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Lefty will be looking to halt his slide when he tees it up at the Humana Challenge.

When last year opened, Mickelson was No. 4 in the world ranking. For the longest time, Tiger Woods was the only American ranked ahead of him. Now, Mickelson is just the sixth highest ranked American. Which way will he go in the rankings this year? Back up the ladder? Or farther down it? That’s a Hot Seat question.

Lefty’s fans love that he is making an earlier-than-normal start to his season, his first return to La Quinta in five years, and they are hoping he can win this event for the third time. He captured the Bob Hope Classic in ’04 and ’02.

Bill Clinton

Bhut Jolokia chili pepper hot – Bill Clinton

No mulligans this week for the former president, if he decides to play while hosting the Humana Challenge. When you are accustomed to dropping second balls, that is pressure.

Actually, if make-up shots would get Clinton to play this week, let’s play two on every tee. Clinton brings a welcomed new presence to the event, whether he plays or not. He may not be a golf star, but he’s the biggest star there this week. Clinton loves the game, and he has loads of charm. There is still an open spot alongside Greg Norman in the pro-am pairings, and there is speculation that Clinton will fill it. The revised pro-am format will feature just 144 amateurs this year, down from 388 last year, and will be played over 72 holes instead of 90, on three courses instead of four. Those are good changes right off the bat with the Clinton Foundation now connected to the event.

Dustin Johnson

High noon at Volcano Springs – Dustin Johnson

Johnson is the highest ranked player in the Humana Challenge, but he has more rust to work off than most pros making their 2012 debuts.

Seven weeks ago, Johnson underwent surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee. He played with discomfort since the middle of summer before taking care of the problem at season’s end. This week marks Johnson’s first event since the Presidents Cup in Australia in November. If Johnson wins this week, he will have won in each of his first five years on the PGA Tour. Nobody has done that since Tiger Woods hit the Tour.

Charl Schwartzel

Serengeti Sunburn II – Charl Schwartzel

Going for a three-peat at the Joburg Open last week, Schwartzel missed the cut.

With the Volvo Golf Champions the third leg of the South African swing on the front of the European Tour schedule, Schwartzel doesn’t want to be missing the cut in back-to-back weeks in his homeland. Schwartzel, by the way, is the first player to make it on our Hot Seat in back-to-back weeks. Volvo Golf Champions sports a decent field at the Links at Fancourt. Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, Louis Oosthuizen, Darren Clarke, Robert Karlsson, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Thomas Bjorn and Matteo Manassero are scheduled to play.

Bernhard Langer

Bengay burn – Bernhard Langer

A thumb injury sidelined Langer for three months last year, hurting his bid to win a fourth consecutive Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year trophy on the Champions Tour. Langer also suffered through knee and ankle injuries. He is back at this week's Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii, looking to show Tom Lehman, Fred Couples, John Cook, Mark Calcavecchia and Kenny Perry that he’s still a force in the battle for that tour’s top honors.

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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.