DJ trying to extend one streak, end another

By Ryan Reiterman June 2, 2016, 10:32 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio - When he was asked about the latest version of the Big 3, Memorial Tournament host Jack Nicklaus was quick to point out there are plenty of talented players not far behind Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.

Dustin Johnson reminded everyone Thursday at Muirfield Village that he is one of those players.

He made 10 birdies against two bogeys for an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead over Brendan Steele, who finished with a birdie on 17 and a hole-out eagle on 18 for a 65.

Johnson combined his massive length off the tee with some improved wedge play and added a hot putter for his lowest score in 31 rounds at the Memorial.

“With me, it has everything to do with the putter,” said Johnson, who took 26 putts in Round 1. “I rolled it well today, and you know, even throughout the year, the days I putt well, I play well. I've been working pretty hard on the putter, and I felt like it's finally starting to pay off.”

It couldn’t come at a better time.

Johnson is looking to extend one streak this week and end another in two weeks at the U.S. Open.

The 31-year-old bomber has won nine PGA Tour titles and at least one every year since 2008.

But none of those nine trophies is a green jacket, a U.S. Open trophy, a claret jug or a Wanamaker.


Memorial Tournament: Articles, photos and videos


Johnson’s missing major keeps him from being among the Big 3 discussion. It’s a place everyone thinks he should be - he has 11 top-10s in the majors - but for whatever reason he’s yet to get it done in one of the four biggest events on the schedule.

“I think that Dustin Johnson is arguably the most talented player on the PGA Tour,” Spieth said this week. “I think it's a matter of time. I think he's a freak athlete. I think he's not only a freak athlete, but a freak golf athlete, like he has great hands, great clubface control. I mean, he hits some shots where you won't see anybody else trying to.”

Johnson feasted on the soft and smooth greens Thursday morning as he opened with three straight birdies. After a bogey at No. 6, Johnson bounced back with another run of three straight birdies and added four more on Nos. 12-15.

“I felt like I just played well right out of the gates,” he said. “I hit great shots in the right spot on the greens and rolling in some putts. I hit it close on the first three holes and made all three of them, so that's always a good way to start your day.”

The big question over the next three rounds will be whether Johnson can keep his putter hot.

Johnson hasn’t won since the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Championship, which seems like an eternity for a player of his talent. He’s already recorded six top-10s this season and his game seems like a perfect fit for Muirfield Village.

The fairways are generous. The par 5s are not long. And the greens are some of the best on Tour.

“For the past few years, I feel like my golf game in total has been solid and consistent,” Johnson said. “Every week I feel like I'm up there, and I've got a chance to win. With this game, you've got to make putts.”

It will be the key to extending his PGA Tour winning streak, ending his major slump and perhaps vaulting to the top of the world rankings.

But Johnson is not one to look ahead to Oakmont - or back to Chambers Bay - when he has a big opportunity in front of him.

“I'm playing the Memorial,” he said. “So I've got a lot of other things to worry about than the U.S. Open. I'll worry about it when I get there.”

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.