Sowards Sews Up Club Pro

By Sports NetworkJune 27, 2004, 4:00 pm
PGA of AmericaNASHPORT, Ohio -- Bob Sowards made up eight shots on the front side as leader Jeff Coston unraveled, coasting to a one-stroke victory Sunday in the 37th PGA Club Professional Championship.
Sowards, a 36-year-old assistant pro at Wedgwood Golf and Country Club in suburban Columbus, started the day two strokes back of Coston, who led after the second and third rounds. Sowards built his own lead to five shots midway through the round.
Sowards shot a closing 70 after rounds of 69, 68 and 69 to hold off University of Illinois coach Mike Small by a shot. Small finished with a 69 that included consecutive birdies on holes 13 through 16.
Chip Sullivan of Roanoke, Va., shot a 70 to finish at 280 for third place. Coston tied Tim Fleming of Oklahoma City (70), and Ron Philo Jr. of Fernandina Beach, Fla., (68) for fourth place.
Sowards built his entire schedule around winning the title. He had played Longaberger Golf Club 22 or 23 times before tournament week to gain all the knowledge he would need.
'At the time I had a five-shot lead I thought, man, this is going to be kind of nice - kind of walk up 18 and smile for the cameras,' Sowards said. 'Then Mike started making birdie every hole and made it a little stressful.'
He and his wife, Lynn, are building a house near Columbus, about 40 miles west of Nashport. Sowards said visiting the construction site has served as motivation to win the $60,000 first-place check.
'Every time I drove over there this week, it was like 'Shoot, I need to pay for it somehow,'' he said with a laugh.
Coston, a 48-year-old teaching pro at Semiahmoo Golf Resort in Blaine, Wash., shot a 40 on the front side - and then was assessed a two-stroke penalty. After he bogeyed the par-3 ninth hole, Coston was penalized because his caddie, Dr. Mark Askew, moved a towel covering Sowards' clubs to determine what Sowards had used on the ninth tee.
'Keep the razor blades away from me,' Coston said, trying to force a smile. 'I'm going to have somebody drive me home, man, because if I don't I might not make it.'
The penalty cost Coston $7,500. His final-round 77 left him tied for fourth. Without the two-stroke assessment, he would have finished alone in third.
The top 25 finishers earned spots in next month's PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis.
Sowards was 1-over on the first five holes and a shot back of Coston, then birdied the next three holes. His 7-foot uphill putt at No. 6 tied him with Coston.
At the par-5 seventh, Sowards' chip from just short of the green banged off the flag and came to rest on the lip of the cup. His tap-in gave him his first lead.
At the 444-yard eighth, Coston's approach bounced into a back trap and he failed to get up and down while Sowards' wedge shot ended up 5 feet away for the birdie that gave him a three-stroke lead.
Sowards saved par on No. 9 after nearly hitting into a pond in front of the green and Coston, still just two strokes behind, had to settle for a bogey that turned into a triple bogey when the penalty was assessed.
Small's birdie run made things interesting at the finish. He lipped out a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that would have tied it. Both he and Sowards hit their approaches to the back fringe on the closing hole and both saved par.
'I struggled the first seven holes and hardly hit any good shots. I thought I was out of it,' Small said. 'Then I made the four birdies in a row to get back in it. I thought I made the putt on 17.'
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - PGA Club Pro Championship
  • Full Coverage - PGA Club Pro Championship
  • Getty Images

    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."

    Getty Images

    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."

    Getty Images

    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."

    Getty Images

    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.