Fleisher Nelson Share Top Spot

By Sports NetworkSeptember 26, 2003, 4:00 pm
CONOVER, N.C. -- Bruce Fleisher and Larry Nelson posted matching rounds of 8-under-par 64 Friday to share the lead after the opening round of the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn. Bob Gilder is one stoke further back at minus-7.
Champions Tour rookie Craig Stadler notched a 6-under-par 66. He shares fourth place with Tom Jenkins and James Mason.
Fleisher opened with a birdie at the first on the Jones Course at Rock Barn Golf Club and Spa. He birdied both front-nine par-5s, Nos. 4 and 7 to move to minus-3.
Around the turn, the Verizon Classic winner stumbled to a three-putt bogey at the 10th. He came right back to sink a 20-footer for birdie at the next to atone for that mistake.
Fleisher caught fire from there. He rolled in a birdie putt at the par-4 13th and followed with kick-in birdie at No. 14. Fleisher made it three straight when he birdied the 15th after dropping an 8-iron within two feet.
The 54-year-old continued his roll on No. 16 when he sank a birdie putt. Fleisher capped a remarkable run of five straight birdies when he made a 10-footer for birdie on the 17th.
'What is it about North Carolina? If I knew I would write a book and I'd sell it for a fortune,' said Fleisher, who has won four straight years in the state of North Carolina. 'I just like the surroundings.'
Fleisher, who was paired with Nelson and Stadler, used the strong play in the group to keep him going.
'We all played off each other out there,' said Fleisher. 'It would have been nice to birdie the last hole. Nelson is playing very good golf and he is confident.'
Nelson, like Fleisher, opened with a birdie on the first. He later sank back-to-back birdies from the fourth to climb to 3-under. However, he faltered to a bogey on the seventh but came right back to birdie the eighth to make the turn at minus-3.
On the back side, Nelson made a six-foot birdie on the 12th and made it two straight with a birdie on No. 13.
Nelson, who won the Constellation Energy Classic earlier this season, then holed a lob-wedge from 80 yards out for eagle at the 14th to get to 7-under. He finished his hot streak with a birdie at No. 15 to grab a share of the lead.
'I wanted to shoot 63 very badly,' said Nelson, who missed a short birdie try on the 18th. 'Seeing guys at 5-under early helped the guys who were playing later. We said, `Well, maybe we can go low here.''
Nelson, who has won 17 times in six years on the Champions Tour, knows this may be one of his last chances to win.
'You don't know when age is going to come and catch up with you, but I feel as good right now as I've felt ever since I've been out there,' said Nelson. 'I've always played fairly well when I've been healthy and right now I feel pretty good.'
Dana Quigley, starting his 229th consecutive event for which he's been eligible on the Champions Tour, carded a 5-under-par 67. He is joined in seventh place by Gil Morgan, Doug Tewell, Jim Thorpe and Jay Sigel, who played his college golf at nearby Wake Forest.
Bobby Wadkins and his brother, Lanny, lead a group of seven players at 4-under-par 68.

Related Links:
  • Greater Hickory Classic Leaderboard
  • Full Coverage - Greater Hickory Classic
  • 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.