Woods (+5) still in contention at difficult Doral

By Rex HoggardMarch 7, 2014, 11:34 pm

DORAL, Fla. – In 2009 at the PGA Tour’s annual south Florida siesta, Henrik Stenson stripped to his underwear to hit a shot out of a water hazard. On Friday at the new and improved Doral, the entire field felt like they’d been pants-ed.

On a windswept Friday, the combination of architect Gil Hanse’s handiwork, Donald Trump’s maniacal vision of building the Tour’s hardest golf course and what can only be described as Mother Nature’s mean streak conspired to embarrass all of the world’s best – not just Tiger Woods.

Consider that over the last 36 holes the world No. 1 hit four shots into various water hazards – wash, rinse, repeat – No. 3 Henrik Stenson hit a shank and No. 5 Phil Mickelson hit a wall after rattling off three consecutive double bogeys.

We don’t want to overstate Friday’s gale, but at one point Naples blew by.

For Woods, his 1-over 73 in Round 2 could only be considered a victory of sorts. Although the defending champion finished two rounds at 5 over, his post-round optimism didn’t seem misplaced considering a Blue course that suddenly seemed like the Monster of old.


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“Just had to grind it out,” Woods said. “When we made the turn there were nine guys under par and now there are (four).”

Tour types are not normally the best sounding boards for golf course design; as a rule professionals would much rather err on the side of the Coachella Valley over Carnoustie, but as Stenson marched down the third fairway his take was poignant enough to take seriously.

“I don’t think too many players are having fun today,” the Swede said.

For Woods, the roller coaster of Round 2 – he had five bogeys and four birdies – came against the backdrop of an ailing back that caused him to withdraw from last week’s Honda Classic with five holes to play, and the rigors of 35-mph wind gusts and 26 holes on Friday.

“I’m a little bit sore right now, long day,” said Woods, whose opening 76 was his highest score ever at Doral in 40 career rounds on the Blue Monster. “It will be nice to get some treatment tonight and be ready tomorrow.”

The rub is that he will have a fighting chance on Saturday despite finding water hazards at the third, eighth and 15th holes in Round 2. To be fair, more than 100 golf balls found the suddenly ubiquitous water hazards on Friday.

“I contributed to that number,” Woods smiled. “One of them was a perfect shot right down (No.) 8, right down the middle of the fairway with a 3-wood. Just ran out too far.”

Woods would save par at the par-5 eighth - in fact his third shot from 197 yards hit the hole and nearly dropped for the most unlikely of eagles - and he added a 92-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fourth hole which ranks as the longest made putt on Tour this season ... by 18 feet.

It all added up to a 5-over total to begin Round 3, just six strokes off the pace set by Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan.

But Woods stopped short of dubbing the new Doral unfair, questioning instead the setup of the layout considering Friday’s fierce forecast.

“Some of the pin locations were a little bit on the edgy side because of the wind direction,” he said. “You just couldn’t get the ball close. From that standpoint, it was right on the teetering point.”

As Woods marched down the seventh fairway, however, Donald Trump watched the day’s happenings with neither a hint of surprise nor remorse.

“They haven’t even set it up hard,” said Trump, who estimated the winning score would be around 8 under, less than half of what it took to win the World Golf Championship last year.

Luckily for Woods & Co. there is no cut at the Cadillac Championship nor will there be near as much wind on the weekend. The forecast calls for 10- to 15-mph breezes the rest of the way and no rain, which will likely feel like a cosmic mulligan for those who weathered firestorm Friday.

“Basically, you’ve got to hang around. You just never know,” said Woods, who left the property without going to the practice range or receiving treatment on his back. “We’ve all got a shot at it now. No one is going anywhere.”

Nor was anyone going low on what turned out to be the fiercest of Fridays.

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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.