Masters Notes Angry Phil Fond Memories

By Associated PressMarch 27, 2007, 4:00 pm
About the only negative memory Phil Mickelson has of Sunday at the Masters last year was finishing his third round in the morning. The sudden clicks of a camera from the tower over the 18th tee when he was at the top of his swing led to a wild shot and ultimately a bogey that reduced his lead to one shot.
It was one of the rare times Mickelson has shown anger inside the ropes.
Ditto for Augusta National officials, who tried unsuccessfully to find out which photographer committed the crime. Billy Payne, head of the media committee last year, banned photographers from the stand for the final round in the afternoon.
Mickelson recalled that incident when Payne became club chairman.
``Nobody ended up claiming that it was them, so no photographers were allowed up on that stand,'' Mickelson said in February. ``I think for somebody to make a tough call like that, who wants coverage of the tournament but realizes he doesn't want photographers to decide the outcome or integrity of the competition, I just really appreciate the decision-making.''
Lefty returned to Augusta National last week for a practice round with his father and brother (word has it the champ posted a 65 despite missing putts inside 15 feet on the last three holes).
Sitting around the clubhouse, he got a sneak peek at this year's official program.
Imagine his surprise when he reached pages 48-49, which feature a beautiful shot of Mickelson playing the 18th hole Sunday morning, fans lining the tree-framed fairway - and Lefty at the top of his swing.
It would seem that would be a sure way to find the culprit.
Alas, club officials have investigated.
A spokesman declined to say who took the picture, only that it came from a single frame of a digital camera that didn't make the offending click. Golf photographers have confirmed there is a brand of camera that can be programmed so that it would not make a noise that could be heard from 20 feet away in certain conditions.
Augusta National is expected to change its criteria so that PGA TOUR winners - at least some of them - would qualify for the Masters. There were eight TOUR winners since the previous Masters who are not eligible, and it's tough to feel sorry for any of them except John Senden.
Three winners won opposite-field events (D.J. Trahan, Will MacKenzie and Eric Axley). Two winners didn't have another top-10 over the last year (Jeff Maggert and Mark Wilson). Corey Pavin's only other top 10 was at Pebble Beach, where he finished nine shots behind. Charley Hoffman had three other top 10s, one of those in the fall (Las Vegas) and another opposite the Ryder Cup (Texas Open).
But a case could be made for Senden.
He won the John Deere Classic and his national championship, the Australian Open. He also tied for second in Tampa, and was poised to climb into the top 50 and qualify for Doral until he suffered a severe stomach virus that forced him to withdraw from Bay Hill.
Unable to play the final two tournaments before the cutoff for the Masters, Senden wound up No. 53.
One week before the Masters, Golf Digest magazine is releasing its biennial survey of ``America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses,'' and Augusta National has dropped one spot to No. 3. Pine Valley tops the list, followed by Shinnecock Hills at No. 2.
But it could have been worse for the home of the Masters.
Earlier this month, Augusta National fell from No. 3 to No. 10 in the Golfweek magazine list of top 100 classic courses (pre-1960). This was brought to the attention of Tiger Woods.
``Maybe they can't draw the ball,'' Woods said about the Golfweek ranking.
The top 10 list from Golf Digest: Pine Valley, Shinnecock Hill, Augusta National, Cypress Point, Oakmont, Pebble Beach, Merion, Winged Foot, Seminole and Crystal Downs, appearing in the top 10 for the first time.
The top 10 classic courses from Golfweek: Cypress Point, Pine Valley, Shinnecock, Merion, Pebble Beach, Oakmont, National Golf Links, Crystal Downs, Prairie Dunes and Augusta National.
Phil Blackmar won't forget his first trip to the Masters. He was on the practice green on the day before the tournament began, looking at a slippery 4 1/2-foot putt, when a buddy asked him how he would play it if that putt was to win the Masters.
``I'd bomb right in there,'' Blackmar said.
It was early in his career, when he was young and bold and quite confident over those putts. Blackmar failed to notice, however, that another player was listening to their conversation.
``You'd do what?'' Jack Nicklaus said.
Nicklaus suggested lagging the putt so that if it missed, he still had a chance in a playoff. Slightly startled, Blackmar said he was proficient at that length and it might be his only shot at a green jacket.
Then his worst fear was realized. Nicklaus said to him, ``Let's see it.''
``We were close to the edge of the green, so the gallery picked up on this,'' Blackmar said. ``I was a little nervous, but I hit it firm, pulled it just a hair and it spun around the cup and went about 6 feet by. The fans let out this big sigh. Then Jack tries it. He goes into his crouch and barely touches it. It trickles ... and trickles ... and trickles ... and falls in. And the crowd goes nuts. And I'm just beet-red.''
Blackmar made the cut in his Masters debut, finishing 45th with rounds of 76-73-73-76.
Nicklaus was playing in his 28th Masters, and he did slightly better.
The year was 1986. It was Nicklaus' last Masters victory.
Oklahoma State golf coach Mike McGraw told Golfweek magazine that highly regarded Pablo Martin plans to turn pro after the NCAA championship in June. ... Tiger Woods has earned more money in 24 World Golf Championships ($17,182,500) than Sergio Garcia has in 141 starts on the PGA TOUR ($16,687,482). ... AT&T said it will offer video previews, highlights and other coverage of the Masters Tournament through its television services, the Internet and mobile phones.
The Masters invites the top 10 players on the PGA TOUR money list through Doral, and Mark Wilson was at No. 12. He was No. 10 in the FedEx Cup standings.
``It didn't help anybody win, because he wins all the time.'' - Sergio Garcia, on whether Tiger Woods' dominance has helped raised the level of play on the PGA TOUR.
Getty Images

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?''

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

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.