AskLav: Why the rush to judgment about Rory?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 1, 2012, 3:43 pm

One of several apocalyptic comments this week:

A complete equipment overhaul (to Nike, no less!) … for $200 million … but still … at age 23 … after two majors … is he nuts?

Perhaps he is, which could help explain why six-time major winner Nick Faldo was so adamant – both here and here – that Rory McIlroy was making a grave mistake.

No doubt, The Decision in which Rory may take his talents not to South Beach but rather Beaverton, Ore., will be examined and then re-examined some more, especially if – hold your breath – the Northern Irishman endures another months-long swoon, as he did in summer 2012.

But how can this already be deemed a mistake? Can we really bash a guy who hasn’t even struck a competitive shot with the swooshes?

Based on a few comments this week, you’d have thought Rory ditched Titleist after recently strolling into Golf Galaxy and spotting a shiny new set of irons on the rack. No proper testing. No consultation. No conviction. Nothing.

Rest assured, no equipment decision this significant is made impulsively.

So there’s no need, then, to be so hasty with our judgments.

Here are this week’s mailbag questions:

#AskLav If Rory signs with Nike, how do you think Nike will market him? And how does this affect Tiger's relationship with Nike?

Remember that Duel at Jinsha Lake? Fun, wasn’t it? Just Tiger and Rory, Rory and Tiger, pals and rivals, chumming around for 18 holes in a made-for-TV (or Internet), pay-per-view event that doled out $3 million in appearance fees. Expect to see a few more of those shindigs in the future. 

Marketing the two players together will be a fascinating case study, too, if only because of their divergent personalities. On the course, Tiger is intense and conditioned to step on his opponent’s neck, while Rory smiles and melodically makes his way around the course and before you know it, well, damn, he won by eight again. How will that dichotomy play in a 30-second spot?

@RyanLavnerGC is there any real possibility of someone other than David Toms as next American Ryder Cup Captain #AskLav

Of course there is a groundswell of support for hard-luck Larry Nelson, who was passed over for the captaincy in the 1990s, and the revered Paul Azinger, who was so successful in 2008, but this appears to be David Toms’ job. He’s 45. He’s a major winner (a PGA!). He has played on three Ryder Cup teams. This is a slam-dunk – or at least an uphill 2-footer with no break.

Everyone wants to know, @RyanLavnerGC What are you going to be for Halloween? #AskLav

Well, I wanted to be Rickie Fowler, but his all-orange outfit apparently is in hot demand this time of year. I wanted to be video-goofball Ben Crane, but needed to walk around the block in less than two hours. I wanted to be Jungle Bird, but couldn’t afford to get that intoxicated and still make it to work the next day.

So, instead, this year I went as the Allstate ‘mayhem’ guy, with the dirty clothing, the disheveled hair and the appetite for destruction. Think it turned out well, right?

Sorry to hear that even Hulk can be slowed by a hurricane. My initial reaction was that Hulk should take his mind off the destruction and do what he always does – smash stuff! – but that seems counterproductive at this point.

D.J. Piehowski@RyanLavnerGC Who are you voting for? I'll just vote for the same person as you. #AskLav

Finally! I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to express my political views. After watching the heated debates and analyzing the media reports and, most importantly, compiling all of my friends’ passionate Twitter and Facebook posts, it’s clear that this year I am voting for … oh, no, sorry, apparently I’ve just reached my word-count limit.

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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.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.