'Built for long haul,' Haas wins second Humana title

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 26, 2015, 2:08 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – With his ball waist-high, his feet in the bunker and his stance like he was ready to turn on an inside fastball, Bill Haas’ second shot at PGA West’s 18th hole had five possible outcomes:

Snap hook. Shank. Chunk. Whiff.

Oh, and the fifth option, the one that Haas executed: a deft bunt down the fairway, 82 yards, setting up a closing par and a one-shot victory Sunday at the Humana Challenge.

For a player best known for an improvisational par out of the lake at East Lake, this shot hardly rattled him.

“I think of myself as more of a painter and not a mechanic,” he said, smiling. “I don’t have the perfect swing – I wish I could swing like Adam Scott, but I just don’t have that ability. I do think I have the ability to make do with what I have.”

And that was more than enough to secure the most surprising victory on Haas’ increasingly impressive résumé.

Haas fractured a small bone in his left wrist when he fell down stairs last April. Though he had a chance to win in Greensboro, and he didn’t miss a cut all season, he went through 2014 without a win – his first winless year since ’09. He made only two starts after the Tour Championship, and he was so bad in Shanghai, hitting only 11 total greens on the weekend, that he decided to shut it down for six weeks.

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Haas has never been a ball-beater, but this offseason was particularly light, playing only a few corporate outings and ditching the range. When Haas and his team (father Jay and longtime coach Billy Harmon) convened in the desert last Wednesday, “you probably wouldn’t have thought that he’d be standing there right now,” Harmon said.

Haas was impatient. Frustrated. More concerned than he’d ever been heading into a tournament.

Two swing thoughts changed his outlook:

1.) Haas’ clubface was swinging open at the top of his swing, so Harmon worked with him to feel like the club was more square going back. Said Harmon: “That’s a tip my dad told me: Imagine the club has an eyeball on it, and it’s always looking at the back of the ball.”

2.) With his putting, Haas tried to imitate Jack Nicklaus’ relaxed right arm at address. In 1995, when Jay Haas made the Ryder Cup team, Harmon had suggested the same tip to his pupil, because he had looked most comfortable that way. Doing so puts the putter grip more in the crease of Haas’ hand, not his fingers, and lowers his right shoulder to the proper angle when setting up to the ball. Haas finished seventh this week in strokes gained-putting.

“Both he and his dad are the total, quintessential, natural feel players,” Harmon said. “Bill couldn’t even spell TrackMan, let alone know what it was saying.”

Besides, this area has become like a second home to Haas, and his peers might be happy this tournament is moving away from PGA West’s Palmer Private. Since 2010, he has two wins, a playoff loss and another top 10 here. On Sunday, he became the eighth player to win this event multiple times, joining the likes of Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller and Phil Mickelson.

“It’s a great feeling to be that unsure going into a week,” Haas said, “but have it all work out and play like this.”

For much of the final round, it was anyone’s tournament to win. Late on the back nine there were six players tied for the lead, with more than a dozen within two shots. With such a logjam at the top, Haas knew he was one blunder away from slipping out of the lead and into 10th place.

A slippery 20-footer on 16 moved him to 22 under par, and then came the drama on the home hole.

With water looming on the left, Haas took the conservative route and went right with his drive on the par-5 finisher. His ball took an unlucky bounce near the bunker and settled on a mound just outside the sand. He rehearsed the shot left-handed, but that brought both the out-of-bounds stakes and water into play.

“It felt like a train wreck all coming together there, something bad was about to happen,” but instead Haas choked down on an 8-iron and poked it down the fairway.

Much like his splash out of the muck on the 70th hole at the Tour Championship, Haas described his creative play as an “educated guess.”

“You couldn’t teach that,” Harmon said. “That’s talent, figuring that out.”

Haas then used the same club from 169 yards for his third shot, safely finding the middle of the green to set up a two-putt par.

Haas isn’t often discussed as one of the best players in the game, mostly because he doesn’t have a top 10 in a major. But consider this: Since the beginning of the 2010 season, only Rory McIlroy (nine) and Tiger Woods (eight) have more Tour victories than Haas’ six.

Haas’ father wasn’t fully appreciated until recently, either. Jay was a nine-time PGA Tour winner, capturing events over a 15-year span, and he’s still competitive on the Champions Tour into his early 60s.

“Bill is kind of like his dad – they’re not going to be the best players in the world, but they’re built for the long term,” Harmon said. “They’re built to last.”

Haas conceded that he doesn’t think he’s quite as good as the Rorys and Tigers of the PGA Tour, and that’s OK. He knows that he can play with them, that it only takes one week.

“If I can only win one a year for the rest of my career, I would be completely happy,” he said. “Maybe that’s just it; maybe I’m easily satisfied. But if I could play until I’m 50, that’s the ultimate. I hope I am built for the long haul.”

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Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

''Too many,'' Park said.

The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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Three years later, PXG launches new iron

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.