Olympian Ambitions for Golf in China
You might think Im talking about the Great Wall of China. Actually, I mean Mission Hills, the megagolf resort an hour into the Republic of China from Hong Kong. Evidently, ten courses werent enough. Echoing the current Chinese economic war cry for robust growth, Mission Hills has made it an even dozen. The resort has also signed a 12-year deal to host the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, the famous international good will competition of two-man teams from countries around the world. This years version starts November 22 on the Jose Maria Olazabal course.
I first visited Mission Hills four years ago, about the time its tenth course came online. I have been to St. Andrews, Bandon Dunes, Pinehurst and all the rest. They are magnificent places. But there is nothing quite like Mission Hills. This place was designed to be the biggest in the world (the two latest courses, opened in 2005, surpassed Pinehursts 180 holes to take the global lead) and to host international tournaments. The Olympics are coming to Beijing, Chinas capital, in 2008, and that creates most of the sports buzz in this massive nation. But in the south of China, an ancient saying goes, Heaven is high, and the Emperor is far away. That has always been the subtext of the more commercially minded southeastern Chinese culture, and it is the spirit in which golf grows there.
Its not that theres golf as far as the eye can see. Well, there almost is. From the enormous Dongguan clubhouse (one of three), you can see construction cranes in the distance, way past the edge of the property, evidence of Chinas relentless economic powerlifting. But there is so much more to look at within the property that you forget the outside world quickly and enter golfs prodigious Middle Kingdom.
What gets you more deeply is the sheer scale of the place. The idea that there could be more than half a dozen courses in any one spot is hard to get the mind around. But an entire dozen? I can choose from twelve courses, each designed by a famous architect or player consultant? Hm. Lets see. Do I feel Olazabal, Ozaki or Sorenstam today? (The other player-designers or design consultants are Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, David Duval, and David Leadbetter, Zhang Lian Wei and Pete Dye. Also, noted architects Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt of Scottsdale, Ariz. have consulted on nine of the twelve.)
Even before you get to the 216 holes (stop and think about that a moment), there is a lot to take in. I recall vividly entering the Dongguan clubhouse (at 680,000 square feet, the largest) and checking out the golf shop. The three-floor golf shop. Im told its bigger than most Nordstroms. Golf balls to go with that cashmere sweater, sir? Just up the escalator. And for a post-round massage, you may want to visit one of our spasor wait for the fourth one to be built; its coming any day now. A new hotel tower is planned as well, the third building for housing outside guests.
Then its time to hit the ball. One of 3,000 (yes, three thousand) expertly trained women caddies will see to your golf needs for the next four hours or so -- not more than that, because the pace of play, and everything else at the resort, somehow operates like unerring clockwork. That includes bag storage and amenities for 10,000 members, plus resort guests.
The courses themselves are surprisingly varied, with some dramatic elevation changes. Mostly, though, there is a pleasing roll to the property, and a sane amount of trees. In the morning mist, the place can look ethereal. Only then do you lose sight of the fact that the golf estate you are enjoying is larger than five Central Parks. Yes, the huge one in New York City. Times five.
Factors of five, ten, a thousand are the currency of economic life in China these days. The pace of development in what was once one of the worlds primary anti-capitalist bulwarks is sufficiently dizzying to stupefy visiting Wall Street veterans. And that sometimes gives rise to criticism of golf in China as a sport for the rich-man minority ' although the ranks of those elite are growing rapidly. Mission Hills is undeterred, though, especially in light of the history of golf in the United States, where the sport took hold in the late 19th century among the economic upper crust, becoming more populist over the last 60 years. By bringing the Omega World Cup to China, Dr. David Chu, founder and chairman of the resort, figures he is broadening the foothold of golf in the worlds most populous country.
We are making history in the fine chronicle of golf, Chu said recently. China has a population of 1.4 billion with 400 million youths. The country is having not only the fastest growth in global golf development, but also the largest consumer market in the world. I believe hosting the World Cup of golf in China together with partners like OMEGA, the International Golf Association, the International Federation of PGA Tours under The European Tour's guidance and the China Golf Association, will go beyond just influencing sports and commercial development, it will create an impact so big it will truly turn golf into a global sport!'
The punctuation is Chus, and his enthusiasm is as clear as his talent for consensus-building. Whether golf trickles down in China in this generation remains to be seen. But if the energy that could accomplish something on the scale of Mission Hills can be applied to plebeian participation ' well, lets just say markets could open by the dozens.
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.