Kerr Alone in Lead at Long Drugs Challenge
Mi Hyun Kim survived the windy conditions to shoot a 69 -- the only sub-70 round posted on Friday. The diminutive Korean finished tied for second at four-under 140 with Jane Crafter of Australia, who shot 71.
Juli Inkster, the winner here in 1999 and 2000, birdied three holes on the back nine for a 70 that lifted her into fourth place at minus-two.
On a tough day made even more difficult by tricky pin positions, Kerr hit 16 of 18 greens but took 34 putts, eight more than she needed in her opening 66.
'I hit a couple par-fives in two but had some three-putts for par, that's the only change I could have made to improve,' said Kerr. 'It was tough today, really windy, a lot of in between clubs, but I hit really good shots.'
Kerr birdied her first and last holes of the day, both after nine-irons to about four feet. Her two bogeys came on par-threes on her inward nine.
Kerr, 24, is still without a victory in six years on the LPGA Tour. She has racked up 19 top-10 finishes during her career, including a pair of third- place showings this year.
'I've been in this position a number of times, and in the recent past I haven't been as comfortable,' she admitted. 'I want to be one of the top players, if not the top player. You have to be comfortable out there, and at peace with yourself.'
Kim, the 1999 LPGA Rookie of the Year, was one-under for the day with three birdies and two bogeys through 14 holes. She closed with two birdies over her last four holes, the first set up by a seven-wood to 20 feet at the 15th and the next with a six-iron to 12 feet at the 18th.
'Most of the front nine was very windy, but not so much on the back nine,' said Kim, 25. 'No changes tomorrow, just play the same and hope for less wind.'
The 46-year-old Crafter, who has one win on the LPGA Tour and three others in Australia, bogeyed her first two holes but bounced back with a 35-foot birdie putt at the third and a six-footer at the fourth.
She slipped back over par at the par-three eighth when her 11-wood tee shot found a bunker and she failed to get up and down to save par. She negated the bogey with a wedge to three feet for birdie at the 12th, then broke into red figures by holing a 20-foot birdie putt at the 14th.
First-round co-leader Sara Sanders struggled to a five-over 77 in her second trip around Twelve Bridges. She fell into a tie for fifth place at one-under 143 with Julie Piers, Mhairi McKay, Heather Bowie and defending champion Se Ri Pak.
'Everything is fine, except my putting,' said Pak, who captured the 14th LPGA title of her career two weeks ago in Los Angeles. 'I still have two days left. I just have to be a little more aggressive now.'
The 36-hole cut came at seven-over 151 and included 74 players.
Full field scores from the Longs Drugs Challenge
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.