An Approach Beyond Reproach

By Associated PressMarch 18, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 WGC CA ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. -- All anyone is talking about is the putt.
But when Tiger Woods called his swing coach the morning after Bay Hill, all he wanted to talk about was the shot that set it up.
He was so happy with himself, Hank Haney said.
It was a 5-iron from 164 yards, and those two numbers are but one example why this was an exquisite shot.
The wind had switched and was coming into him from the right. The flag was tucked behind the lake on a green framed by rocks. Bunkers guard the back of the green, which slopes toward the water.
And the most important detail? Woods was on the 18th hole, tied for the lead.
He could have hit an 8-iron that distance, even in this scenario. Its surprising to hear Woods club selection over various shots, considering his strength, yet Haney said Woods is all about control, and he prefers to use more club than usual in the wind.
The hardest thing to do under pressure is play a delicate shot, Haney said. Under the hardest conditions, youd rather have a shot that you can swing at hard. All he could talk about was the shot on 18. He told me, I knew if I didnt do it right, I could upshoot it into the wind and its in the water. If I flipped it, I hit it in the back bunker. He had to commit to do it correctly. And he pulled it off.
That was phenomenal. That made him feel good.
Also overlooked was the celebration.
Woods showed a new twist when he made the birdie putt to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He backpedaled as it broke sharply to the right and headed for the hole. He wound up for a big fist pump, as usual, only this time he snatched off his cap and spiked it.
But what Haney noticed was a hand slap back in the fairway.
Woods held a slight cut with his 5-iron against the wind and posed over the shot until it landed safely some 25 feet above the hole. His caddie, Steve Williams, held out his hand and Woods slapped it with force.
Ive played with him so much. Ive been around him so much, Haney said. But its always fun to see shots he gets excited about.
Its only natural for so much attention to be on the winning putt, especially the way Woods reacted.
Woods is all about winning, and it never gets old. Bay Hill was his 64th career victory, and it many respects it was routine. This was not a major. He didnt make any history except for tying Ben Hogan at No. 3 on the tours all-time victory charts.
But there is equal satisfaction in shotmaking, and Woods must wonder if he gets his due.
Steve Stricker was in Orlando last week on vacation with his family, but he saw the finish and immediately sent a playful text to Woods. You make everything, the message said. Thats an inside joke between them, for Woods sent him the same text last month at the Accenture Match Play Championship when Stricker made a 50-foot birdie putt to win on the 20th hole in the second round.
Even so, there is a sentiment that Woods success comes mainly from making so many putts.
That might have been the case in 2000, which for years was a standard that even Woods had a tough time matching. He has said many times over the last few months that he is better than 2000, but it remains to be seen whether anyone believes him.
Most people see only the results.
Woods won nine out of 20 events on the PGA TOUR, including three straight majors. He is perfect in 2008, but it has only been three tournaments, and the Masters is still a month away. Still, Woods says he has never had more control of his game than now, and the frightening thing is he doesnt feel like he has reached his peak.
Im hitting shots that I never could hit before, even in 2000, he said. People think, Yeah, you played great. But I made everything. Im actually hitting the ball better now than I did during that stretch.
And thats no accident.
Woods once told Golf Digest he was envious of Hogan and Canadian legend Moe Norman, saying they were the only two players who truly owned their swing. Woods was asked Sunday how close he was to owning his.
Im starting to understand it, said Woods. Those guys were able to fix their game, especially Hogan, because he played a lot of tournaments. He was one of the first guys to ever do a lot of swinging at night in hotel rooms, to try to figure it out for the next day. Thats the whole idea of understanding your game, so you can fix it on the fly.
Woods not only is miles ahead of his competition, he is working as hard as anyone.
How do you catch up with that?
Woods now has won 16 of his last 25 starts on the PGA TOUR, a staggering 64 percent. Even more frightening is to wonder if Woods, 32, has even reached his peak. Jack Nicklaus is next on the PGA TOURs career victory list at 73, with nearly half those wins (35) coming after he turned 32.
The more he wins, the more determined he is to improve, Haney said. His desire to improve is at its highest right now.
One thing missing from their conversation Monday morning was the winning streak, which began in September. Woods didnt talk about five in a row on the PGA Tour, six in a row worldwide. He only cared about one tournament, one shot, one putt.
As he walked toward the parking lot Sunday evening at Bay Hill, Woods was asked how long he would relish this victory.
Tonight, he said. Ive got another tournament this week.
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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    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.''

    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

    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?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    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:

    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.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    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. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    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.”

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    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.