Golfs Olympic Time Has Come
During the first week of the Athens games, I was at the home of noted golf course landscape painter Linda Hartough. As our crew set up for an interview with Linda, we watched an equestrian event on the large screen TV in her studio. It was the longer course, the one that takes about ten minutes to ride. The horse and rider negotiate a series of jumps, trying to finish in the best time while maintaining the rhythm necessary for the horse to perform properly.
Kudos to our friends at NBC, who placed cameras and followed the action in a way that best showed the beauty of the horses and the fluidity of the action. The scenery was excellent. The colors were vibrant. The mood was energetic. It was just likejust like
Yes, a few minutes of athletic beauty had me thinking about the most beautiful game, and how it would play in the Olympics. Is there perhaps some virtue in the modern Olympian ideal that would trump my objections to the mountainous marketing hype, the abandonment of the amateur ideal, and the doping scandals that seem to sully the whole affair?
Golf in the Olympics could grow the game worldwide, particularly in those countries where its just getting a foothold, said David Fay, who knows whereof he speaks. As if being executive director of the U.S. Golf Association werent enough, Fay is also co-secretary general of the International Golf Federation, formerly known as the World Amateur Golf Council. (Peter Dawson, secretary of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, is Fays counterpart in this effort.)
You get a country such as Croatia, or some of the Asian countries, and even Russia, Fay said. They dont have the infrastructure, so you kind of need to prime the pump a bit to get facilities, instructors, and everything you need. You talk to any of these people, and theyll tell you that in order to get the attention of their [countrys] Olympic committees, having the sport as an Olympic medal sport makes a huge difference.
It stands to reason. Little girls around the world will flock to gymnastics programs after Carly Pattersons performance last week. If some of them stick, gymnastics will be a healthier sport, just as it was after Cathy Rigby, Olga Korbut and Mary Lou Retton attracted the last generation of girls.
Also, theres history. Golf was part of the Games in 1900 in Paris (Margaret Abbott, the first female Olympian to win a gold medal in any sport, prevailed) and in 1904 in St. Louis. Golf got pulled off the 1908 program in London because of a lack of entries, but it returned as an exhibition sport in 1936 in Berlin.
Would Tiger Woodsor Vijay Singh, or Meg Mallon, or Annika Sorenstam standing on a medal podium for the presentation do any less? Probably not, especially since there is no current opportunity for golfers to represent their countries as individuals.
Some pros have said that there are enough international competitions on the schedule now. To them, Fay says dont worry; theres plenty of time to clear out your calendar between now and 2012.
Thats the realistic earliest Olympiad that could support golf. Beijing, the 2008 host city, has facilities for a 72-hole stroke play event of the kind the IGF contemplates. But the International Olympic Committee is looking to keep the number of athletes manageable, even if it means dropping sports. (Baseball is rumored to be in trouble, for example.)
Some sports that may be on the chopping block are already quietly bad-mouthing their competition, Fay says. But golfs big advantage compared to some is that theres no stadium to build. Just toss up some ropes and scoreboards at the host course, and tee it up. (And if London or New York, the leading candidate cities for 2012, wins the Games, think of the golf course opportunities: Sunningdale there, Winged Foot here.)
The loss of the amateur ideal is just something people like me will have to get used to, thanks to the IOCs insistence on getting the best athletes, whether they are paid or not. The doping matter may not even be a problem, given the fact that you really cant improve golf performance through drugs: It may be the un-dopable sport. In that sense, the Olympics wouldnt sully golf so much as golf would ennoble the Olympics.
The most important thing, Fay says, is to take the long view, and not necessarily a solely American view. The growth of golf around the world is the most important thing.
Of course, golf wont be as compelling as the traditional marquee events, such as track and field and swimming, Fay said. But for the national federations looking to jump-start golf in their countries, it could be wonderful.
And a 15-footer for the gold as millions around the world watch and get hooked on the game? That could be poetry in motion.
Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.
Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.
''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''
First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.
''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''
David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.
The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''
The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros
Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.
Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.
I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.
One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.
So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?
You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?
Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?
I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.
This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.
Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:
Once we give 'em a lesson, we are faced with:— Trackman Maestro (@TrackmanMaestro) January 16, 2018
A. Will they do what we asked them to do
B. Can they do what we asked them to do
C. Will they put in the practice time
D. The fact that golf is a hard game
We face multiple barriers as golf instructors.
On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.
The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:
“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”
Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.
Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.
Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.
Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.
In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.
Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.
After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth.
Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.
“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”
After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).
Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129.
The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.