Bae builds confidence with season-opening win

By Will GrayOctober 13, 2014, 2:13 am

NAPA, Calif. – While his coronation hit a bit of a snag down the stretch, the end result is still the same: Sang-Moon Bae is a winner again on the PGA Tour.

Beginning the day with a four-shot lead, Bae held on to win the Open by two shots over Steven Bowditch.

After going 36 starts without so much as a top-10 finish since his maiden victory, the South Korean broke out of his slump in a big way at Silverado Resort & Spa, amassing a six-shot advantage at one point during the final round before hanging on to claim the trophy on a blustery day in wine country.

“The course wasn’t easy. The greens were so fast,” Bae said. “I know how well I did this week. I hit the ball really solid and (I’m) swinging really good, so I’m very happy and still excited.”

Halfway through the final round, the 28-year-old appeared to be on cruise control. After a birdie on the par-5 ninth hole, he made the turn in 1 under, stretching his lead from four shots to five. That advantage grew to six after 12 holes before Bae began to leak a little oil – a result that he attributed to checking the standings.

“I didn’t want to look at the scoreboard, but I did. I looked a lot,” he said. “That’s why I made a lot of bogeys on the back nine.”

Those bogeys began with a short miss on the par-3 11th, then Bae hit errant drives on Nos. 13 and 14 that led to two more bogeys. What had appeared to be an easy stroll to the winner’s circle turned into anything but, as his lead quickly shrank to two shots heading into the final four holes at Silverado.

“I think I was a little nervous, (lost) a little focus, too,” he said. “I don’t know why.” Open: Articles, videos and photos

After a par on No. 15, the turning point of Bae’s round came at No. 16 for the second straight day. As he did in the third round, Bae got up and down to save par, which maintained his two-shot advantage and allowed him to secure the win with two closing pars.

“I think it was the hardest chip shot today,” Bae said of the shot from behind the green that he played to three feet. “If I made bogey (on) that hole, I think I lose focus (on the) next hole.”

The win moves Bae into select company with K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang as the only Korean-born players to win multiple times on the PGA Tour. It’s a rapid turnaround for a player who two months ago needed a T-14 finish at the Wyndham Championship to sneak into the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Bae didn’t think a win was on the horizon when he set foot onto the course this week, having missed the cut in his most recent competitive start at The Barclays nearly two months ago.

“My goal was top 10,” he said.

Bae led the field this week in strokes gained tee to green, and he finished fourth among the field in proximity to the hole. Despite the bobble down the stretch, Bae’s overall performance at Silverado made him a deserved winner, and it was one that Retief Goosen saw coming after playing with Bae for the first two rounds.

“He hit the ball very well, and his putter was red hot,” said Goosen, who tied for third. “I knew he was going to be tough to catch this weekend the way he was striking it. He’s not really going to make many mistakes.”

Bae’s win also puts him into the early mix for a spot on the International squad at the Presidents Cup, as the event heads to South Korea for the first time in October 2015.

“I think it’s important to me because it’s in Korea next year. It really means a lot,” said Bae, who added that a spot in the 2016 Olympics remains another goal. “There’s a lot of good golfers in Korea, but I’m really working hard. I really want to play Presidents Cup next year.”

While his maiden win at the 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship failed to serve as a launching pad to bigger and better things, Bae believes that his game was still solid last season – the results were simply lacking.

With that game once again carrying him to the winner’s circle, he insists this victory will serve as the building block that many expected after his win at TPC Four Seasons – even if he had to work a little harder than expected.

“The first one was hard, but the second one was more difficult,” he said. “But now that I’ve got the second one, I think third and fourth will come easy since I have the confidence.”

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.