Singh Four Others Tied in Hawaii

By Sports NetworkJanuary 4, 2007, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Vijay Singh, K.J. Choi, Will MacKenzie, Players Championship winner Stephen Ames and American Ryder Cupper Brett Wetterich all posted rounds of 4-under-par 69 on Thursday to share the first-round lead of the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship.
 
This event is reserved for winners from last year's official PGA TOUR schedule with 34 players teeing it up at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort. Only two players who hoisted trophies last year did not play this week - major winners Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
 
Thursday's opening round also marked the first round of the inaugural season-long FedExCup, which culminates with a $10 million first-place prize later this season at the TOUR Championship.
 
Jim Furyk
Kapalua resident and world No. 2 Jim Furyk opened two shots off the lead.
During Thursday's first round, winds gusted close to 30 miles per hour and altered several shots. There were periodic bouts of rain, but the wind is what the players were talking about after the round.
 
'It's hard when you hit a 9-iron from 200 yards and turn around and hit 9-iron from 100 yards,' said Davis Love III, who is alone in sixth place at 3-under-par 70.
 
Singh, whose only win last year came at the Barclays Classic, flew out of the gate on Thursday with a pair of birdies at one and two. He narrowly missed an eagle chance at the fifth, but tapped in for birdie to reach 3-under par.
 
The former world No. 1 dropped a shot at the seventh and made pars around the turn. Singh hit a 408-yard drive at 12 and reached the green, but two-putted for a birdie.
 
Singh bogeyed 13, but took advantage of his length again at the 14th and kicked in a short birdie putt. He joined the group at 4-under par with a 4-foot birdie putt at the 15th.
 
Singh found a few bunkers on the way into the clubhouse and never gave himself a great look at birdie. He settled for a share of the first-round lead.
 
'I know the golf course pretty well, but this wind was something else,' said Singh. 'I just went out there with a very positive vibe and said I've got to hit solid shots, and that was my objective today.'
 
Choi, who got into the field thanks to a win last year at the Chrysler Championship, got off on the wrong foot with a bogey at the third when his approach sailed over the green.
 
That would be Choi's last mistake of the front nine as he went on a birdie run. He two-putted for birdie at the par-5, then rolled in a 10-footer for birdie at seven. Choi knocked his tee ball to tap-in range for birdie at eight and polished off three in a row with a 2-footer at nine.
 
Choi appeared headed to a fourth birdie in a row at the 10th, but his birdie putt from 10 feet flew 4 feet past thanks to the wind. He missed the comeback putt, but atoned for the error with a 3-foot birdie putt at the driveable, par-4 12th.
 
Choi closed his round at 18 with a birdie when he missed the green with his second at the par-5 hole, but chipped to 3 feet with his third.
 
'As far as my swing, everything was feeling good, stroke was good, windy conditions were definitely prevailing,' said Choi. 'However, it's a very important day for the FedExCup in 2007 and I'm glad I finished the first round real well.'
 
MacKenzie, last year's winner in Reno, tallied two birdies in his first five holes, but bogeyed No. 8. At the par-five ninth, MacKenzie hit his third shot right of the hole, then watched the ball spin into the cup for an eagle.
 
He three-putted from 42 feet for a bogey at the 13th, but back-to-back birdies from the 15th got him into a share for the lead.
 
'I hit the ball really well out there for the most part, and I putted well, as well, so it was a good combination,' said MacKenzie.
 
Ames, in one of Thursday's later groups, played the first 13 holes in one- under par, thanks to a pair of birdies a one bogey. He birdied No. 14 to get to minus-two, then it was his strong finish that moved him up the leaderboard.
 
At the difficult, par-4 17th, Ames drained a 20-foot birdie putt to get within one of the lead. One hole later, his 24-foot birdie try found the bottom of the cup and suddenly the Players Champion found himself tied atop the leaderboard.
 
'Today was a tough day,' acknowledged Ames, who also won The Skins Game in the offseason. 'Coming out here, after time off, I'm quite pleased.'
 
Wetterich notched an eagle, two birdies and three bogeys to reach the 11th tee one-under par. He birdied 14 and 15, then nearly holed a 40-foot eagle try at the last before settling for birdie.
 
'I can't remember the last time I played in wind like this,' admitted Wetterich. 'It was really tough. I'm going to keep playing hard and see what happens.'
 
Jim Furyk, the 2001 winner, Chris Couch, Rory Sabbatini and 2006 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Trevor Immelman are knotted in seventh place at 2-under-par 71.
 
Three-time defending champion Stuart Appleby is tied for 13th place at even-par 73.

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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.