Winsday Hot List: Golf and gossip

By Win McMurryJanuary 30, 2013, 6:00 pm

Four tournaments into the 2013 season and we’ve already seen the golf world swirling with a wind-shortened tournament, a rookie triumph, a playoff victory, and the reminder of Tiger Woods’ dominance at Torrey Pines. There have been rumors and mumbo jumbo, induced by everything from politics to women. We’ve rounded-up the hottest topics and discarded the junk as the Tour heads to the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

1. For the love of the game: The year opened with romance gossip on Tour regarding Dustin Johnson and Wayne Gretzky’s daughter, Paulina. Now attention has turned back to Tiger’s love life. It was reported he was trying to make things work again with ex-wife Elin Nordegren, to the tune of a $350 million pre-nup and anti-cheating clause, but then news broke last week about a budding relationship with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn.


2. Alternatives to long putters: At the PGA Merchandise Show this past week, TaylorMade’s Frank Firman confirmed that the sales of the long and belly putters that accounted for 12-to-15 percent of putter sales during 2012 fell to about 3 percent in December in the aftermath of the November 28th proposed anchoring ban. TaylorMade is no longer manufacturing new long putters and has decided to introduce alternative models, like the Daddy Long Legs that conforms. Other companies like Odyssey and Ping are doing the same.


Winged Foot

3. Winged Foot: Phil Mickelson will have another shot at the U.S. Open that slipped through his hands in 2006, but not for seven more years. The 2020 U.S. Open will be contested at Winged Foot, the A.W. Tillinghast design in Westchester, making the upcoming rotation Merion (2013), Pinehurst No. 2 (2014), Chambers Bay (2015), Oakmont (2016), Erin Hills (2017), Shinnecock Hills (2018), Pebble Beach (2019), and then Winged Foot.


4. Tiger: Woods picked up his first victory of the season, seventh Farmers Insurance Open title, and eighth victory at Torrey Pines (including his 2008 U.S. Open playoff win) Monday. Lesson to be learned here: You can pencil Tiger in as the victor when he’s playing where he’s most comfortable (Bay Hill, Muirfield Village, etc.).


5. LPGA’s global reach: The new biennial match-play competition, the International Crown, was unveiled at last week’s PGA Show. It will kick off next year and will feature eight countries which can compile the strongest four-player teams determined by world rankings. It showcases the global nature of women’s golf, yet will be contested in the United States. Not everyone wins; a select few top players like Suzann Pettersen would not be eligible because their countries do not have enough teammates eligible to compete.


Steve Stricker at the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions

6. Stepping away: Steve Stricker announced at the beginning of the season that he’d be going into semi-retirement. Have you noticed his absence? It’s still early, but for a player who has been ranked as high as second in the world, it makes you think about anyone’s staying power these days on the PGA Tour – other than Tiger, and maybe Phil, and perhaps Rory McIlroy. We’ve experienced a sabbatical from the game by Tiger and we have the threat of one from Phil due to the political climate in California, and now McIlroy is not slated to play during a five-week span after missing the cut in his debut in Abu Dhabi. But all of this comes in the midst of the PGA Tour moving to a wrap-around schedule.


7. Phil’s politics: After speaking publicly about life changes he has considered in the wake of what could be taxes as high as 62 or 63 percent of his income, Mickelson took a step back, saying at Torrey Pines that he should not have spoken out as he did. It’s still unknown where Phil and his family will be moving if they do leave their Cali life, but Phil has always liked shaking things up and challenging the system.


8. Golf’s QR Code: They’re commonly seen these days as scan-able codes for you to zap with your smart phone to retrieve more information as part of consumer advertising, and the World’s Largest Golf Club and Spa Resort (certified by Guinness World Records) has taken it to their level, to promote sustainable and eco-tourism. Two-thousand employees created the real life QR Code by holding umbrellas on the driving range in Shenzhen, China.


Streamsong

9. Streamsong: Taking a page from their Bandon Dunes success, the new Tom Doak, Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw golf mecca hosted its grand opening Jan. 26 with around 300 golf media, fans, friends and family from the golf industry in attendance. It’s 85 miles southwest of Orlando, in the middle of nowhere in what looks like anything but a Florida landscape. I had the opportunity to play the Coore-Crenshaw Red course on Sunday, leaving my home in the Orlando area at 5:15 a.m. for a 7:45 a.m. tee time. Worth the trip.


10. “Name Your Price” golf balls: Hate buying balls? GolfBallsUnlimited.com announced a Priceline-type concept where golfers can “name your price” by entering a price suggestion on balls until an amount is accepted. The balls will be shipped to your home after the interactive online transaction. Start bidding!

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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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.'"


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."

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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."