Notes Sawgrass Back in Business Couples OK
There were a few subtle alterations along the way, and in a refreshing change, it wasn't only about length.
The home of The Players Championship now measures 7,215, an increase of a mere 117 yards over six holes. The two largest gains were an additional 23 yards on No. 11 to make it 558 yards, and 31 yards on the opening hole to make it 423 yards, which is still a 3-wood and short iron for most pros. There also is a new tee on the par-3 eighth that allows it to play as long as 237 yards.
The most noticeable change are the three bunkers to the right of the seventh fairway in the landing area, which provide a better frame and essentially create at least a half-shot penalty.
Also, trees were planted left of the par-5 ninth fairway and to the right of the par-4 sixth fairway. And in case anyone was wondering, no one filled in that big pond surrounding the 17th green.
The island green remains the signature hole at Sawgrass, but not necessarily the most breathtaking view.
While it won't be finished for another six months, the 77,000-square-foot clubhouse, with a Mediterranean Revival design, looms spectacularly behind the 18th green. It adds distinction to the PGA TOUR's home course, becoming part of the landscape in much the same way as clubhouses at Riviera, Shinnecock Hills and Augusta National (back when you could see the clubhouse from the 18th tee at Augusta).
Fans will notice the amphitheater behind the first tee has been removed, allowing for a view of and from the clubhouse.
The course officially opened to the public Monday, and while it was in good shape, parts of the ninth fairway (about 180 yards from the tee) were slow to recover. There were chunks of turf missing, along with long strips of dirt that had not grown in, almost as if a varmint had been digging a trench.
'Do you know what animal did this?' a TOUR official asked with a smile. 'Vijay Singh.'
PGA TOUR players used the ninth fairway as the range while the practice facility was being rebuilt.
Fred Couples says the blood clot discovered in his arm is gone and he feels fine.
Couples withdrew from the Bridgestone Invitational in August and was having his back worked on when his specialist, Tom Boers, recommended he go to the hospital. Extensive tests eventually revealed a clot between his wrist and elbow.
Couples, 47, treated it with medicine and said, 'I feel great,' although it was a scare.
'I've had a couple of small things done with my back that I was in a room, but I've never been in a hospital, and I didn't really enjoy it,' he said. 'And then when I was talking to the doctor, I had a few things going on with the back of my head ... which I laughed about until he sat down with me and told me what could have happened.'
Couples' mother died of pancreatic cancer in 1994, and his father died of leukemia in 1997.
'I've seen stuff they've been through,' he said. 'I would rather wait quite a few years before anything like that happens.'
U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy was among a record six Australians to win on the PGA TOUR this year, and it's safe to say the Aussies are swelling with pride.
Ogilvy and Robert Allenby noted that Americans are starting to take notice of the Aussie success, with Allenby suggesting Americans have struggled because they don't have to work for what they get.
'We have to work pretty hard to get results, whereas a lot of them over there are looking for handouts, and that is why they don't become the players that they should become,' Allenby told reporters at the Australian Open. 'We'll go anywhere to play. We learn to travel at a young age and they don't. Everything is handed to them on a plate.
'We have to work our (tails) off to become the best golfers in the world.'
Ogilvy, who won his first major when Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie took double bogey on the 18th hole at Winged Foot, said the Americans are in 'a bit of a flap' over the state of their game, especially with no young players on the horizon.
'All of a sudden, there are 20-something of us on tour and we got another five more guys qualifying from the Nationwide Tour, so they are starting to wonder what we are doing,' Ogilvy said. 'In reality, we shouldn't be able to do it when they have 300 million people to our 20 million. It annoys them a bit, not because we are foreigners, but because they are not winning.'
Now that the wound is open, it's time to pour some salt.
'And,' Ogilvy added, 'they lost the Ryder Cup again this year.'
The second stage of PGA TOUR qualifying school gets under way this week on six courses, which some consider to be the most pressure of all. Those who fail to advance have no chance for status on either the PGA TOUR or Nationwide Tour.
Among those who made it out of the first stage was Ty Tryon, who first made it through all three stages in 2001 and would be graduating college this year if he had not turned pro.
Several notable players failed to advance through the first stage. One was Kevin Hall, who has been deaf since age 2. He shot 77 in the final round in Lakeland, Fla., and missed making the cut by three shots.
The horror story belonged to Aaron Barber, who played with Annika Sorenstam and Dean Wilson in the first two rounds of the '03 Colonial. Barber was only four shots out of the lead going into the final round in North Carolina when he finished with a double bogey, quadruple bogey and quadruple bogey to shoot 83 and miss by one shot.
The LPGA Championship has raised its purse to $2 million for 2007, an increase of $200,000. ... The Champions Tour is bracing for a strong rookie class that includes Mark O'Meara, Bernhard Langer and John Cook. But it is missing two of the biggest stars of that era -- Greg Norman and Nick Faldo -- both of whom have said they do not expect to play more than a few events. Faldo is consumed with television work. Norman has said he will only play the Senior British Open. ... Americans are Nos. 1-2-3 in the world ranking (Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson), but don't have another player until Davis Love III at No. 16.
STAT OF THE WEEK
John Daly played six more PGA TOUR events than Tiger Woods, but four fewer rounds.
'Because he's a player that always wins, I didn't know whether I should congratulate him on finishing second.' -- Yang Yong-eun, after winning the HSBC Champions by two shots over Tiger Woods.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener
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.''
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?''
The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros
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:
Once we give 'em a lesson, we are faced with:— Trackman Maestro (@TrackmanMaestro) January 16, 2018
A. Will they do what we asked them to do
B. Can they do what we asked them to do
C. Will they put in the practice time
D. The fact that golf is a hard game
We face multiple barriers as golf instructors.
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.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
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.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
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.”
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.