Defending Champion Back on Top

By Sports NetworkFebruary 26, 2004, 5:00 pm
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Defending champion Frank Lickliter II fired a 9-under-par 63 Thursday to lead after the opening round of the Chrysler Classic of Tucson.
Per-Ulrik Johansson stumbled to a double bogey at the ninth, his last, to join Steve Allan, Mark Hensby and Carlos Franco in a tie for second place at 7-under-par 65.
Lickliter, who used a 63 in the second round of this event last year en route to his second career victory on the PGA Tour, jumped out of the gate at Omni Tucson National with a birdie at the par-4 first under optimal scoring conditions.
'This is the nicest day I've ever played out here weather-wise,' said Lickliter. 'All the practice rounds, tournament rounds previously, this is the nicest day I think I've ever seen.'
He added three more birdies on the front nine and reached 5 under with a birdie at the par-5 10th.
Lickliter then caught fire late on the back nine. He picked up a birdie at the 13th and followed that up with a birdie at the very next hole after his approach to the par-4 14th landed within five feet of the cup.
The 34-year-old played his third shot to six feet at the par-5 15th and drained the putt to make it three in a row.
At the par-4 16th, Lickliter dropped his second inside five feet and converted the putt for his fourth consecutive birdie to secure the outright lead.
Johansson started at the 10th and collected two birdies and a bogey over his first nine holes before going on a tear on the front side.
The Swede ran off three consecutive birdies from the first and added an eagle at the par-4 fifth to move to 6 under. Johansson kept on rolling with birdies at the sixth and the seventh before his second shot to the par-5 eighth found a greenside bunker.
Johansson hit out of the sand to two feet and tapped in for his third consecutive birdie to join Lickliter at minus-9.
The 37-year-old found trouble at his closing hole, however, and walked away with a double bogey for his share of second.
Franco, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, birdied each of his first two holes and reached 4 under after his approach to the par-5 eighth stopped within five feet of the hole for an eagle.
The 38-year-old added four birdies and a bogey on the inward half to finish two shots off the pace.
'Every first round is good for confidence,' said Franco. 'The weather today is excellent and the course condition is not looking too difficult.'
Angel Cabrera, Brian Henninger, Harrison Frazar, Bill Glasson, Mike Heinen, Tim Clark, Olin Browne and Vaughn Taylor finished in a tie for sixth at 6-under-par 66.
John Daly continued his resurgence on Thursday with an opening-round 67. Daly, who won his first PGA Tour event in nine years two weeks ago at the Buick Invitational and followed that with a strong showing last week at Riviera, did his damage early with three birdies and a bogey over his first five holes.
Daly reached the green in two easily at the par-5 eighth and converted a 14-foot putt for an eagle. He added a birdie at the 10th before parring his last eight holes to finish at 5 under par.
'It's nice to start out good. Of course, if you hit the fairways you can go low, but I struggled a little bit on the back nine with my irons,' said Daly. 'But it's a great start. I'm happy with it.'
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Chrysler Classic of Tucson
  • Full Coverage - Chrysler Classic of Tucson
  • 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.