Seven rookies will determine fate of Internationals

By Rex HoggardOctober 1, 2013, 11:00 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – If it is true that one can only have bad association with memories, Nick Price’s best chance this week in middle America rests with his seven rookies.

If the Rest of the World is going to wrest itself off a victory schnied at the Presidents Cup that stretches back to the Clinton administration, it will do so on the backs of its fresh-faced majority – Brendon De Jonge, Graham DeLaet, Branden Grace, Marc Leishman, Richard Sterne, Hideki Matsuyama and Louis Oosthuizen.

There is no other choice.

Sure Adam Scott and Ernie Els will anchor the International side, as they have done for the last decade, but if there are any certainties entering this week’s Presidents Cup it is the status quo will not be enough to turn an event that has overwhelmingly been dominated by the United States.

In nine outings, the Americans have won all but two matches (1998 and a tie in 2003) and have never lost a home game. With seven rookies in tow on a distinctly American-style course serving as the global pitch (Muirfield Village), that wasn’t exactly change one felt Tuesday in the fall wind.

But in those untested seven, Price sees hope – so much so that he made both of his captain’s picks rookies (de Jonge and Leishman).

“I think they feel more of a team today,” Price said.

In some ways, the abundance of rookies on Price’s squad has created a cast system, a circle closing tightly around a common theme.

“With there being seven, it makes it a little bit easier,” Grace said. “There's seven guys that haven't been here before. They haven't had this experience. It's nice to get all that experience and sharing with guys like that, especially the great guys we have got on our team.”

Nor will Price’s “seven” be dogged by the ghosts of four consecutive losses in the event. They haven’t had to endure the heartbreak and horror of blowout losses and lopsided matches that have many contending that if the International side doesn’t get off the schnied soon they risk rendering the event irrelevant.

“We don't really know what to expect so we're kind of coming in somewhat blind, whereas some of the veterans know maybe how tough it is and how difficult it's going to be,” DeLaet said.

“I look back at like going to Q-School, and the easiest time to go to Q-School is your first time, and the second time it's harder, and the third time it's harder because you realize what's at stake and the emotions that are going to be involved.”

Considering Tuesday’s practice round pairings, it appears Price seems certain to mix and match his veterans with the newcomers as best he can, but with more than half his team playing their first Presidents Cup there’s only so much he can do.

Expect DeLeat to play with Jason Day, who is playing his second match; Leishman to pair with Scott; Els, who is making his eighth start in the Presidents Cup, to go out with either Grace or Sterne; and Oosthuizen, a rookie in name only, would be a good match with fellow South African Charl Schwartzel.

Having six South Africans and three Australians certainly makes things a little easier for Price, but that still leaves Matsuyama and either Grace or Sterne looking at an all-rookie team sometime over the first four days. Not exactly a best-case scenario when the confines are this unfriendly.

Price will lean on his rookies because he has no other choice. Unlike the Ryder Cup, where four players from each team sit out the team matches, everybody plays at the Presidents Cup.

On paper, this is not a fair fight. Combined, Price’s rookies have won two Tour titles and has just one player ranked inside the top 10 in the world. By comparison, U.S. captain Fred Couples enjoys an embarrassment of riches with seven players on his team ranked inside the top 11.

For Price, this is golf’s version of “Moneyball,” a young, inexperienced team thrown into the big leagues. And like Oakland’s Billy Beane, the International captain knows this is a numbers game – the first team to 17 ½ points wins however you get there.

Price wasted little time on Monday plugging in the proper credentials, clearly with an eye toward his untested newcomers.

“Listen,” he implored. “There is no better feeling than lifting that trophy on Sunday. Believe me, we're going to have a party if we do it.”

That last part was for the benefit of the rookies, because the veterans certainly know what to expect.

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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.