Walrus Returns to Site of Past Glory

By Sports NetworkJuly 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
Champions TourENDICOTT, New York -- The Walrus walked away from the ninth green at En-Joie Golf Club midway through Thursday's pro-am, a smile creasing his tanned face as he autographed a few hats and programs.
 
Four years after he became the first member of the senior tour -- and at age 50 the fifth-oldest player -- to win a PGA TOUR event, Craig Stadler was back on the course where he shot a 9-under 63 on the final round of the 2003 B.C. Open that gave him a stunning one-shot victory.
 
'When you win, they're all special,' Stadler said, recalling his 13th and final win on the PGA TOUR. 'I played here a lot. I enjoy playing here. It's a great sportsman's town. It's a fun little golf course.'
 
After a one-year hiatus, professional golf returns to En-Joie beginning Friday with a title sponsor when the Dick's Sporting Goods Open, a new stop on the Champions Tour, gets under way.
 
And if Stadler was happy to be back, nobody was happier to see him and the other 77 players who will vie for the title and a $240,000 winner's check than Alex Alexander.
 
Alexander is the executive director of Broome County Community Charities, and the man who convinced the PGA in 1971 that this small town on New York's Southern Tier could meet the demands of a regular stop on tour.
 
'It's wonderful for the people. I've never seen as many people out here for the pro-am,' he said. 'I think the people are very happy, and if the people are happy, then I'm happy.'
 
The B.C. Open's future was placed in doubt when the PGA moved it opposite the British Open beginning in 2000, which assured it would be dominated by players at the lower reaches of the PGA money list or from the minor leagues of professional golf.
 
The quaint, small-town feel of the tournament was an anomaly on a circuit dominated by big-money corporate sponsors and network television contracts.
 
Before its demise, the B.C. Open had been staged annually at En-Joie since 1971. Named after the cartoon strip, the tournament struggled financially in one of the tour's smallest markets and never had a corporate sponsor.
 
Still, it managed to survive and raised more than $8 million for local charities before finally being eliminated after last year, a victim to the major modifications to the tour schedule that began in 2007.
 
And the final B.C. Open wasn't staged at En-Joie because of severe flooding in the region, a big disappointment for Alexander. Instead, it was moved about 90 miles to the northeast to Turning Stone Casino's Atunyote Golf Club, which so impressed the players and PGA staff that it was selected to host an event on the PGA's fall schedule beginning in September.
 
During the B.C. Open's long run, 13 players, including Jason Bohn two years ago, secured their first PGA Tour wins in the tournament. One of the first was Gil Morgan, whose triumph here 30 years ago was the first of his seven PGA wins.
 
'Being back is nice, a lot of memories,' said Morgan, who tees off late Friday morning. 'It's fitting for the Champions Tour to be here. So many of our tour played here.'
 
Morgan easily recalled that memorable day in 1977.
 
'It was an exciting tournament for me,' said the 60-year-old Morgan, who has won over $22 million in his pro career. 'I was pretty nervous down the stretch. I remember on the last hole I was just trying to hit it in the middle of the green and then two-putt. I hit it to about 25 feet and made it for a 3. It was kind of the icing on the cake.'
 
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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.