Tiger attempting to play way out of slump at Wyndham

By Rex HoggardAugust 19, 2015, 6:07 pm

It was impossible to watch the brief scrum and not appreciate the fact that the soon-to-be-40 year old seemed to be enjoying himself outside of his normal comfort zone.

You know the deal – old cat, new tricks.

But there it was, the 286th-ranked player in the world smiling and laughing and talking optimistically about the week ahead – as if the last two years had never transpired.

Tiger Woods will set out on Thursday at 7:50 a.m. ET at the Wyndham Championship, one of 14 current PGA Tour events that he’s never played, with long odds and an even longer view.

“It’s kind of fun,” Woods smiled. “This is like a small-town atmosphere. [The fans] come out and support the event for years and Davis [Love III] says he’s played this thing forever and even sees the same people each and every year.”

It’s safe to say there will be even more people about Sedgefield Country Club this week thanks to Tiger, who enters the week the lowest he’s ever been ranked as a professional. But then, when it comes to Woods, he is always much more than the sum of his world ranking parts.

Woods signed on to play the final regular-season event because of his spot in the FedEx Cup ranking (187th) and what could only be described as an 11th-hour effort to play the postseason, which begins next week at The Barclays with the top 125 players on the season-long points list.

“I started to build, I need to get more consistent with everything and start stringing together not just holes, not just rounds but tournaments,” he said. “That’s why this tournament is important to me. Hopefully I can win and get in the playoffs and start playing a bunch of golf.”

Given his play the last 24 months – he doesn’t have a top-10 finish and the scorecard includes more missed weekends (10) than not (seven) during that stretch – his chances of a walk-off this week waver somewhere between slim and none. That doesn’t mean, however, his trip to the Piedmont Triad is a lost cause.

For some time, critics have lamented Woods’ schedule, for decades a relatively set lineup of majors, World Golf Championships and assorted top-tier stops where he’d had success in the past, like the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Farmers Insurance Open.

More “reps,” the thinking went, may be the only way to play his way out of his current swoon.

In his own particular way, the Wyndham Championship is Woods’ acknowledgement, however begrudgingly, that the status quo simply isn’t working.

Had Woods not added the Wyndham Championship, his next Tour start would likely have been October’s Frys.com Open to begin the 2015-16 season. That would have been eight weeks of relative inactivity.

Sure, he’d be on the range in South Florida looking for answers, but it has become clear over the past few weeks that whatever it is he is working on back home has been slow to translate to red numbers on a Tour scorecard.

When Woods committed to the Wyndham field last Friday, a procedural deadline required by the Tour, many opined that Sedgefield, a classic Donald Ross layout, would be just what he needed. He could take his driver out of his bag and dissect the tree-lined course with long irons and the occasional fairway wood.

But recent heavy rain in the Greensboro, N.C., area seems to have dictated another plan.

“From what I’ve been told, it’s going to be a lot of irons off the tee but it wasn’t the case because it’s so wet,” Woods said.

But even that soggy reality doesn’t change the fact Woods’ decision to venture beyond his well-defined schedule is encouraging, maybe even inspired.

There seems little chance Woods’ last-minute playoff push will be successful. When asked his motivations for playing this week, he seemed to suggest as much.

“If not, then I got a big break and some overseas stuff to do later this year,” said Woods, who needs to win this week or possibly finish alone in second place to secure a spot at The Barclays. “Basically, I’ll have my offseason early and start getting ready for a lot of my tournaments that I go to overseas as well as in the [United States].”

Woods said last week at the PGA Championship that his focus isn’t necessarily on this season or even this year as much as it is a long-term plan to play his way back into relevance.

His place in the field at the Wyndham Championship is a sign that at this point he knows better than anyone else that playing is his only way out of his current slump.

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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.