Notes Monty reluctantly confronts 19th cup

By Associated PressJuly 31, 2008, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio ' After a long and difficult round, Colin Montgomerie was less than thrilled to have to deal with one more cup.
After shooting an opening-round 2-over 72 Thursday at the Bridgestone Invitational, Montgomerie was not pleased when he was asked to provide a urine sample as part of the PGA TOUR's new anti-doping policy.
The 45-year-old Montgomerie acknowledged he didnt really know what the procedure was. Then, as he left the scorers trailer, he turned to his caddie and said, This is a complete waste of time.
Its a brave, new world on tour. Tim Clark has yet to win on the American tour but already holds the distinction of being the first player tested by the Tour.
Clark was among four players tested after the first round of the AT&T National earlier this month at Congressional.
I think I was the first guy off the golf course that day at Washington, he said. I guess they wanted to get some negative tests in before anything happens. I guess they figured Im one of the least likely to be on something. You have to go to the gym to be on steroids.
Clark doesnt like the idea of drug testing, but he figures its a sign of the times. And he felt the process was fine, taking about 15 minutes before he could provide his sample.
FREQUENT FLYER: Sergio Garcia took a week off after the British Open, flying to his home in Switzerland before returning to Spain for several days of practice, then traveling back across the Atlantic for this weeks Bridgestone Invitational.
Asked if he had ever calculated how many miles he travels in a year, he cracked, Why? Why bother? You want me to go even more crazy?
TURNING POINT: A dismal year might just be brightening for Chris DiMarco.
After shoulder surgery last September, DiMarco has had difficulty getting untracked this year. Missing 11 cuts in 19 starts, he has plummeted to No. 156 on the money list.
Distraught after a bad second round that led to another missed cut at the Canadian Open, he drove from Toronto to Toledo, Ohio, to meet and then consult with teaching pro Rick Smith. He then had Smith tag along on a Wednesday practice round at the Bridgestone.
The result was an encouraging 68 in the first round.
I hit the ball about as solid as Ive hit it in a really long time, said DiMarco, who tied for fourth a year ago in Akron.
For a change, he feels as if hes on the road back to respectability.
Told that he needs to make up a lot of ground to qualify for the FedExCup events, DiMarco took it as a challenge.
If I hit the next couple of weeks like I hit it today, thats not going to be a problem, he said.
NOT SO ROUGH: A year ago at the Bridgestone, the rough was higher and the greens were as fast as a ball bearing on a granite floor. As a result, the players in the select field had an average score of almost 3-over'putting Firestone Country right behind the three 2007 American major championship venues in terms of difficulty.
Thats not the case this year, although the old course is still no pushover.
In Thursdays opening round, with the greens still moist from heavy rains a day earlier and the rough considerably shorter, 48 of the 80 players shot par or better.
PGA TOUR officials are experimenting with the height of the rough at this and other tournament sites to determine how it impacts scoring. They are also taking a look at graded rough, with the thick stuff becoming longer and more penal the farther a shot strays from the fairway.
Asked what players want, PGA TOUR policy board member Stewart Cink said, They want skill to play a factor in every single shot. And if you have rough like you have out here today, it takes a lot of skill to maneuver a ball on the green when youve got trees in front of you but you can do it if you hit a really good shot. I think the players really like what they see here.
Phil Mickelson sure did.
This year Firestone is one of my favorite golf courses that we have on tour, he said after a 68 that included a circus-like birdie-3 from out of the deep rough and trees on the closing hole. Last year, not so much. But this year all the guys are talking about how much they love it because we can play it. We can hit shots, we can be creative and challenge ourselves with some recoveries like on 18. That wouldnt have been a possibility last year.
NO NEED: Padraig Harrington joked a year ago that he was disappointed when he wasnt introduced as the reigning British Open champion on the first tee at the Bridgestone Invitational.
This year, after winning the championship at Royal Birkdale two weeks ago, he was properly acknowledged.
I didnt need that this year, he said with a laugh. I know Im the champion.
DIVOTS: Anthony Kim, who took 60 or 70 swings during batting practice with the Boston Red Sox on Monday night, said he remains sore and blamed that for his 71. After winning his first PGA Tour event last week at the Canadian Open, Chez Reavie got a congratulatory text message from hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, who plays at the same club in Arizona. Ernie Els missed a lot of short ones and still mustered a 69. Despite a double-bogey on the 18th hole, Vijay Singh had a 67. Lee Westwoods second shot at the par-5 second hole flew the green and stuck in a hat that a spectator wasnt wearing but had fastened on his belt. Only one player among the top five players on the leaderboard (Daniel Chopra) has won this year on tour.
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    Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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    Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

    After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

    With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

    “I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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    Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    “I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

    “I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

    Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

    Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

    “We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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    Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

    The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

    Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

    Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

    • Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

    • Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

    • Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1