Defending Champion Back on Top

By Sports NetworkDecember 12, 2003, 5:00 pm
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Padraig Harrington, the defending champion, fired the lowest round of the tournament Friday, a 5-under 67, to storm into the lead after the second round of the Target World Challenge. The Irishman stands at 3-under-par 141 amid windy conditions at Sherwood Country Club.
Tiger Woods, the tournament host and winner in 2001, birdied the final hole to shoot his second 1-under 71 in as many days. He is at 2-under-par 142 and is tied for second place with 2000 champion and first-round leader Davis Love III (72) and Chris DiMarco (68).
'Considering the mistakes I've made the last two days, if you take those away, I'm well ahead,' admitted Woods. 'I'm surprised that no one else has run away with it. I'm very fortunate to be in there.'
Harrington caught fire quickly into Friday's round with three birdies in his first four holes. He struggled on the par-5 fifth and made bogey, but the winner of last week's Hong Kong Open on the European Tour waited until the back nine to ascend into the lead.
At the par-4 10th, Harrington rolled home a 25-footer for birdie to reach 1 under par, but the Irishman dropped the stroke with a bogey at the difficult, par-3 12th. He birdied the par-5 13th but once again dropped a stroke quickly after a birdie, this time at the 14th.
Harrington missed the green with his tee ball at the par-3 15th, but bladed a sand-wedge and rolled in a chip from 20 feet. He sank a seven-footer for birdie at the 16th from the fringe, then chipped in again from 10 feet at the 17th to reach 3 under for the tournament.
He missed his approach short on the lower tier of the 18th green. Harrington's 35-foot birdie try just missed, but the top-ranked European player in the world still held the 36-hole lead and is in position to become the first player to successfully defend his title at this event.
'I thought it would vault me into contention, but I'm surprised to be leading, to be honest,' said Harrington, who won this tournament at 20 under par last year. 'I like the golf course. It asks a lot. You can take it on.'
Woods found trouble very early in his round Friday at the par-5 second hole. His second went left into a hazard, then after a drop, his fourth hit the green, but spun back into another hazard. He walked off with a triple-bogey 8.
The No. 1 player in the world rebounded the rest of the way with six birdies and two bogeys to get into second place.
Love was in first place until some miscues off the tee on a pair of par-3s. At the 12th, Love missed the green and left his second in the rough. His third flew 15 feet past the hole and Love missed the putt for a double bogey.
He birdied 13 from 12 feet but his tee ball at No. 15 came up short, hit a rock and landed in water. His pitch stopped 10 feet from the hole and he rolled home the putt to save bogey. Love holed a two-footer for birdie at 16 to earn his piece of second.
DiMarco was 3 under on his round and one behind Harrington when he played the par-3 17th. His claw-handed putting stroke ran home a 35-footer for birdie and got him into Saturday's final pairing.
Robert Allenby (71), K.J. Choi (71), Justin Leonard (72), Nick Price (69), Masters champion Mike Weir (68) and 2003 PGA Tour's leading money winner Vijay Singh (69) share fifth place at 1-under-par 143.
Fred Couples shot an even-par 72 and is tied for 11th with reigning PGA Champion Shaun Micheel at plus-1. Micheel posted a 3-under-par 69 on Friday.
Kenny Perry, who shared second place at 1-under 71 after Thursday's opening round, struggled to a 5-over 77 and shares 13th with Jay Haas. The 49-year-old Haas shot a 72 in the second round and joined Perry at 1-over-par 148.
British Open winner Ben Curtis carded a 2-over 74 and is in 15th at plus-8, followed by Darren Clarke, who posted a second-round 73 to finish in 16th at plus-10.
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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.