Learning how to deal with pressure is reward for No. 1

By Rex HoggardMarch 16, 2016, 6:20 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – It could be the most unfulfilling title in all of professional golf.

Sure, ascending to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking can bring varying degrees of personal satisfaction, but there are no trophies, no checks, no exemptions – just a title and a target.

From a competitive standpoint, for the confusing math to fall your way, there has been copious amounts of success that put you there; but few, if any, stand on random putting greens around the globe rolling in 5 footers to “become world No. 1.”

With few exceptions – most notably Jason Day who admitted to dreaming about the top ranking – scaling to the top of the confusing world order ranks somewhere between earning a PGA Tour card and finding the winner’s circle in importance and prestige.

Phil Mickelson never climbed to the top of the OWGR summit, and it’s safe to say Lefty wouldn’t trade one of his major tilts for the honor. Nor did one ever get the impression that his status as the perennial No. 1 (683 weeks total) was particularly inspiring for Tiger Woods.

Although rewarding in as much as it’s a sign of how hard a player has worked to get there, the title also brings an exponentially higher level of scrutiny, which current No. 1 Jordan Spieth is learning one snarky social media post at a time.

Last week after an opening 76 at the Valspar Championship, Spieth fired back at an Instagram troll and also took exception to an out-of-context quote that was tweeted from the PGA Tour’s own account.

“You'll probably never see me do that again,” Spieth said a day later. “I should never respond to any of that, just let it go and by the time the next tournament rolls around no one even remembers it anyways.”


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But for those who have lived in the same cauldron, it’s certainly understandable that a player would get worn down by all of the attention that comes with being the world No. 1.

For Luke Donald, who ascended to No. 1 in the world in 2012, his stay at the top lasted 56 eventful weeks.

“There is a lot more demand on your time. A lot more attention on you, you’re in the spotlight,” Donald said. “I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the challenge. I feel like I’ve always had to work for my success, so to get to world No. 1 was very gratifying.”

Donald said the challenges of being world No. 1 are exclusively off-course situations and time management. As the Englishman explained, saying no becomes an art form and keeping the social media noise to a minimum is a daily challenge.

He recalled, for example, getting into contention at the 2006 PGA Championship at Medinah and turning his phone off so he wouldn’t be tempted to peak at the ongoing conversation.

“We live in a world where we kind of want to know everything. It can be good and it can be bad,” said Donald, one of the more active Tour players on social media. “You have to be wary of the negative attention. It’s tough, you have that urge to hear what other people are saying but at the same time you’re not sure you want to hear everything.”

On this front Day was uniquely suited for his short time atop the World Golf Ranking. The Australian largely avoids social media because, well, “I'm terrible at it. I think I've done 23 posts or something on Instagram and I've had it for a long time and Twitter . . . my wife tweets for me,” he conceded.

Day, for better or worse, also didn’t have to endure the spotlight for too long, overtaking Spieth atop the rankings with his victory at last year’s BMW Championship but slipping back when the American won the Tour Championship the next week.

“I couldn't really go oh, yeah, man, this is really a high-pressure situation,” Day said.

Day could, however, embrace the central theme of being world No. 1 which essentially is the ability, and desire, to deal with pressure, whether that’s on or off the golf course.

“I played a few holes with Adam Hadwin yesterday,” Day said. “We were talking about how there's guys out here that are just comfortable from 50 to 100 on the FedEx [Cup] and enjoy that spot. I was just telling him you got to be OK with feeling uncomfortable because if you're uncomfortable it usually means you're doing something right.

“I just told him that I was looking forward to being uncomfortable for the rest of my life because I'm uncomfortable out here and I'm in that spotlight.”

Only pressure comes with being world No. 1, no FedEx Cup points or paydays, which makes it difficult to quantify what the title means. But for the likes of Spieth and Day and Donald, how you deal with that scrutiny is it’s own unique reward.

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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.