Arizona State's Rahm bombing away at U.S. Amateur

By Ryan LavnerAugust 13, 2014, 10:46 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – That massive oak tree on the left side of the first fairway, the one that requires a 320-yard carry? Covered it.

Those sky-high pines down the right side of No. 10, the ones that force just about everyone to hit 3-wood short of the bunkers? Cleared it.

That sliver of a fairway on the 12th hole, the one seemingly miles away, through the chute in the trees, with the severe bend to the left? Split it.

“He was hitting from places I didn’t know you could hit from out there,” said Beau Hossler, who had the misfortune of being matched up against long-driving Arizona State junior Jon Rahm Wednesday at the 114th U.S. Amateur.

Fresh off his Western Amateur victory, Hossler, 19, was arguably the hottest college kid on the planet. The Texas sophomore is typically long and straight off the tee (albeit 30 yards shorter than Rahm), but his driver abandoned him in the Round of 64. Needing to put the ball in play on a ball-striker’s course like Atlanta Athletic Club, Hossler instead “hit it everywhere.”

Three down early, Rahm took the outright lead midway through the back nine and closed out the match with a 15-footer on 16.

“There’s not much you can do,” Hossler said, shrugging.

“Jon is just a great match-play player,” Arizona State coach Tim Mickelson said by phone. “If he hits a bad shot, he has such a good short game that he’s probably going to make par. In match play, if a guy is able to hit it that far, and also have soft hands, then he’s going to be tough to beat.”

Which Rahm has been all summer.

The 19-year-old advanced to match play at the British Amateur. He won three of his four matches, including the decisive point, during Europe’s stunning victory at the Palmer Cup. He helped Spain win the European Team Championship. Two weeks ago, he captured the Spanish Amateur, shooting 64 on the final day to erase a six-shot deficit and win by three.

“Best summer of my life,” he said. 

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During his two years in Tempe, Rahm has amassed an impressive résumé, with three victories, an eye-opening 21-under performance and a record-tying 61 at the 2012 NCAAs. He has put his power to good use, leading the nation in eagles made in both 2012 and ’13.

Unfair, perhaps, but it’s a surprise that the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder doesn’t win more often, given his incredible length. The missing piece was a rock-solid mental game, so Rahm sought out a member at his home club, Joseba Del Carmen, a renowned personal coach and motivator. In a matter of months, Rahm says he’s seen a drastic transformation.

“He needed to find a way to let the emotion out, but also to not let it affect him going forward,” Mickelson said.

Well, the fist pumps were flying Wednesday, and for good reason.

After cutting his deficit to 1 down at the turn, Rahm ripped a 390-yard drive on the 442-yard 10th. From 70 yards away, he skipped his wedge shot into the cup for an eagle-2.

Two holes later, on the 551-yard 12th, Rahm pounded a 360-yarder that cut the corner. After a 200-yard 7-iron, he poured in the 10-foot eagle putt – his second in three holes – to take his first lead of the match. Three consecutive pars was enough to take another hole, and when his birdie putt fell on 16, he was on to the Round of 32, where he will face fellow Pac-12 player Rico Hoey of USC.

“He just smokes it,” Hossler said of Rahm. “Sometimes a guy is going to get hot and beat you. I’d be upset if I felt like I had handed him the match, but he went out and won it.”

And to think, just 48 hours ago, Rahm was in danger of leaving early. An opening 75 in stroke play left him well outside the cut line, but he told Mickelson on Monday night that he’d simply gotten unlucky. In fact, he said he had never driven the ball better.

If the strategy sounds familiar, Rahm, the 14th-ranked amateur in the world, watched Rory McIlroy blast moon shots at Hoylake and Valhalla and decided to adopt a similar philosophy here.

“He just steps up and crushes it,” said Tim Campbell, a local caddie at AAC who is on Rahm’s bag this week. “If there’s any bunker in play, 300 out, he doesn’t even think about it.”

“He reminds me a lot of my brother,” Mickelson said. “Great driver, great putter, great hands, aggressive. The biggest difference is Jon’s willingness to hit driver – and how impressive it is.”

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.