Appleby Back in Mercedes Drivers Seat

By Sports NetworkJanuary 10, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsStuart Appleby fired a 7-under 66 Saturday to reclaim a two-stroke advantage through three rounds of the Mercedes Championships. Appleby finished 54 holes at 20-under-par 199.
Vijay Singh, who held the second-round lead, carded a 4-under 69. He stands alone in second place at 18-under-par 201. Retief Goosen posted the round of the day with a 9-under 64 to climb into third place at 15-under-par 204.
Appleby began the day one stroke behind Singh, but that changed quickly. Appleby birdied the first before Singh dropped a shot at the second on the Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort. With the change in fortune, Appleby led by one shot.
He maintained that lead when he two-putted for birdie at the par-5 fifth. The Australian then ran home a 55-footer for birdie at the seventh to get to 16 under. Appleby capped a bogey-free front side with a birdie at the ninth.
Appleby moved to 18 under and three strokes clear of the field with a 10-foot birdie on the 13th. However, he stumbled to his lone bogey of the day at the very next hole after a poor chip shot.
The 32-year-old responded in fine fashion as he converted back-to-back birdies from the 15th to get to minus 19. Appleby maintained a two-stroke cushion over Singh as he made a short birdie putt at the last.
'Today was not too dissimilar to the other days,' said Appleby, who last season won the Las Vegas Invitational. 'The course was playing pretty much the same as previous rounds. I've played solid golf through basically all three days.'
Appleby knows the front nine Sunday will be important if he is going to win this event.
'I think you need to get under par comfortably. You don't need to slip through the turn even,' Appleby said. 'I think someone might need to get 3- or 4 under early. I won't be worried about that. I'll be plugging away and literally letting the score unfold. That's what I've been doing the last three days. To get off to a good start, three- or four-under is good.'
Singh, meanwhile, fought a balky putter most of the round. He three-putted for bogey at the second, but managed to erase that mistake with a birdie at the fifth. He matched Appleby's birdies on Nos. 7 and 9 to head to the back side at minus 16.
Around the turn, Singh again three-putted for bogey, this time at No. 11. He rallied down the stretch with consecutive birdies from the 15th. The Fijian got up-and-down for birdie at the last to cap his round.
'I think I made all of my putts on Friday,' Singh said. 'I played quite nicely today though. I made six birdies out there. I'm playing well and hitting the ball well right now. I just need that putter to get hot like it did yesterday.'
Goosen, playing with Tiger Woods, scorched the front nine. He ran off four straight birdies from the third to climb to 10-under. After a par at the seventh, he birdied three of his next four holes to continue his move.
The South African birdied two of his last three holes to close his 64, which matches Singh's second round 64 as the best rounds of the week.
'Overall, I was happy with the round,' said Goosen. 'Obviously, it wasn't blowing as strong as Friday, which made it a little bit easier off the tees as well as iron shots into the greens.'
Darren Clarke posted a 4-under 69, including an eagle on the 17th as he holed out from the fairway. He stands alone in fourth place at 14-under-par 205. Woods fired his best round of the event with an 8-under 65. He is one shot behind Clarke at minus 13.
Scott Hoch and Kirk Triplett share sixth place at 11-under-par 208. U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk is joined in eighth place by Davis Love III. That duo stands at 10-under-par 209.
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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.