Hype Not About His Golf

By Associated PressMarch 6, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 PODS ChampionshipTAMPA BAY, Fla. -- Fred Couples has been getting a lot of attention the last few weeks without hitting a shot.
Players celebrate with him as though he has just won a tournament. His cell phone is loaded with voice mails and text messages, and perhaps the biggest shock of all is that Couples knows how to use his phone. Remember, this is the guy who once said he doesnt answer the phone because someone may be on the other end.
Why all the fuss?
Couples last week was appointed U.S. captain of the Presidents Cup, with Greg Norman leading the International side. Never mind that the matches are still 20 months away.
Lost amid this hoopla is that Couples is playing golf, a lot more than some expected he could, himself included.
A year ago, a back problem that has been pestering him since 1994 took such a nasty turn that Couples labored to play in the Masters (and tied a record by making his 23rd consecutive cut), then didnt compete again until the silly season.
He contemplated surgery. He feared his career might be over.
But when he tees it up Thursday in the PODS Championship, it will be his fifth tournament this season, and the results have been promising. He has made the cut in all but one, has 12 out of 15 rounds at par or better and recorded one top 10.
I feel good, Couples said. I played the four (tournaments), and then I went to see this guy in Waco. He said I looked better than he thought. Obviously, my goal is to play. The best I probably played was at Phoenix, and I missed the cut. And the other tournaments, I did pretty well. So I feel like Im on track, and my goal is to really be ready for Augusta.
The guy in Waco is John Patterson, a Texas back specialist whose clientele includes Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz and Houston Rockets guard Tracy McGrady.
Couples felt strong enough to spend three days with swing coach Butch Harmon in Las Vegas, and he played the Pro-Member tournament at fabled Seminole Golf Club on Monday.
He has not been to Innisbrook since 2000, when he tied for 14th, although he recalled one year having to withdraw on the fourth hole of the pro-am because his back went out. He likes the course, as most do.
The Copperhead Course is regarded as one of the strongest tests on the Florida swing, without having to change to a par 71. Mark Calcavecchia is the defending champion, after barely making the cut, shooting 62 in the third round and winning by one shot.
Honda Classic winner Ernie Els is playing, along with Steve Stricker, Justin Rose and two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen.
Els was getting plenty of attention, too, although this was for winning last week on the PGA TOUR to end an 0-for-47 drought that dates to the American Express Championship in Ireland in October 2004.
When youre around long enough like me, you know youre going to have losses, Els said. Losses are tough. You play to win every week. When you get close, you expect to win. I had many, many times I couldnt close the deal. So its really nice to get this one, and hopefully, this is a fresh start for the next couple of years.
Also in the field is another captain'Ryder Cup skipper Paul Azinger'who is playing far less than Couples this year.
Ive played four rounds of golf since Phoenix, Azinger said. I havent really practiced much. I dont know why. My desire to play well is still there, but my commitment to get it done isnt. Im ready to start drinking out of a bamboo cup with a pink umbrella on it.
Azinger is trying to get out to look at some players who might be on his side at the Ryder Cup in September.
Couples can appreciate that. He is enthusiastic about trying to play 18 times this year and next, being able to see the players in the locker room, the range and on the course. And he cares about his own game, especially with the Masters on the horizon.
Couples won in 1992, a victory famous because his ball was held up by a few blades of grass as it rolled toward the water on the par-3 12th hole in the final round. Even as the course has been lengthened and strengthened, Couples has been up for it.
Despite rounds of 76-76, he made the cut on the number last year at the Masters. That tied Gary Player (1959-82) for consecutive cuts, and Couples remains the only Masters champion to have never missed the cut (Tiger Woods missed as an amateur). He could go in the record books with another four rounds in April, but thats not on his mind.
If the leaders are up here and the cuts are down here, I want to make sure Im moving way up the ladder, Couples said. If I dont, it will be very disappointing because Im not there to play well. If I dont play well and miss the cut, the streak is over, and Ill be watching TV Saturday and Sunday. But its a nice thing. Its not anything worldly.
Im not going to go down as the guy who made however many cuts in a row it is. Im planning on playing well.
That hes playing is a start.
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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

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    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.