Trip Dispatch: Relax, rejuvenate in Palm Springs during the Humana Challenge

By Mike BaileyJanuary 16, 2014, 3:07 pm

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Where there was once Hope is now the Humana Challenge. Gone are most of the big name celebrities who used to play in the this event when it was the Bob Hope Classic for the better part of a half century. But the PGA Tour's Humana Challenge and the Palm Springs area, which also has the LPGA's Kraft Nabisco Championship, has moved on, perhaps much of it for the better.

Now the emphasis -- with Humana as the title sponsor, and the Bill Clinton Foundation as its partner – is health and well-being, and I can't think of a better place to find both. (The former president has been here all week in support of the tournament and his foundation.) Incredible mountain views, pure blue skies and spa resorts around every corner make this the perfect setting for rest and relaxation. And if you're like many golf fans spending the week out here for the Humana Challenge, you're going to do more than just watch, you've got to play golf as well. With more than 100 really cool courses in the area, this is golf Nirvana.

That's certainly been the case for me this week. With temperatures soaring into the 80s, the deep freeze that engulfed most of the rest of the country seems like a bad dream. My sampling this week has included courses that were once part of the Hope and some that could be. Yesterday, it was the SilverRock Resort in La Quinta, which is right next to where the Humana Challenge is taking place this week at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club.

Arnold Palmer's Classic Course at SilverRock was in the rotation for the tour event from 2008-2011, and while the PGA Tour pros ate it up, it's perfect for the golfers who live here or visit in the winter because it's not overly difficult, unless you tip it at 7,578 yards. Wide fairways and big greens make it very playable, but plenty of water and large bunkers provide challenge.

Not to be confused, another former Hope course, the Classic Club, was also on the agenda. Designed by Palmer as well, you might be surprised to find out that the Classic Club is non-profit, meaning the green fees aren't always exorbitant.

Along with the golf, of course, are the resorts, and there are no shortage of ways to relax. I've been staying this week at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa, which is next to two anything-but-typical municipal golf courses – the Players and Celebrity courses, which are owned by the city of Indian Wells. The courses, designed by John Fought and Clive Clark respectively, are simply fun, and the Celebrity Course is exceptionally stunning.

Photos: View more golf courses in the Greater Palm Springs area

The resort is everything you might expect from a Hyatt Regency and then some, including the Agave Sunset Bar, where you sample some of the best tequilas in the world, and the Agua Serena Spa, where you can get an "athletic restoration" massage treatment (translation: kneading, prodding, and stretching for those who are trying to recover from the bad shots of the day). If you’re not into that, though, no worries: Swedish massages and facials are on the menu, too.

Golf is just one form of recreation here. This is also a tennis mecca. I took a tour this week of the incredible Indian Wells Tennis Garden next door. Home of the BNP Paribas Open, which is held in March, it attracts all the top players in the world. The Tennis Garden has added a new Stadium 2, which holds 8,000 to go with Stadium 1 (16,600). Restaurants, beer gardens, giant TV screens and huge merchandising areas rival anything in professional golf.

The tour, however, was just one of the non-golf highlights of my week here. Yesterday after golf I managed to get a tennis lesson from former Davis Cup captain and player Tom Gorman over at La Quinta Resort. (Gorman and Stan Smith made tennis big-time in the Coachella Valley when they opened the La Quinta tennis center in 1980.) And there's more tennis, including grass and red clay courts -- at the Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, as well as two Ted Robinson resort courses that were recently overhauled. Again, those courses are great examples of Palm Springs area golf – perfect course conditions, spectacular scenery and golf that doesn't beat you up.

Here's more fun stuff: The Palm Springs Aerial Tram will take you from temperatures in the 80s to the top of the mountains at 8,000 feet and freezing conditions. (There's often snow on top of the mountains here in winter). Jeep excursions, hot air ballooning, hiking, biking and shopping can fill in the rest of your schedule. And there is no shortage of great restaurants and night clubs. This week, I've had the chance to sample several excellent eateries this week, including great breakfasts at the Hyatt and Marriott and dinner at the famous Wally's Desert Turtle in Rancho Mirage and 6.5 acre Jackalope Ranch in Indio for dinner. As for a nightcap, check out The Nest in Indian Wells near the Hyatt. It caters to the older, middle and younger dance crowd respectively as the night turns toward dawn.

Rahm, Koepka both jump in OWGR after wins

By Will GrayNovember 20, 2017, 1:19 pm

Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka both made moves inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings following wins in Dubai and Japan, respectively.

Rahm captured the European Tour season finale, winning the DP World Tour Championship by a shot. It was his third worldwide victory of 2017 and it allowed the Spaniard to overtake Hideki Matsuyama at world No. 4. It also establishes a new career high in the rankings for Rahm, who started the year ranked No. 137.

Koepka cruised to a nine-shot victory while successfully defending his title at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix. The victory was his first since winning the U.S. Open and it helped Koepka jump three spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings. Reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, who finished second behind Koepka in Japan, went from 30th to 24th.

After earning his maiden PGA Tour victory at the RSM Classic, Austin Cook vaulted from No. 302 to No. 144 in the world. Runner-up J.J. Spaun jumped 48 spots to No. 116, while a hole-out with his final approach helped Brian Gay rise 73 spots to No. 191 after finishing alone in third at Sea Island.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas with Rahm and Matsuyama now rounding out the top five. Justin Rose remains at No. 6, followed by Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson. Rory McIlroy slid two spots to No. 10 and is now in danger of falling out of the top 10 for the first time since May 2014.

With his return to competition now less than two weeks away, Tiger Woods fell four more spots to No. 1193 in the latest rankings.

Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

“I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

“Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

Parity reigned.

Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

Rolex Player of the Year
Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.

Vare Trophy
Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.

CME Globe $1 million prize
Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.

LPGA money-winning title
Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking
The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.

Rolex Rookie of the Year
Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

“Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

“Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

How did she evaluate her season?

“I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

“It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

“Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

“I think everybody has little ups and downs.”