#AskLav: Holly, Daly and the unattainable ace

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2014, 3:07 pm

First, a confession: I’ve never had a hole-in-one.

Once, I hit the flag. Another time, the ball apparently burned the edge. But for this 7 handicap, it didn’t matter whether it was a long hole or short, whether there was a 4-iron or a lob wedge in my hand, whether there was a car or bragging rights on the line, whether I was playing well or like a dog, whether it was a mulligan or my first attempt … my tee shot on a par 3 has never found its way into the bottom of a cup. Heck, I’ve only holed out from the fairway twice.

Which makes this week’s news all the more disheartening.

By now you’ve probably seen it: In the Humana Challenge pro-am, John Daly, golf’s most erratic entertainer, made an ace with a brand-new club. On his second hole of the day. With distractingly loud pants. Without even watching the ball go in.

Yes, he needed to be told about the ace, like it just sort of happened, an insignificant detail in a pro-am full of them, no big deal.

Us ace-less golfers? We simply hope for a fortuitous bounce, or for a strange gust of wind, or maybe for a better swing. We watch intently as our tee shots settle 25 feet from the cup, or more likely, miss the green altogether. 

This scribe’s ace may never come, thus extending years and years of hole-in-one futility. But that’s OK – I’ll take Daly’s unclaimed luxury sedan instead.

Now: This week’s mailbag:



It appears someone already is stricken with FedEx Cup fever! But since you asked … Jimmy Walker leads with 1,233 points. That would have put him at No. 16 in last year’s standings, but because the 2013-14 has six more events (those formerly comprising the Fall Series) he’d actually fall lower than that. Of course, it’s way too early to declare that J-Walk is a lock for East Lake, but another high finish or two could seal that spot before spring. Rest assured, there’s still plenty of time for those who didn’t play in the fall to make up ground. 



Man, you must have been listening in to our Golf Channel meeting; we talked for more than an hour about college golf Wednesday. Anyway, this is an answer best reserved for May, when we have more than just the fall schedule to go on, but on Jan. 15, here’s how I think the top 8 will shake out (subject to change in, like, two weeks):

Alabama: Defending champ is the clear-cut No. 1. California: Even without 2013 POY Michael Kim, the Golden Bears have more than enough firepower to reach the finals. Georgia Tech: Deep, experienced team, and boast one of college’s rising stars in Ollie Schniederjans. Illinois: Mike Small is arguably the best coach in the game, and this is close to the same team that advanced to last year’s finals. Texas: Way more talent than their 0-for-fall record indicates. Stanford: From Patrick Rodgers to Cameron Wilson to Jim Liu, there’s a lot to like about the Cardinal this year. Oklahoma State: Great mix of youth and experience has the Cowboys trending upward again. UCF: The Knights have virtually the same team that should have advanced to match play last year. They’re dangerous. 



Slurred speech. Weak knees. Sweaty palms. Playing with Holly will be the most nerve-wracking five hours these Tour pros experience all season. 



That’s a massive leap, mind you, to unseat some of those world-class players who have been entrenched in the top 20 for years. The best bet is Gary Woodland, currently ranked No. 54. It’s possible that he could have had three wins since August – the opposite-field event in Reno, then second-place finishes at the Barclays (where he held the 54-hole lead) and Malaysia (where he lost in a playoff). He has made massive strides in the past few months. Less likely are No. 63 Peter Uihlein and No. 71 Nicolas Colsaerts. If Uihlein can crack the top 50 and get into some of the WGCs and majors, he’ll have a chance to contend and make a big move. If Colsaerts could ever match his prodigious length with his putting – he was ranked 172nd in that category in 2013 – he could be a world-beater. 



A candidate? Sure. He’s playing better than he ever has, and he already has a leg up on the competition. But, as usual, it’ll come down to how Zach fares in the majors. In his last 12 appearances he has just three top 10s, two of which came last summer. His one and only top 10 at the Masters was his surprise victory in extreme conditions in 2007. He missed the cut in his only appearance at Pinehurst (2005). The Open is his best chance to win a major this year, especially if it plays firm and fast, but he MC’d when the event was last held at Hoylake (2006). He’s never played at Valhalla. Pick off one of those majors, and he’ll appear on his first POY ballot. 



This is the final year the Match Play will be held at Dove Mountain, which is good news for everyone; it’s annually ranked as one of the most disliked Tour venues. The suggestion here would be to put the world back in World Golf Championships … within reason, of course. After all, just one (HSBC Champions) of four is played outside the lower 48. How about Brazil? Mexico? Caribbean? Anywhere, really, but that snowy hill in Arizona. 

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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.