Claxton Comes From Behind to Win in Louisiana
The 33-year-old Georgia native fired a 5-under 67 for a tournament total of 17-under-par 271 to finish one shot clear of Tim Petrovic, who shot 70, and third-round leader Steve Runge, who carded an even-par 72 at Le Triomphe Country Club.
'It's been a long time coming,' said Claxton, who collected $81,000 to jump from 51st to third on the season money list. 'I have been close a few times and I feel like my game has been getting better each year. It was a great day for me to come down the stretch, make the putts and finish the tournament the way I did.'
After sinking a 10-foot birdie putt at the 17th, Claxton knocked a 6-iron to within four feet at the 460-yard, par-4 closing hole to set up a final birdie. That moved him into a share of the lead with Petrovic, who made it to 17-under after matching birdies back at the 14th with playing partner Runge.
Petrovic bogeyed the 16th to drop back into second place at 16-under with Runge. The players had two holes remaining to at least force a playoff, but Runge missed a 15-foot birdie putt at the 17th and Petrovic's 12-footer was off the mark at 18.
'Two weeks in a row I placed second. I'm not going to complain,' said Petrovic, who also finished one shot out of first place at 16-under 272 in the Buy.Com Monterrey Open. 'I made some mistakes but I'm happy with the way I'm playing. I'm hanging in there not making too many mistakes so next time I get in position, hopefully I can pull off a victory.'
Petrovic's second runner-up showing in as many starts moved him into fourth place in earnings this year.
Petrovic, at 14-under and two back of Runge to start the day, took a one-shot lead with birdies at the first two holes and a Runge bogey at the first.
Petrovic bogeyed the fourth hole but made up for the lost shot with a two-putt for birdie at the par-5 5th. He was joined at the top of the leaderboard by Jeff Freeman, who surged to 16-under through eight holes on the strength of an opening eagle and three birdies.
Petrovic suffered a minor setback with a bogey at the eighth, but he returned to 16-under at the 10th after his approach left him with a foot for birdie. Runge fell to 2-over on the day with a bogey of his own at eight, then put himself in position to make a late run with the first of back-to-back birdies at the 13th.
Meanwhile, Claxton had made his way to 15-under with birdies from 20, eight, and 10 feet on the front nine, only to slip back a stroke after his tee shot found the water at the 12th. He rolled in a 12- footer to save par at the 13th, then two-putted from 30 feet for birdie at 14.
Freeman, who dropped out of contention with a double-bogey at the 13th, finished with a 69 for a share of 14-under 274 with Bob Gaus (65), Jody Bellflower (69), Jamie Rogers (69), Charles Raulerson (70) and Gene Sauers (70).
Monday qualifier David Lebeck, who fired a course-record 61 for the first-round lead, eagled the par-5 12th Sunday for a short-lived share of the top spot with Petrovic at 16-under. But Lebeck came back with a triple-bogey at 13 and finished in a four-way tie at 13-under par.
Michael Allen began the day in 60th place but turned in a final-round 63 that was made up of eight birdies, an eagle and a bogey at the last hole. He ended the event in joint 18th at 11-under.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
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."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
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.'"
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."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
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."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
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.