Presidents Cup still lacks parity

By Rex HoggardOctober 6, 2013, 12:20 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – For an event that has spent the better part of two decades searching for relevance in a dysfunctional comparison to the Ryder Cup, Saturday at the Lift, Clean & Place Cup delivered a measure of similarity between the biennial brothers.

First came the weather. And then more weather. Weather like players endured at the Ryder Cup in Wales in 2010 and The K Club in 2006. Weather that has kept players in shelter, three delays totaling more than eight hours, almost as much as they’ve been on muddy Muirfield Village. Weather that will stretch Saturday’s foursome session into Sunday morning and Sunday’s singles bout into ... well, that’s to be determined.

“Don’t suppose they ever have droughts in Columbus,” one International caddie shrugged during a drenching downpour on Saturday.

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It has rained so much the last two days, assistant captain Davis Love III’s decision to release “Sammy” the squirrel back into the wild on Friday seemed cruel.

Then came the contentiousness. Just as Adam Scott was setting out in a steady rain late Saturday with this week’s darling Hideki Matsuyama by his side a fan yelled, “Tiger’s better.” And as Angel Cabrera attempted to putt during his foursomes match late Friday another wayward sod got even nastier.

Luckily, Cabrera was immune to the hack and his heckles. “No entiendo Ingles,” the big man smiled.

The only thing missing was competitive parity. Well that, and Ian Poulter, but it doesn’t seem as if those two are mutually exclusive.

The Americans pulled away in the deluge that was the final four-ball session, taking four of five games to grab a 10 ½ to 6 ½ advantage and turn the Internationals' mood as gloomy as this week’s forecast.

When darkness and a damp course finally ended Saturday’s action, some 11 ½ hours after the day had begun, the good news for Nick Price’s crew was that they were leading in two of the remaining four foursome matches (Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner had already shut out Richard Sterne and Marc Leishman, 4 and 3, to extend the American point total to 11 ½). The bad news – the Internationals haven’t won a foursomes session since Day 1 in 2003.

“Obviously, this morning was a little disappointing,” International captain Price said. “We lost some ground and then this afternoon we got off to a great start, think we were up in all five matches, and then the U.S. started making some putts. Honestly, I don’t know how these guys are still on their feet.”

Another halved session, like the Rest of the World eked out in Friday’s delayed foursome bout, isn’t going to be enough. Not with the Americans just six points shy of an outright victory and 12 singles matches looming.

If the Presidents Cup is in search of Ryder Cup-like parity, may we humbly suggest the powers that be play it like the Ryder Cup with just four team matches per session.

Otherwise the identity crisis seems certain to continue. Otherwise the Internationals' only hope is that America’s aging heroes will succumb to the marathon that these matches have become.

On a soggy and exhausting Saturday, consider that 46-year-old semi-pensioner Steve Stricker played 31 holes, while Tiger Woods, the 37-year-old core of the U.S. team who just two weeks ago at the Tour Championship talked of being tired after a long season, also went 31 holes on Day 3.

Luckily Phil Mickelson, the 43-year-old who suggested at East Lake he would consider cutting his schedule by 25 percent in future seasons to conserve his energy and took himself out of a team frame at last year’s Ryder Cup, didn’t have to finish his second round early Saturday and needed only 17 holes to close out Ernie Els and Brendon De Jonge in the third session. Still, Lefty went 30 in the monsoon and the grind was starting to show on all three veterans' faces, if not their games.

“Phil tells me when he wants to go and he’s going to go first. He’s ready to play five matches,” U.S. captain Fred Couples said. “I looked at (Mickelson) and Tiger and said, ‘Look, you know, just tell me what you’d like to do?’ And both of them said, ‘Oh, there’s no question, we are playing every match.’

“Tiger is honestly beat up. Phil is very energetic, and it shows.”

If Price & Co. can’t outplay the Americans, maybe they can wear them down. It’s not a bad plan, not for a team that hasn’t won since 1998 and is mired in a 1-7-1 slide. Not when Sunday’s forecast is even worse than Saturday’s.

Another storm is scheduled to arrive overnight and then again in the early afternoon on Sunday, which prompted officials to restart Round 4 at 7:35 a.m. ET and send the singles out starting at 9:10 a.m.

“It’s not over,” Price declared, sounding a lot like Ben Crenshaw circa 1999. “We still have a lot of golf to play.”

Maybe the Internationals have a Medinah-like rally in them. Maybe the weather will conspire against the weary Americans and turn this apparent rout into a road race. Or is it an off-road race?

Until that happens, however, the comparisons between the Presidents and Ryder cups begin and end at over-served fans and an overstimulated weather radar.

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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.