Notes Search for Tigers best shots gets tougher
There weren’t very many.
“I’m going to have to give that some thought,” Williams said with a laugh. “When making a swing change, the list of poor shots is greater than what it would normally be.”
After a few minutes, he settled on a 3-wood at a major.
But it’s not what anyone might think.
“For me, the shot that stood out was at Whistling Straits,” Williams said. “It was the second hole, when he hit it in a bunker off the tee, then way right onto that road. He hit a 3-wood for his third shot just short of the green. It was that one, and the fairway bunker shot on the 18th hole (of the third round) that he started left of the ninth green.
“Those were the two shots. It’s coincidental that it was the same week.”
But what about that 3-wood on the 18th at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open, the one that Woods carved around a tree, out over the ocean and onto the green for a two-putt birdie and a 66?
Williams shook his head.
“That’s a shot where commentators made it a lot harder than it was,” Williams said. “That was a good shot, but certainly not a difficult shot. The result was outstanding. The shot itself wasn’t that outstanding.”
“It wasn’t that hard. He’s right,” Woods said. “The angle of the camera was too far to the right, so the angle brought the ocean into play. The tree was in the way, but it wasn’t that hard of a shot.”
A LONG YEAR: Steve Stricker loves playing in the Presidents Cup but he hates playing golf during hunting season in the autumn.
He’ll have to change next year.
The Presidents Cup will be played in mid-November in Australia, which means Stricker will have to find a way to keep his game sharp before the matches. That will force him to play at least once in November, and perhaps even practice leading up to that.
“When is it? Middle of November? I don’t know,” Stricker said when asked about his schedule. “I’ll probably have to play the week before. Is there something the week before? China? Maybe I’d go playing something like that.”
The HSBC Champions in Shanghai will be two weeks before the Presidents Cup.
“Is China on the way to Australia?” Stricker asked. “In a roundabout way? Not really?”
Just then, Camilo Villegas of Colombia walked by on his way to the clubhouse at Sherwood Country Club. Villegas has played in Shanghai in the last two years, and he played in the Australian Masters this year.
He was told about Stricker’s asking if China was on the way Down Under.
“Man, everything is far when you head that way,” Villegas countered with a laugh.
Officials still are trying to decide whether to allow the Australian Masters – played on a sand belt course in Melbourne, just like the Presidents Cup – to be held the week before the matches.
Zach Johnson doesn’t prefer to play much golf that late in the year, although he would welcome the inconvenience.
“You’ve got to stay in game shape,” he said. “Maybe I’d play another tournament. Australia is a possibility. It’s not an easy situation, but it’s a good situation if that means playing for the Stars and Stripes. If I make that team, it will be worth it.”
Stricker has experience getting his game ready for Australia.
He qualified for the Match Play Championship in Melbourne in 2001. On his way to Australia, he played a Gateway Tour team event in Arizona with his brother-in-law. They didn’t win, but the competition helped Stricker. He went on to beat Padraig Harrington, Scott Verplank and Justin Leonard on his way to winning the Match Play title.
MAJOR PRIORITIES: Given the choice between a major or being No. 1 in the world, Lee Westwood made it sound like an easy decision.
He’ll take No. 1.
Westwood is the only player to be No. 1 without ever winning a major, although he’s only been atop the ranking for two months and at age 37, expects to have some 25 more chances. Even so, he made a compelling argument in an interview with The Sun as to which is more significant in a golfer’s career.
“Well, I’ve been world No. 1 now and I’ve never won a major so, obviously, I would like to win one,” Westwood told the British tabloid. “But I wouldn’t swap world No. 1 for a major – no way.”
Westwood has been trying to explain for the last few months that being atop the world ranking is not related to winning a major, although more ranking points are available in the majors. He was runner-up at the Masters and British Open, which helped him rise.
“But winning a major doesn’t make you the best player in the world,” he said. “No, being the best player in the world is all about consistency. Just look at the world rankings. I have way more points than anyone else.”
Westwood said he believes that golfers get what they deserve, and he knows he has put the work into his game. So why hasn’t he won a major? It certainly wasn’t for a lack of opportunity. A 15-foot birdie putt kept him out of a playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open, and an 8-foot par putt kept him out of the Turnberry playoff in the 2009 British Open. He had the 54-hole lead at this year’s Masters.
“I could easily be sat here with three major championship right now, but the harsh fact is I’m sitting here with none,” he said. “That gets on my nerves, but it is not as if I’m failing to give myself opportunities in big events.”
McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54
Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.
McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.
McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.
McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.
Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.
“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”
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.