Els Keeps on Cruising in Australia

By Sports NetworkFebruary 1, 2002, 5:00 pm
Ernie Els continued his fine play at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club with a 3-under 69 Friday. The South African moved to 11-under-par 133 at the halfway point of the Heineken Classic.
A trio of Australians in Greg Norman, Peter O'Malley and Stephen Leaney are tied for second at 8-under 136 along with Mark Pilkington of Wales.
Despite dropping three shots on his round, including a short par miss on the 17th, Els managed to stay clear of the rest of the field.
'I could have got a lot more out of the round,' said Els. 'I had quite a few chances but you can't always play the way you want to play.'
The South African hit a 2-iron just short of the green on the par-5 9th to set up the first of three consecutive birdies around the turn. On the 12th he had a chance to make it four straight but his birdie try missed right.
Els played at even-par until the bogey on the 17th. On the following hole he hit his approach to within 15-feet of cup and the two-time U.S. Open winner then rolled in the putt for his sixth birdie of the day.
After capturing the Vodacom Players Championship at the Royal Cape Golf Club in South Africa at the end of 2001, Els extended his streak of years with a victory worldwide to 10.
Norman played a solid round that included an eagle on the par-5 10th, his first. The 46-year-old added back-to-back birdies from the 17th and later got up and down out of a green-side bunker for a birdie on the 5th. His only mistake came with a bogey at the 8th, but the Australian countered with a birdie on the last.
'I thought the pins were tough yesterday,' said Norman. 'I think there are some tougher ones out there today. All in all I can't complain. I look forward to playing well on the weekend.'
O'Malley enjoyed a bogey-free round en route to a 68 while Pilkington had five birdies to go along with three bogeys for a round of 2-under 70.
The best round of the day belonged to Richard Lee, who had eight birdies to go along with an eagle on the par-5 2nd for a course-record 10-under 62. He broke the mark of nine-under 63 originally established by Ian Baker-Finch in 1990.
'I'm really amazed with what I've done,' said Lee. 'I thought if I got through the first nine even-par then I could get three birdies on the way back I'd make the cut.'
The 28-year-old New Zealander did much better finishing at 7-under 137 to stand alone four shots off the lead.
Australians Robert Allenby (68) and Peter Lonard (71) were joined by South African Trevor Immelman (69) and David Howell (70) of England at 6-under 138.
Adam Scott (72) of Australia is part of a group at 5-under while two-time defending champion Michael Campbell (72) of New Zealand joined England's Nick Faldo and nine others at 4-under 140.
John Daly converted an eagle on the par-5 9th, his last, to fall on the cut mark at even-par 144.
'I just hung in there and tried to do my best,' said Daly. 'That eagle was a big relief.'
One of the notables who failed to qualify for the weekend was England's Justin Rose. The 21-year-old, who earned his first European Tour victory at the Dunhill Championship two weeks ago, had two double-bogeys on the round to finish at 2-over 146.
Full-Field Scores from the Heineken Classic
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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.