Another shot at redemption for Furyk

By Will GraySeptember 15, 2013, 12:01 am

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – A BMW Championship win won’t erase Jim Furyk's disappointment of last month’s PGA Championship. Nor is it likely to heal the pain of being left off next month’s Presidents Cup squad, or even his Ryder Cup disappointment at nearby Medinah a year ago.

Still, winning a PGA Tour event matters. It matters a bit more in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and its magnitude is further amplified for a player who has so often been in position to claim victory, but has come up empty since the 2010 Tour Championship.

For a man with a U.S. Open trophy and a FedEx Cup title under his belt, Furyk, who takes a one-stroke lead into Sunday's final round at Conway Farms, has been largely defined across the past two years by the tournaments that have slipped through his fingers. A playoff loss in Tampa, a costly double bogey on the 72nd hole at Firestone. A snap-hooked tee shot at Olympic, and a front-row seat for Jason Dufner’s final-round clinic at Oak Hill.

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A win Sunday would at least make up for some of that frustration.

“There’s always pressure to win,” Furyk said after shooting a 2-under 69 in Saturday’s third round. “I’m going to put pressure on myself because I expect myself to play well, and I expect more of myself than anyone else.”

Furyk admitted that the pressure he feels has been ratcheted up in recent years with his string of close calls, and will be an obstacle to overcome during the final round.

“It’s been three years. No one has to remind me,” he noted, referencing his most recent victory that also earned him the season-long FedEx Cup title in 2010. “That’ll be part of the mental game and the mental aspect of it tomorrow, to go out there and stay in the moment and just play golf and not really worry about it.”

Furyk can derive strength from the mental battle he won Saturday, successfully backing up his record-tying 59 with a round that allowed his name to remain atop the leaderboard in Chicago. Nevertheless, the bigger of the two challenges still lies ahead.

“Following a 59 is a breeze, man. How upset are you going to get today?” he added. “I think winning a golf tournament is obviously the tougher one.”

Should Furyk make his way into the winner’s circle Sunday, he’ll have to go through another 40-something, one who has continued to surprise even himself all season long.

“I really had no expectations,” Steve Stricker said of the approach he took entering his notably abbreviated 2013 campaign. “Really didn’t plan on playing much in the playoffs.”

Plans for vacations and elk hunting, though, can be ruined by a seemingly endless string of upper-echelon golf. After a runner-up finish at TPC Boston that earned the 46-year-old a spot on Fred Couples’ squad at Muirfield Village next month, Stricker has picked up right where he left off, standing one shot behind Furyk at Conway Farms.

“I’ve got a good balance in my life. I’m happy with what I’m doing,” noted Stricker, who appears destined for his seventh top-10 finish in just 12 starts this year after posting a Saturday 64.

Though he remains without a victory in 2013, Stricker’s season has been by most accounts an unbridled success. He is now projected to move to fourth in the overall FedEx Cup standings, and could climb further still with a victory.

“I won’t pay attention to that part so much as trying to win the tournament,” he said, eschewing, as many players have, the notion of constant number-crunching of projected FedEx Cup points. “I’m going to be paying attention to tomorrow, and then all that other stuff kind of takes care of itself.”

Still very much in contention is a man who knows a little something about FedEx Cup math – Brandt Snedeker. Last season’s overall champion struggled somewhat on the greens Saturday, taking 29 putts en route to an even-par 71 after needing just 48 to complete the first 36 holes. Still, at 11 under and just two shots behind Furyk’s lead, the 32-year-old will try for his third victory of the 2013 season, as he looks to further position himself for a second consecutive season-long crown.

“You’re going to have a bad day,” noted Snedeker. “To be able to survive today the way I did gives me a lot of confidence going into tomorrow.”

Lurking, of course, is world No. 1 Tiger Woods, who continues to attempt to rebound from Friday’s still-controversial two-shot penalty. His 5-under 66 Saturday was his second such score this week at Conway Farms, and should he replicate – or even surpass – that total during the final round, he may leave Chicago with his sixth trophy of the season, one that would undoubtedly relieve some potential headaches that could arise from PGA Tour officials should Woods ultimately finish one or two shots short.

Though several players enter Sunday’s final round with trophy in sight, the heat of the spotlight remains on Furyk in his quest to stem a string of near-misses with a single victory that will allow him to head toward the 2013-14 season with hard-earned momentum.

He acknowledged Saturday evening that the round of golf he has yet to play will be a difficult one.

“It’s been awhile. I’m going to put pressure on myself,” he admitted. “That will be the struggle.”

The first step toward redemption always is.

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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.