Cut Line: Nicklaus impressed by McIlroy's letter

By Rex HoggardMay 15, 2015, 10:32 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Winning this year’s U.S. Open will likely take an Olympic effort, both before and during the championship; while at least one player challenges golf’s efforts to become an Olympic sport again.

Made Cut

Rory’s “Dear Jack” moment. It’s tough to impress Jack Nicklaus either on or off the golf course, but Rory McIlroy has become adept on both fronts.

McIlroy, who is in the middle of a five-event stretch this week at the Wells Fargo Championship (where he is just three shots off the lead after 36 holes), had to alter his schedule this year to make room for the Irish Open, which he will be hosting in two weeks. As a result he chose to skip the Memorial for the first time since joining the Tour in 2010

In signature Rory style, the world No. 1 penned a letter to Memorial host Nicklaus explaining why he was skipping the Ohio stop. The two recently crossed paths in south Florida at The Bear’s Club.

“The first thing he said to me was that he’d received my letter and I said to him I wanted to write rather than phone or just advise the Tour,” McIlroy said. “He seemed pretty taken back to get my letter and that made me feel good.”

Consider it reason No. 658 to marvel at how well the 26-year-old wears fame.

Tweet of the week

@IanJamesPoulter (Ian Poulter): “Totally overrated finish from [Rickie Fowler]. Nice playing mate. Impressive.”

Poulter was referring to Fowler’s victory at The Players on Sunday after the two were voted the game’s most overrated players in a recent player poll.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Olympic observations. Other top players likely have similar opinions, but give Adam Scott credit for having the conviction to publicly state the obvious.

While golf’s return to the Olympics in 2016 has the potential to expand interest in the game in largely untapped markets, at the highest levels a gold medal is always going to rank well behind a major championship in the sphere of influence.

“Whether I win an Olympic medal or not is not going to define my career or change whether I’ve fulfilled my career,” Scott told Reuters this week. “It’s nothing I’ve ever aspired to do and I don’t think I ever will. It’s all about the four majors and I think that’s the way it should stay for golf.”

Put another way, a gold medal would be nice but Scott is not trading it for another green jacket.

Mechanic-al problems. Miguel Angel Jimenez took to the microphone this week at the Spanish Open to address his run-in with Keegan Bradley at last month’s WGC-Match Play.

Bradley and Jimenez had a heated confrontation over a drop on Day 3 at Harding Park that spilled into the locker room after the Spaniard had won the match.

“He tell me in my face, ‘You never tell my caddie to shut up.’ Of course, I don't have to tell that, you have to tell that," Jimenez said. “I think that we need to have respect to everyone. If I go there and demand that information, just give me the information. Simple. If you don't want to give me it, then let the referee give me it. My thing is we need to be honest with each other, and be professional as we are. It's not about a rule anymore. It's about the attitude.”

What “The Mechanic” seemed to gloss over in his answer is that he did tell Bradley’s caddie, Steve “Pepsi” Hale, to shut up. Everyone involved in the incident likely could have handled the situation better, including Jimenez.

Missed Cut

Lemonade from lemons. Give Wells Fargo Championship executive director Kym Hougham credit for making the most of the tournament’s spot on this year’s schedule, but it wasn’t easy.

A late commitment from McIlroy, as well as Phil Mickelson’s presence, helped boost a field that took a hit when the Tour repositioned, at least temporarily, the Charlotte-area stop on the schedule a week after The Players and just before the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.

Next year things should be easier for Hougham and Co. when the event moves back to the week just prior to The Players, but given the domino effect on next year’s schedule because of the Olympics and the move of the WGC-Match Play to just before the Masters it will likely continue to be a “bear market” for the likes of Hougham in the foreseeable future.

Open discussion. With already busy schedules and extended travel being the ultimate arbiter, it was no surprise that USGA executive director Mike Davis caused a few double takes last month when he was asked about Chambers Bay, the puzzle that is this year’s U.S. Open venue.

“The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book, that person’s done,” Davis said of Chambers Bay. “Will not win the U.S. Open.”

Yet while some players have balked at the idea that this Open will require an elevated level of due diligence, there does seem to be a begrudging acceptance of the fact that Chambers Bay is an exam that must be prepared for.

McIlroy said this week he plans to arrive at the new venue the weekend before the championship (June 13-14), and Adam Scott will make a scouting trip to the Pacific Northwest on the Monday after the Memorial Tournament.

“From all reports it looks like something quite unique and even hearing Mike Davis' comments of a person without good knowledge of the course won't have a chance there just shows me that certainly you're going to have to get a few rounds in and hopefully a few different conditions to be able to play,” Scott said.

The frat brothers may not like the required extra effort, but an Open is no place to skimp on preparation.

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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.'"

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."

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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.