Five Share Lead at North West of Ireland Open

By Sports NetworkAugust 15, 2002, 4:00 pm
INISHOWEN, Ireland - Costantino Rocca posted a 1-under-par 71 Thursday to join Anders Forsbrand, Jesus Maria Arruti, Allan Hogh and Massimo Florioli atop the leaderboard of the North West of Ireland Open at Ballyliffin Golf Club.
 
High winds gusted and rain greeted the players with early tee times Thursday before eventually dying down throughout the round.
 
Rocca was one of the early players out and managed a 1-under 36 on his first nine, the back nine at Ballyliffin. It was the start of the second nine that moved Rocca up the leaderboard.

The Italian birdied three holes in a row, starting at No. 2, to reach 4-under par and take sole possession of the lead. Rocca stumbled into the clubhouse with three bogeys over his last four holes but still had a piece of the first-round lead.
 
'Some holes were very hard,' said Rocca, who won the inaugural North West of Ireland Open at Galway Bay in 1999. 'When you play a 120-yard 5-iron and have to hit the ball very low, it is very difficult. You just have to try to keep your timing and keep the ball in the right place.'
 
Forsbrand, who owns two top-10s in 2002, mixed four birdies and three bogeys Thursday to join Rocca and others at minus-1. The 41-year-old from Sweden was not complaining because conditions coupled with the difficulty of the course made 71 a good start.
 
'It was tough,' said Forsbrand. 'When I hit bad shots I got decent lies and managed to hole a few putts. If you stay away from bogeys you can do well.
 
'It is a course where you will make at least a couple of birdies but when it is that windy it is hard. Every hole is hard out there. There is not one let up. It is a great golf course but it is hard. And when it blows like that it is tough. You need to play well and get lucky.'
 
Hogh, who won the last two Danish Amateur Stroke Play Championships, flew out of the gate Thursday with a 40-foot chip-in birdie at his second hole, the 11th. He birdied the next hole and collected two birdies and three bogeys the rest of the way for a share of the opening-round lead in only his second start on the European Tour.
 
Arruti recovered from a double-bogey at his sixth with five birdies over his next 10 holes. He held the outright lead but bogeyed his 18th, the ninth, after landing in a bunker.
 
Florioli also had first place to himself with one to play but dropped a shot at his final hole, also No. 9, and settled for a tie for first.
 
England's Mark Sanders, Sweden's Pehr Magnebrant, Ireland's Damien McGrane and Niels Kraaij of Holland share sixth place at even-par 72. Titch Moore is alone in 10th place at 1-over 73.
 
Full-field scores from the North West of Ireland Open
 

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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.