R&R a must for Tour players

By Ryan LavnerApril 27, 2016, 8:31 pm

AVONDALE, La. – If you can look past the shirtless rounds and the board shorts, the Styrofoam cups and the leaps into the marina, the dancing on the carts and the announcer impressions, there was an unmistakable message emanating from the Bahamas last week:

These guys needed a break.

“It was nice to be able to get away,” Rickie Fowler said Wednesday, “to recharge, reset, and especially to get ready for the stretch that we have coming up.”

The ringleader of #SB2K16, Fowler attempted to downplay the Baker’s Bay boondoggle when he met with the media at the Zurich Classic. That was no surprise. He was back at work.

He had just finished his pro-am round. Corporate sponsors adorned his shirt and hat. A 7:50 a.m. tee time loomed. Party time was over.

But the larger point remains: Top players must find their own ways to hit the refresh button during a marathon season. It just so happened, Fowler said, that their “schedules were friendly” and they could organize a weeklong extravaganza at a luxury golf and beach resort.

“It felt like the right time to be able to get everyone together,” he said.

Of course, they aren't the first or the last players to go on vacation.

Justin Rose flew to the Bahamas after the Masters, as well, though every hour of his trip wasn’t documented on social media.

“I just find it therapeutic,” he said.

It’s nothing new for him to shelve the clubs and get away from the game, whether he’s boating, fishing or snorkeling. When he’s home, he unwinds while chasing after his two kids (ages 4 and 7) on the soccer field or on the range.

Fresh off his only two-week break of the season, Rose said his time away is always a mix of relaxation and preparation.

“I feel like sometimes in a sense we’re actors,” he said, “and at home we’re learning our lines, and then we come out on Tour and we’re delivering a performance. A lot of work is done at home to get ready to compete. It’s not like we play 20 weeks a year and we’re in the Bahamas the other 32 weeks of the year enjoying ourselves. 

“There are certain times of year where I think it’s important to blow off some steam, and certainly after Augusta is one.”

Charley Hoffman, a winner last week in San Antonio, is playing for the eighth time in nine weeks. He has three getaways planned this year, including one next week in – you guessed it – the Bahamas. Unlike Rose or golf’s frat brothers, though, his days will be wide open.

“I’m pretty good sitting around the pool drinking beer and hanging out, to be completely honest with you,” he said. 

But that doesn’t work for everyone. Jason Day prefers to get lost in his work, even when he’s not on Tour.

Yes, he’s in a different place in his life than the spring breakers, with a wife and two young kids, but prior to last week, the world No. 1 had been home in Akron, Ohio, for only 10 days since Dec. 28. (During the West Coast swing, he stays at the Vintage Club in Palm Springs, and when the Tour moves east he sets up shop at The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla.) That’s a window into the life of the modern Tour player, who oftentimes still works a 9-to-5 on non-tournament weeks, except his days consist of grueling 90-minute workouts and hours spent on the range, putting green and short-game area.

“If you want to be the best in the world,” Day said, “you have to work harder than everyone else, and you have to be in front of your competition. If I decrease that volume of practice, sooner or later it will catch up to my game. Not straight away, but down the road it will catch up and then my level of play will come down. Unfortunately, that’s just how it is.”

To which there is an obvious follow-up: Isn’t there an inherent danger of pushing too hard, of burning out?

“I know mentally, deep down inside, that if I don’t work, I’m going to play bad golf, and there’s nothing worse in this world right now than me playing bad golf,” he said. “I hate it. I’m trying to win as much as I can. I don’t know if it’s in my nature, but I need to do that. That’s just me.”

Interestingly, it was Day who admitted recently that he was worried about Jordan Spieth, his friend and rival. He said that Spieth’s game hadn’t been as sharp since he spent a few months playing and spreading his brand across the globe; that he didn’t want the 22-year-old to get run-down at such a young age.

And that’s why Spieth’s presence in the Bahamas was so refreshing – he was letting loose, trading in soft spikes for sandals, punching his own refresh button. Though he had a whirlwind stretch to start the new year, Spieth is now in the midst of a full month off between the Masters and The Players. This break couldn’t have come at a better time, either, after his shocking final round at Augusta.

That Smylie Kaufman – who played alongside Spieth on Masters Sunday and shot 81 – rounded out the glamorous foursome in the Bahamas was merely a coincidence. He said he received the invite more than a month ago.

Earlier this year, Fowler had advised Kaufman, a Tour rookie, to find two-week breaks throughout the season: one week of relaxation, the other spent working and training. You probably can guess which week #SB2K16 fell under.

“We had an unbelievable time, decompressed,” Kaufman said. “Obviously the golf world got to see everything we did, and it was really fun for us. But it’s over now, and we’re all looking forward to the rest of the 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.