Leaders Swept Away Johnson Now in Command

By Sports NetworkApril 2, 2004, 5:00 pm
DULUTH, Ga. -- Zach Johnson fired a 6-under 66 on Friday to take the lead midway through the BellSouth Classic. He stands at 9-under-par 135 and owns a two-stroke lead at the TPC at Sugarloaf.
Defending champion Ben Crane (69), Craig Bowden (71) and Tim Petrovic (70) share second place at 7-under-par 137. Scott Hend carded a 6-under 66 and is tied with Brian Gay, who shot a 2-under 70 on Friday. That duo is knotted at minus-six.
For the second consecutive day, heavy winds and cool temperatures greeted the players in the final tune-up for next week's first major of the season, The Masters.
Johnson, the Nationwide Tour Player of the Year in 2003, who had a late tee time on Friday, traded a birdie for a bogey on his first nine, the back side at Sugarloaf. He ran home a 25-foot eagle putt at the closing hole to reach 5 under par for the championship.
He parred his first three holes on his second nine, but leapt up the leaderboard with his play, starting at the fourth. Johnson had a severe sidehill lie at the par-5 hole but knocked his third to inches for the tap-in birdie.
Johnson collected another birdie at the fifth when he sank a 7-footer. He made it three in a row at No. 6 with a 10-footer and now the Nationwide Tour alumnus was alone in first at minus-8.
Johnson birdied the par-4 ninth to grab a two-shot lead heading into the weekend, his first on the PGA Tour.
'I'm just going to try to keep doing what I'm doing,' said Johnson. 'One of my goals this year on the tour was to get comfortable out here like I was last year. I feel like I am now.'
Bowden opened on the back nine Friday and immediately went into red figures. He hit a pitching-wedge 25 feet past the hole and sank the birdie putt, but trouble loomed four holes later. At the 14th, Bowden hit his approach to the short right portion of the green and three-putted for bogey.
Bowden, a 35-year-old from Indiana, nearly holed out his 5-iron from the fairway at the 17th. Instead he kicked in his short birdie putt to make the turn at 1-under 35.
At the fourth, Bowden knocked his birdie try three feet past the hole and missed the comeback putt for another bogey. He made up for it at the next hole when he roped a 4-iron 6 feet short of the hole and cashed in on the birdie try.
'It's been a tough two days so far,' said Bowden. 'I'm obviously very pleased with the way I'm sitting, but, you know, it's just it's a good golf course and it's a hard golf course.
'The wind is swirling big time. It's tough to pick a club and then commit to it because there's a few holes out here that you can have a train wreck on.'
Bowden, a winner on the Nationwide Tour last year, is one of those players who is not gearing up his game for Augusta next week. He is not in the field next week for The Masters, but wants win No. 1 at Sugarloaf.
'It's still a golf tournament to me,' said Bowden, whose best finish on tour this year was a tie for 13th at the Honda Classic. 'I don't care who is playing in the field. They are paying $800,000 this week. If I'm the only guy that shows up, that's my fortune.'
Petrovic was 3 under on his round when he made it to the 18th, his ninth of the round. At the par-5 hole, he horribly missed a par putt and instead of taking advantage of the par-5 he left with bogey to fall to minus-7.
Petrovic missed another par putt at the first, from about 2 feet and that left the Massachusetts native stunned.
'Now I'm thinking, what is going on here? It's like a conspiracy.'
Petrovic rallied with back-to-back birdies at 5 and 6, but the wheels came off again.
He bogeyed the seventh, then three-putted from 50-feet for his second consecutive bogey. Petrovic birdied the final hole to polish off his round of 70.
'I was grinding a little bit,' admitted Petrovic. 'I was kind of wearing myself, giving myself a tough time inside. I just have to go out and do my business and play my own game.'
Crane tallied two bogeys in his first three holes but collected five birdies the rest of the way for his share of second place.
Reigning PGA Champion Shaun Micheel (72) and Europe's top-ranked golfer Padraig Harrington (69) share seventh place at 5-under-par 139.
The two co-leaders after Thursday's opening round did not fare well on Friday. Jose Maria Olazabal posted a 5-over 77 and is part of a group in 17th at 2-under-par 142, while Roger Tambellini carded a 78 and is tied for 25th at minus-1.
Phil Mickelson shot an even-par 72 and shares 13th at 3-under-par 141.
The 36-hole cut fell at 1-over-par 145 and among the notable players who will miss the weekend are Matt Kuchar (147), U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton (148) and David Toms (155).
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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.'"

    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."

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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.