Lewis remains positive after year full of close calls

By Randall MellNovember 6, 2015, 12:38 am

So what do you do if you’re Stacy Lewis after all these close calls this season? 

While Lewis hasn’t won yet this year, she has racked up six second-place finishes and three third-place finishes. 

She will tee it up at the Toto Japan Classic Friday knowing she’s playing some good golf, with two of those second-place finishes on this fall Asian swing, but with some frustration coming up short in bids for that first win of 2015.

So if you are Lewis, do you focus on what you’re doing right in giving yourself so many chances? Or do you focus on what’s going wrong in failing to take home the ultimate prize? Yes, you can do both, but it’s human nature to lean harder one way than the other.

“I look at it as I’m playing a lot of good golf,” said Lewis, 30, an 11-time LPGA winner. “You can’t necessarily look at it as a bad thing, because you’re obviously doing a lot of things right. You just have to keep working on things and do better the next week.”

Lewis tees it up as the favorite in Japan. At No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, she’s the highest-ranked player in the field. She’s also a past champion at Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club. She won there in 2012 when she clinched the first of her two Rolex Player of the Year awards.

There aren’t many players more analytical than Lewis, and she took a hard look at her stats after finishing second to Sei Young Kim at the Blue Bay LPGA in China last week, Lewis’ eighth second-place finish since she last won at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship 16 months ago.

“I realized my scoring average, the ball striking, the putting numbers, they’re really close to what they have been the last few years,” Lewis said. “What I’m doing isn’t really that much different. I don’t look at it like I’m doing a whole lot wrong. You just need things to go your way at the end, and I haven’t quite got there.” 

Last year, Lewis swept the LPGA’s important season-long awards. She won the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and the money-winning title.

“To win those big awards, you have to win tournaments,” Lewis said. “You take two of my seconds this year and turn them into wins, and I’m in a completely different boat. That’s just how fine a line there is out here.”

Lewis’ stats are lagging behind her stellar season a year ago, but only slightly.

“What she did last year, that’s not going to happen two years in a row very often,” said Joe Hallet, Lewis’ swing coach. “She’ll tell you she knows she hasn’t won this year, but she feels good about the way she’s been putting herself in position.”

Lewis is third on tour this year with a 69.83 scoring average. She led the tour with a 69.53 average last year. Her scoring average this year is actually better than it was when she was Player of the Year in ’12. 

Lewis seventh on tour in hitting greens in regulation this year at 73.6 percent. She was fifth last year at 75.8 percent. 

She’s first in putting per greens in regulation at 1.74 putts per GIR. She was second last year at 1.75.

The only real notable difference in Lewis’ stats from last year? She’s down to 86th in driving distance at 246.5 yards per drive. She was 15th last year at 258.8 yards per drive.

Hallet says that power differential is coming from a combination of factors, nothing Lewis is overly concerned about.

Equipment’s part of it, and slight tweaks in her swing may have been part of it. She played the 2009 version of the Titleist ProV1x ever since it came out, but Titleist took that ball off the conforming list before the start of this year. It was a big deal in Lewis’ iron play and short game, too, with different spin rates affecting release. She has been trying different versions of the Bridgestone 330 through the year and believes she’s got the right ball for her game now. There were driver-ball combination issues at year’s start, and there were more 3-woods off tees.

“I’m just trying to focus on playing good golf right now,” Lewis said.

She believes the victories will come if she keeps playing good golf and keeps putting herself in position.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

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After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – 

Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.

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Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.

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Mickelson 'displeased' with iron play; 10 back

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:18 am

All of Phil Mickelson’s offseason work on his driver has paid off through two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

His iron play? Not as sharp, and it’s the reason why he heads into the weekend 10 shots off the lead.

“I’ve been pretty pleased, overall, with the way I’ve been driving the ball, and very displeased with the way my iron game has been,” said Mickelson, who shot 68 Friday on PGA West’s Nicklaus course. He has hit only 21 of 36 greens so far this week. “Usually my iron play is a lot better than what it’s been. So I’ll go work on it and hopefully improve each round in this tournament and build a solid foundation for the upcoming West Coast events.

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“I feel like if I continue to drive the ball the way I am, and if I got my iron play back to my normal standard, I should have the results that I’ve been expecting.”

Mickelson, of course, is always bullish this time of year, but he has been able to find 10 of 14 fairways each of the past two rounds, including at narrower La Quinta Country Club, which doesn’t always fit his eye.

“This is actually the best I’ve driven it in a lot of years,” he said.

Currently in a tie for 67th, Mickelson will need a solid round on the more difficult Stadium course Saturday to ensure that he makes the 54-hole cut. He hasn’t missed a cut in his first West Coast event of the new year since 2009.