Els in Complete Control at Heineken Classic

By Sports NetworkFebruary 7, 2004, 5:00 pm
VICTORIA, Australia -- Ernie Els continued his brilliant play at the Heineken Classic with a 4-under 68 on Saturday to open an eight-shot lead after the third round. Els, who is trying to win this event for the third consecutive season, finished 54 holes at 22-under-par 194.
'I have been playing really well this week,' said Els. 'It is a good week. You don't change anything. You go ahead and play the golf course.'
Australia's Adam Scott battled valiantly, but in the end failed to make up any ground on the front-running Els. Scott posted a 68 of his own to join Gareth Paddison in a tie for second at 14-under-par 202.
The first two rounds on the Composite Course at Royal Melbourne were all about records for Els. He came close to 59 with a magical round of 60 on Thursday and established a 36-hole European Tour record for strokes under par after a bogey-free 66 on Friday. Now that the weekend had arrived, Els kept on plugging away unchallenged.
'You just want to go out there and play as good as you can and play your shots and not be afraid to play them,' said Els. 'A lead like this, it starts making you play too safe.'
Els knocked his second shot into a bunker at the par-5 second but blasted out of the sand to six feet for his first birdie of the day.
The South African found another bunker at the par-4 fifth but played his shot out of the sand inside three feet and converted the short birdie putt. He faltered with a bogey at the par-4 sixth after an errant drive but came right back with a birdie at the very next hole.
Els found trouble off the tee again en route to a bogey at the par-5 ninth to give Scott a glimmer of hope.
At the par-5 10th, Scott converted an eagle putt from off the green to briefly pull within four of the lead but Els answered back with an eagle of his own.
Els again pulled away with a magnificent birdie at the par-3 11th after his tee shot stopped within a few feet of the hole. He then moved eight strokes clear of the field with a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-4 12th.
He stumbled to a bogey at the par-4 16th, but his challengers had problems of their own coming home. Now with one round to play, the Big Easy owns a more than comfortable advantage as he tries to become the first player to win this event three straight times.
'I'll go out there and play my game tomorrow,' said Els. 'I want to keep going. I want to play better tomorrow. I feel that I can play better than I did today. I want to do that.'
Scott, who played alongside Els for the third straight day, opened with birdies on each of his first two holes.
At the par-4 seventh, Scott dropped his approach inside three feet for another birdie before his eagle at the 10th put him within striking distance of the lead.
Ultimately, Scott could not match Els down the stretch and he closed with a birdie and two bogeys over his last three holes.
'He still played well today but I felt like I had my chance to maybe sneak up to five back or something like that and I did not take it,' said Scott. 'He played very smart and he is still in total control.'
Peter Fowler carded a 3-under 69 to join fellow Australian Peter O'Malley and Peter Hanson of Sweden at 13-under-par 203. New Zealand's Mahal Pearce was one shot further back at 12-under-par 204.
Michael Campbell, twice a winner of this event, finished alongside Stephen Gallacher, Paul Sheehan and Peter Baker in a tie for eighth at 11-under-par 205.
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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.