One stroke changes Schniederjans' career path

By Ryan LavnerAugust 25, 2015, 3:10 pm

Every shot matters in golf – that cliché is resonating with Ollie Schniederjans this week.

After a series of close calls over the past month, the supremely talented 22-year-old’s path to the PGA Tour just became a bit more circuitous. 

Schniederjans, the former No. 1-ranked amateur in the world who turned pro after the Open Championship following a stellar career at Georgia Tech, missed the cut by one shot at the Wyndham Championship, which left him four-and-a-half points shy of qualifying for the Tour Finals, which would have given him a shot to earn one of 25 PGA Tour cards.

And it all boiled down to one stroke.

If he finished one shot better at the Canadian Open – where was five back heading into the final round in his pro debut – then he would have had enough points to qualify for the Finals. 

If he finished one shot better at the Quicken Loans National – where he had a two-shot lead through 31 holes – then he would have enough points. 

If he finished one shot better at the Wyndham – where he was inside the cut line heading to his 36th hole – then he would have had enough points. 

Heck, if he finished one shot better at the Open Championship – where he tied for 12th as an amateur – then he would be exempt at Royal Troon next year.   

Cruel game. 

“Everything I put in and all those weeks and the grind and the stress, and then to miss it by one, is just brutal,” Schniederjans said by phone Tuesday.

The Wyndham was the final blow. 

Playing on sponsor exemptions this summer, he began the week with 99 non-members points and basically needed to make the cut in Greensboro to continue his season. (The equivalent of a T-66 finish would have been enough.) After an opening 71 in easy conditions, he was 4 under for his second round and safely inside the cut line when he lined up his second shot on the ninth hole, his 18th of the day. He caught a flier from the first cut, his ball sailed over the green, and he had no shot to get the ball close. The bogey capped a Friday 67 and put him on the cut line at 2 under. 

Schniederjans looked safe for the weekend – and for a spot in the Finals – until Roberto Castro, another Georgia Tech alum, stuffed his final approach to a foot in the last group of the day. That single-handedly moved the cut back to 3 under, and Schniederjans was out.

But there’s more: Erik Compton withdrew prior to the start of the third round, citing a sore left ankle. Had he withdrawn before the end of the second round, the 36-hole cut would have moved back to 2 under and allowed 19 players – including Schniederjans – to move on. 

“I was devastated,” he said. “I was crushed.” 

Now, instead of a shot to earn his PGA Tour card through the four-event series, he has three weeks off and no status on any major tour. 

“I was going to be so ready for the Finals,” he said. “Those courses are so perfect for me.” 

He does have options, however. 

Represented by Tiger Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg of Excel Sports, Schniederjans hopes to play as many as three upcoming events on the European Tour, as well as a few tournaments this fall as the new PGA Tour wraparound season gets underway. He will also attempt Tour Q-School, which begins in mid-November. If he can earn status, he will try and follow good friend Patrick Rodgers’ path, picking and choosing between the PGA and tours in 2016. 

“I’m just motivated now to put all this behind me and win something,” he said. “I know I can compete and win out there.”

Even with the disappointment of this past weekend, Schniederjans is pleased to be in a different place mentally than he was even a few months ago. Struggling with his long game this spring, he said that he couldn’t keep his ball on the map and would lose five balls per round when playing the hazard-filled courses in Florida. 

His game clicked in June at the Palmer Cup, and a few tweaks to his swing under the guidance of coach Sean Foley – a squarer clubface, a lower left arm, more leg drive – produced the kind of results that he was accustomed to seeing, including a low, push draw that comes off the face like a laser.

“I was completely lost and now it’s so under control,” he said. “The golf is a lot less stressful.”

Good thing, because Schniederjans’ situation was plenty stressful.

After back-to-back top-25s to begin his pro career, he thought he’d have more than enough points to qualify for the Finals. (He was told 95 points was the previous high.) Then came the missed cut in Reno, where he was “mentally exhausted” having played five weeks in a row, with a pro announcement sandwiched in between. And then the crushing missed cut in Greensboro, his last chance. 

“I think it’s something I’ll never forget,” he said. “It’s just amazing. It’s definitely a lesson for everyone, how important every single shot is. That’s real. One shot anywhere could have changed my entire following year.”

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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.