McDowell hopes for another fast start at Mayakoba

By Associated PressNovember 9, 2016, 10:54 pm

Graeme McDowell didn't expect to get an early jump on his defense of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, but when he missed the cut last week in Las Vegas he headed south to the eastern shores of Mexico with some work to do and some needed downtime on the beach to enjoy.

McDowell will be among the field of 132 players trying to keep their focus on the golf while competing in Playa del Carmen, Mexico's version of a Riviera of sun, surf and sand.

G-Mac came to this tournament last year looking to put a charge in his season and left with a win that carried huge momentum for the rest of the year.

"It was a very important victory for me and it opened up some nice doors for me and put me in some good positions in the FedExCup race," McDowell told a pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday.

"This time of the year is becoming very important for the PGA Tour and that's why we continue to see more and more players playing at this time of the year. It's so important that they get off to a fast start with so many great players now and it being so difficult to win."

McDowell, of Northern Ireland, held the 36-hole lead at last year's tournament but found himself trailing the lead by three strokes entering the final round.

Then a 5-under 66 in the fourth round, including an eight-foot birdie putt on the last hole, pushed him to 18-under 266 and into sudden-death with Jason Bohn and Russell Knox.

On the first extra hole, again No. 18, he hit a brilliant approach shot with a 5-iron from about 200 yards to within three feet for a birdie to turn back Knox and Bohn.

That gave McDowell, who won the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, his third career PGA Tour victory and first since the 2013 RBC Heritage.

"It was great to reconfirm to myself that when I put my mind to it, I can still compete at the highest level," McDowell said. "

"I suppose I'm disappointed that I haven't really kicked on in 2016 with that momentum, but this year has been a funny one. When it's been good, it's been really good; when it's been bad, I've been going home on Friday nights."

The OHL Classic at Mayakoba is the sixth event in the PGA Tour's wraparound schedule that bridges two years with 47 official events in 43 weeks.

That includes seven events during the fall of 2016 which will award FedExCup points. After a break, the season will resume in January with the traditional swing through Hawaii before moving to the West Coast.

El Camaleon Golf Club at the Mayakoba Resort is a Greg Norman-signature course. It will play as a 6,987-yard par-71 this week, with a routing that bends through three distinct landscapes -- mangrove jungles, limestone canals and oceanfront stretches of sand.

Seven of the nine past champions of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba are in the field this week, including Charley Hoffman, Harris English, John Huh, Johnson Wagner and Brian Gay.

Six Mexican golfers will also compete, led by Carlos Ortiz, a three-time winner and Player of the Year on the Tour in 2014.

McDowell is one of seven major tournament winners in the field, joining Ernie Els, Angel Cabrera, Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink, Jim Furyk and Webb Simpson.

Furyk, who makes his first start of the season, said the course suits his game.

"Historically, I haven't played much in the fall because I play so much during the rest of the year, but with my wrist injury and surgery I only played 14 events last season," Furyk said.

"I'm fresh and I targeted coming here. I heard a lot of positives about the course here and the resort. I like the course and the greens roll pretty good. It's not overly long but you have to drive the ball in the fairways here."

The OHL Classic at Mayakoba made golf history when it became the first PGA TOUR co-sanctioned event to ever be contested outside of the United States and Canada in February of 2007.

To commemorate its 10-year anniversary, OHL and its founder Juan-Miguel Villar Mir increased the event's purse by $800,010, taking the total to $7,000,010, the largest prize money distributed at any golf tournament to date in Latin America.

The additional $10 dollars are designed to acknowledge the 10 years of the tournament's existence.

Continuing a trend from past seasons, three of the first five winners this season (Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama and Cody Gribble) were under the age of 30 at the time of their victories.

Fourteen different winners under the age of 30 accounted for a total of 18 PGA Tour titles in 2015-16.

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.