Johnson Gets the Call at BellSouth

By Sports NetworkApril 4, 2004, 4:00 pm
DULUTH, Ga. -- Zach Johnson overcame a roller-coaster back nine on Sunday and hung on to pick up his first career victory at the BellSouth Classic.
Johnson managed an even-par 72 in the final round and finished the tournament at 13-under-par 275 to become the third player in tournament history to make this tournament their first win on the PGA Tour.
Johnson held a one-shot lead over Mark Hensby at the par-5 closing hole at the TPC at Sugarloaf. Johnson went for position with his first two shots, then knocked his third 25 feet over the hole. His birdie try dove hard to the left and now he needed to make his 3-foot par save to avoid a playoff and visit the winner's circle.
He ran the putt home, hugged his wife and choked back tears.
'It feels great,' said Johnson, who pocketed $810,000 for the win. 'I hope there's many more to come.'
Hensby nearly eagled the 72nd hole but settled for birdie and a round of 5-under 67. He came in at 12-under-par 276, while Scott Hend, who made his first cut on tour this week, took third place at minus-11 after a final-round 71.
Saturday's round featured ideal scoring conditions with little wind and warmer temperatures. On Sunday the winds were howling and at points, reached 30 miles per hour.
Johnson, who joined Todd Hamilton as the only tour rookies to win this season, began the round with a three-shot lead over Hend and Padraig Harrington, who played with Johnson in Sunday's final pairing at the TPC at Sugarloaf.
Johnson, despite a double bogey at the par-5 fourth, birdied three of his last four on the front side to make the turn with a three-shot lead over Hensby. Johnson reached the par-5 10th green in two and two-putted for birdie from 40 feet. Hensby missed a three-footer for par at the 12th and suddenly Johnson's margin was five.
Things fell apart quickly for Johnson.
At the par-3 11th, Johnson's approach came up 40 feet short of the flag. His birdie try was about five feet from getting to the hole and his par putt lipped out of the hole, giving him a bogey and dropping his lead to four.
Hensby sank a 3-footer for birdie at the reachable, par-4 13th, but Johnson dropped another shot to par at 12 and the edge was only two.
Johnson rebounded at 13 with a short birdie putt and Hensby made a mess of No. 15. His third went 30 feet long and he two-putted for a bogey to once again give Johnson a four-stroke lead over Hensby.
But Johnson would give some more strokes back to Hensby. Johnson hit a poor approach at the 14th that came up short of the putting surface. He chipped 12 feet behind the hole but the wind brought it back to 6 feet, but Johnson missed the putt to fall to 13 under par.
At the 15th, Johnson drove into the hay on the left side, then hit his second into a bunker on the left. His blast from the trap stayed on the fringe and his par-saving putt raced 3 feet past the hole.
Hensby was in the fairway at 18 and only two back. He looked disgusted after he hit his second from 220 yards out because he thought it was headed for the water. Instead, the ball stopped 40 feet right of the hole. Hensby needed an eagle to tie but the ball skirted over the right side of the cup. He tapped in for birdie and waited to see if Johnson would stumble on his way home.
Johnson played smart golf at 16 and 17, playing for the center of the greens. He two-putted for par at both holes, then took a 3-wood off the tee at No. 18. Johnson found the fairway and laid up with his second. His third landed 25 feet from the hole and briefly looked like it could roll into the water.
The ball stopped and Johnson two-putted for par and victory No. 1.
'It was a little scary,' said Johnson, last year's Nationwide Tour Player of the Year. 'I didn't hit that many bad shots. I putted very well all week. Fortunately it went my way.'
Hensby came close but still earned his best finish on the PGA Tour.
'Yesterday, I played really well. I shot 66 and missed one green and hit every fairway,' said Hensby. 'I felt pretty comfortable coming into today. The way I finished was great.'
Harrington had a wild round on Sunday. On his front nine, the Irishman collected an eagle, two birdies, two pars, two bogeys and two double bogeys for a 2-over 38. He came back with three birdies in a row from the 11th but bogeyed the 16th for a round of even-par 72. That was good for solo fourth at minus-10.
Peter Lonard shot a 71 on Sunday and took fifth, followed by two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen (71) and 2003 BellSouth Classic winner Ben Crane (73). That duo was knotted at 7-under-par 281.
Luke Donald (69) and Stewart Cink (71) tied for ninth at minus-7 and Phil Mickelson posted a 1-under 71 to take 10th at 5-under-par 283. That was Mickelson's seventh top-10 in eight starts and with the $121,500 check for 10th, he moved to first on the tour's money list.
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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.