36-hole leader James Hahn sat down in the man-of-the-hour chair in the interview room at the Phoenix Open Friday evening and quipped, “You know I’m not Danny Lee…right?” Hey, totally fair comment from him — I mean, they do kind of look alike! Maybe? They’re both Asian? But I digress. I’m late for dinner and there are probably about three people who are going to read this (Hi, Dad!), so I’m going to try and make this as speedy as possible. Fingers crossed!
Hahn, who essentially lives down the street from TPC Scottsdale at Greyhawk, fired a six-under 65 in the second round for a two-day total of 10-under to take a one-shot lead over Rickie Fowler and
his twin Danny Lee. The 34-year-old American, who secured his maiden victory on the PGA Tour last year at Riviera, is a member here and played and practiced at the facility until recently. He feels so comfortable at TPC Scottsdale that he didn’t even play a single hole in practice this week.
“I didn’t have an opportunity to play a practice round,” said Hahn. “I finished late Monday at the Farmers Insurance Open. When I got in on — let’s see, I think I flew in Monday night. Tuesday I was just beat. I wanted to rest. I wasn’t in the Pro-Am Wednesday, so the fact I got that one extra rest day, I feel comfortable not having a practice round.
“I have played this course a hundred times. The only thing different about the course today, as any other day, is the greens are better. The rough is not as high as some of the days out here throughout the year, so with those few things, you can just grip it, hit it anywhere you want, and try to make as many birdies as you can.”
Well, so far, it’s a winning formula.
Hahn was one of the players to go through a big equipment change in the short offseason, switching from his previous club manufacturer TaylorMade to PXG, the new company owned by Bob Parsons that debuted this year. Like every other PXG guy, Hahn raved about his fancy sticks and discussed the seamless transition.
“They’re awesome,” he said. “The transition from TaylorMade to PXG has been really easy. Really, the very first day I picked up a PXG driver, 3-wood, irons, the ball is going where I want it to go. I’m swinging well. That definitely helps. Basically just put the same Fujikura shaft that I had in my TaylorMade driver into a PXG driver, and the numbers are identical.
“It was very comfortable for me to make a decision and switch over, knowing that, you know, the numbers, when I’m swinging it well, that the numbers are exactly the same. The numbers that I feel like with a 3-wood are a little bit better, but then again I was using an eight-year-old 3-wood with TaylorMade.
“I’m picking up some distance with the technology that the PXG has and the fact that they are 15 minutes away from here. Any time I can go down there — and Mike Nicoletti has done a great job with making me comfortable. If I have any problems with the irons or the wedges or the 3-wood, I can just pop my head in and he will be able to fix it for me.”
Hahn, who graduated from the Web.com Tour to the PGA Tour in 2013, has been a little bit of a late bloomer, but he cherishes the position he’s in heading into the weekend. As I mentioned, he won last year at the Northern Trust Open, beating Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson in a playoff. His next goal is to win again.
“I feel like, you know, in my career I want to win multiple times,” he said. “They are introducing us on the first tee, and it’s like from Scottsdale, Arizona, one-time PGA TOUR winner, James Hahn. Then they say eight-time PGA TOUR winner, Geoff Ogilvy, and I’m like, Hand, Dog. Really? Borrow some money? But he’s had a long career. I think we have talked about it on the golf course and he’s played on tour for 16-so-odd years.”
Well, he’s certainly in good position at the moment, but he’s got some tough competitors right behind him.
The highlight of Hahn’s day — from an entertainment perspective — came on the par-3 16th. He hit a terrible eight-iron, and as a punishment, he got down and did 10 push-ups.
Punishment fits the crime.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 5, 2016
You did push-ups today, right, on 16? Was that premeditated, or did you just…
JAMES HAHN: Yeah, I totally wanted to miss the green by 30 yards (laughter).
No, I hit a horrible shot. I missed the green yesterday and missed the green today. I was like, all right. I got booed again. It’s no fun when you get booed on 16. I felt obligated to give them 10 push-ups. It was well-deserved for them. They came out to watch the gun show, so I popped them out right there on the tee box.
Yeah, I’m the dumbass who asked that question.
Looking forward to what Hahn has in store for us on that hole over the weekend. As you can’t forget, in the final round in 2013, Hahn drained his birdie putt and this was his reaction:
As assumed, Rickie Fowler’s missed cut last week at the Farmers Insurance Open was nothing to fret about — it was likely a case of fatigue from traveling and winning the Abu Dhabi Championship. Fowler shot rounds of 65-68 in the first two rounds at the Phoenix Open.
“Nice to be in a position where I don’t have to rely on going out and having to catch up,” said Fowler. “I have a chance to go out tomorrow, another good round, and put myself in a good position for Sunday.”
I found this tidbit that I didn’t realize before he said it the most interesting, though…
“Well, to go around and not feel like I was playing my best but to get the most out of it and continue to move forward that week, that was big,” said Fowler. “That was my first win being out front.
“To go out and feel as comfortable as I did and kind of control my destiny definitely made me feel more comfortable coming into here this week. It’s one of my favorite events having the loud crowd out there. Hopefully we’ll give them a reason to get loud.”
I am an idiot and should’ve known this, but I didn’t realize that it was the first time Fowler had slept on the overnight lead and then closed successfully. That’s huge.
PHIL NOT SO THRILLED?
Phil Mickelson declined requests to speak with the media following an even-par 71 on Friday. A Tour media official fetched these quotes from him, though. They’re deep.
Q. Just comment on the round. You got off to a good start there.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah. I got off to a good start. I hit a lot of good shots today. Again, I had trouble finishing it off, making the putts.
I couldn’t quite get it close enough and I didn’t quite make the 12- to 30-footers. But I hit a lot of good shots and then I unfortunately bogeyed 14 and 15. That kind of let the round get away.
I didn’t score as low as I’d like or I feel I’m playing. I’m looking forward to having another shot at this golf course tomorrow.
Q. Going into the weekend, what’s the plan?
PHIL MICKELSON: If I can play the way I played these first two rounds and just capitalize on a few opportunities, I think I can shoot 6-, 7-, 8-under par and get back in it for Sunday.
Justin Thomas found himself behind a tree on the 15th hole. He punched out to the fairway, but he ran into an occupational hazard when his club split in two on his follow-through with the tree.
Good news is I don’t think he’s hurt.
BY THE NUMBERS
No, this is not a joke. Drunks packed the grounds and broke the Friday record of 123,674 set in 2014. It was also the 10th-largest figure for any day in tournament history. Wow.
Just wait until tomorrow!
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s the one week out of the year where you’re allowed to do anything you want and not get fined. So the fact that the PGA Tour is a little lenient on us doing, you know, whatever things you want to do on that hole, it’s good for golf, good for the game, good for the fans that come out here. They support the golf tournament, so might as well give them a show.” –James Hahn
FANTASY GOLF TEAM
My good pal Shane Ryan runs a really cool Fantasy Golf league that is super complicated (the rules pamphlet is like a PhD dissertation) yet super fun. There are 12 teams with 24 people (so we partner with another person). I’m not going to try and explain how it works exactly, but it’s way more fun than the Yahoo Fantasy Golf. It works a lot more like Fantasy Football. That’s the simple explanation.
My partner Luke Kerr-Dineen and I drafted Lee in the second round and this is the first week of action for the league, and Lee is coming through big for us, vaulting us to first place in the standings as we head into the weekend. Boo-yah!
We had the third-round draft pick and went with Day. I’m starting to regret not going with Rickie instead, though. We’ll see…
Big shout-out to Danny and keep it up (for the rest of the season)!