Irwin Finally Back in Winners Circle

By Sports NetworkJanuary 21, 2007, 5:00 pm
MasterCard ChampionshipKA'UPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii -- Hale Irwin did not win a single event in 2006, a first in a season since he made his Champions Tour debut way back in 1995.
 
It took exactly one tournament in 2007 to restart the streak.
 
Irwin fired a 7-under 65 on Sunday to cruise to a five-shot victory at the MasterCard Championship at Hualalai. He finished at 23-under-par 193 for his 45th victory on the Champions Tour.
 
'It's great to be back,' acknowledged Irwin, who pocketed $290,000 for the win. 'Just to get back into the winner's column again and be a noticeable factor at this stage of my career is very satisfying. I'm very proud of what I accomplished this week.'
 
Jim Thorpe shot a 6-under 66 on Sunday to join Tom Kite, who posted a 5- under 67 in the final round, in second place at 18-under-par 198 at Hualalai Golf Club.
 
Loren Roberts, who fired a 61 in the final round last year to come from behind and win, had no such magic in him this year. He did manage a 5-under 67 on Sunday and took fourth place at minus-17.
 
Despite some light pressure on Sunday, this day belonged to Irwin.
 
He began the final round with a three-shot lead and extended quickly when he sank a 7-foot birdie putt at the first. Irwin birdied the third from 18 feet, then made it two in a row with a tap-in at the par-5 fourth.
 
Irwin's lead fell back to three as Roberts closed the gap. Irwin rolled in a 10-footer for birdie at seven, but his 4-footer for birdie at the 10th once again gave him a three-shot cushion.
 
When Roberts birdied the 11th, the lead was two, but when Roberts missed an 8-footer for par at 13, Irwin reclaimed his overnight margin. That would be the closest anyone got to Irwin.
 
At the par-5 14th, Irwin came up short of the green with his second shot, but pitched to 10 feet. He converted that birdie putt and drained an 8-footer for birdie at the 15th to move five clear.
 
Irwin did not force anything and came up 25 feet short with his approach at 16. He lagged his putt close to the hole and tapped in for a routine par.
 
Irwin had the same idea at the par-3 17th when his tee ball landed 22 feet from the stick. This time, Irwin ran home the birdie putt to walk to the closing hole with an insurmountable, six-shot lead.
 
He drove into the left rough at the last, but knocked his approach to 24 feet. A birdie at the last would have matched Roberts' tournament record of 191, but Irwin ran his birdie putt about two feet past the cup. Irwin's par putt lipped out of the hole, but all that meant was Irwin's huge victory would be five, not six.
 
'I didn't look at the board all day,' admitted Irwin. 'I don't pay any attention to it. It's an aberration here. I just had a great putting week and that's what you have to do around Hualalai.'
 
Jay Haas (66) and first-round leader Brad Bryant (70) tied for fifth place at 15-under-par 201. D.A. Weibring and Tom Jenkins both shot rounds of 5-under 67 and shared seventh place at minus-14.
 
Eduardo Romero (68), Tom Watson (68), Jerry Pate (70) and Allen Doyle (70) tied for ninth place at 13-under-par 203.
 
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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.