Gilder Beats Irwin in Playoff
He earned the $217,500 first prize with a stress-free two-putt par at the par-5 18th. The pressure was off because Irwin, who closed with a flawless 66 to tie Gilder in regulation, made a mess of the extra hole to drop his playoff record to 0-4 on the Senior Tour.
Both players started the playoff by driving into the same bunker right of the 18th fairway. After Gilder knocked his second shot out onto a grassy slope, Irwin chose a more lofted club in order to clear the bunker lip.
But the wind caught Irwin's ball and blew it right, and he watched as it bounced high off a cart path and landed in very high grass.
It was all downhill from there for Irwin, who slid his club underneath the ball with his third shot, advancing it just a couple of feet forward. A frustrated Irwin then slashed his fourth shot out of the grass and his ball ran the full width of the fairway before diving into the water guarding the left side.
He dropped his fifth, then hit his sixth shot fairly close to the pin. Gilder played his third shot from a side hill lie onto the green and two-putted from across the putting surface to seal the win.
'Hale got a bad bounce in the playoff and got it up in the hay,' said a sympathetic Gilder. 'I had something like that happen to me in the Western Open. You hate to have that happen in a playoff.'
Irwin, the Senior Tour's all-time victory leader with 34 wins, including three in this event, posted his fourth runner-up finish of the season. He has also won twice in 2002 and remained high atop the season money list with $1,683,306. Doug Tewell is currently second in earnings with $1,235,322.
Sunday's was the first playoff in the 14-year history of the SBC Senior Open.
Irwin was five shots back of Gilder heading into the day but birdied four of the first 11 holes to tie for the lead at 10-under. Gilder, playing in the final pairing four groups behind Irwin, three-putted from 18 feet for bogey at the seventh and was one-over for the day at the turn.
Birdies at the 13th and 17th gave Irwin the clubhouse lead at 12-under 204. Gilder, who got up and down out of a bunker for birdie at the par-five 11th, drained a 15-foot birdie putt at the 16th to draw even with Irwin.
With a chance to avoid extra holes with a birdie at 18 in regulation, Gilder lipped out his 10-foot attempt.
'Best putt I hit all day,' said Gilder, who shot a final-round 71. He seized the lead with a course-record 63 in Saturday's second round.
Gilder moved to 2-0 in career playoffs. The last of his six PGA Tour victories came at the 1983 Phoenix Open after an eight-hole playoff with Johnny Miller, Mark O'Meara and Rex Caldwell.
'I feel pretty good in playoffs,' Gilder admitted. 'I guess I get lucky.'
Bruce Fleisher, a SBC Senior Open runner-up in 1999 and 2000, carded a six- under 66 to grab third place at 10-under-par 206. Australian Rodger Davis (70) finished alone in fourth at minus-nine.
Terry Mauney (71), John Mahaffey (72), Tom Wargo (72) and Dick Mast (72) shared fifth place at eight-under par. First-round leader Ted Goin (70) wound up in a five-way tie for ninth at seven-under 209.
This tournament, a fixture in the Chicago area for 12 years, was hosted for the first time this year by the Port Course at Harborside International, a links-like facility just 15 minutes from downtown. Stonebridge Country Club was the site from 1991 until 1995, followed by Kemper Lakes Golf Club from 1996 to 2001.
Full field scores from the SBC Senior Open
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
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."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
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.'"
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."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
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."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
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.