Notes Stricker Wins Again More Awards

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Target World Challenge pres. by CountrywideTHOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Steve Stricker looked at the crystal bowl Tuesday and said under his breath, 'This looks familiar.'
 
It's the trophy for the PGA TOUR comeback player of the year, and Stricker became the first player to win the award twice -- in consecutive years, no less.
 
'I won this last year, and I don't know what I did to deserve it again this year,' Stricker said. 'I was thinking about what I would have to do to win this three years in a row. Usually, you have to have a better year than last year. I don't know if I did that if I would be out of this ballot and maybe on the player of the year ballot.'
 
Stricker was on the comeback ballot with Brian Bateman and Rocco Mediate, and PGA TOUR officials recently kicked around the idea last month of not awarding the trophy every year.
 
According to tour regulations, the award is for players who have returned to their previous form following a period of decline due to poor play, poor health of personal tragedy. The regulations also state that the award will be given out during years in which the Players Advisory Council feels it is warranted.
 
Ultimately, the tour decided it was worth giving out the award this year.
 
Bateman earned his PGA TOUR card on the number at Q-school, then won the Buick Open. Mediate started the year under a minor medical exemption, and secured his card with a runner-up finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
 
Stricker's comeback in 2006 was easy to document. He didn't have his card, and wound up 34th on the money list. This year was probably a stronger comeback, with his first victory in more than six years, runner-up in the FedExCup and No. 4 on the money list.
 
But even Stricker felt awkward winning it two years in a row.
 
'I voted for Brian Bateman,' he said.
 
OPEN CHANGES
Nick Faldo now only has 10 years left to play in the British Open.
 
The Royal & Ancient changed the maximum age rule for past champions, giving them until they are 60 to play in golf's oldest championship. The previous age limit was 65. It will be phased in over the next five years, meaning anyone over 60 can continue to play the British Open until they turn 65.
 
In other changes, the runners-up from the British Amateur, U.S. Amateur and European Amateur will be exempt into the final stage of qualifying. Also exempt into the final stage are the top 10 players from the R&A's world amateur golf ranking on May 26.
 
DALY GRIND
John Daly has finally come to a startling conclusion: He thinks it's time for him to get serious about his game.
 
Daly, a two-time major champion who lost his PGA TOUR card last year and had to rely on sponsor exemptions, said last week that he would start working with swing coach Butch Harmon.
 
'Butch will push you. I never had anybody push me to do things,' Daly said last week. 'I need to be pushed hard. It's something that maybe should have been done a long time ago, but I was too stubborn. You get a little older and your eyes don't see things and you don't feel the same as you would normally.'
 
Harmon is most famous for working with Tiger Woods and Greg Norman when they became No. 1 in the world, and his latest challenge is trying to get Phil Mickelson to No. 1. But getting Daly to take his game seriously might be the real test.
 
'Butch is excited about it,' Couples said. 'That's a good thing, because ... there are a few people he (Harmon) has turned down because he's so busy.'
 
FATHER AND SON
Greg Norman is making a rare and perhaps final visit to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for one reason: The Shark will be playing with son Gregory.
 
'He asked me if we could play in the AT&T, and I didn't know if I could get either one of us in, to tell you the truth,' Norman said. 'As it worked out, we were lucky enough to get in. To get out there and play those courses in a tournament with that history is going to be good for him as well.'
 
It will be the second straight year a Hall of Fame player competed at the AT&T with his son. Tom Watson played last year with his youngest son, Michael, and they finished second in the pro-am behind Pebble winner Phil Mickelson and amateur partner Harry You.
 
Norman and his son have played in the Del Webb Father-Son Challenge the last two years.
 
'It's a little bit different because it's a PGA TOUR event, and there are going to be a lot of people out there,' Norman said. 'It's going to be a totally different atmosphere. So it's good for him to experience all that if he wants to go and qualify for events that he'd like to play in next year.'
 
PLAYING IT SAFE
Jim Furyk had planned to play one time over the final two months of the year, but he didn't expect it to be the Target World Challenge.
 
Furyk is the two-time defending champion at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, one of his favorite events. But an itinerary that took him from South Korea to Bermuda in October caused him to reconsider. Furyk had some neck and back issues at the PGA Championship, and they flared up during the long flights.
 
'I knew the flight over there was going to bother me,' he said. 'I called and let them know that I wasn't feeling up to it. I want to make sure I'm in shape for Jan. 1. It was tough. But I've been good to them, and they've been good to me.'
 
DIVOTS
British Open champion Padraig Harrington was named European Tour golfer of the year by a panel representing golf writers, TV and radio, and the European Tour. Also considered for the award were U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera and Justin Rose, who won the Order of Merit. ... Woody Austin knew he had reached the big time when he played in his first silly-season event, winning the Merrill Lynch Shootout with Mark Calcavecchia. 'If Greg (Norman) told me all I had to do was dive in the water to get in, I would have done it a long time ago,' Austin said. ... U.S. Amateur and U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Colt Knost has won the Mark H. McCormack Medal as the top player in the world amateur rankings. Knost turned pro earlier this year, and missed his PGA TOUR and Nationwide cards at Q-school.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Tiger Woods has won 16 times worldwide the last two years, the same number as the next five players below him in the world ranking -- Phil Mickelson (6), Jim Furyk (4), Steve Stricker (1), Ernie Els (3) and Justin Rose (2).
 
FINAL WORD
'There's obviously never a bad time to win a golf tournament, but I guess now would probably be a better time than most.' -- Ernie Els, playing the South African Open this week after blowing the Dunhill Championship with a triple bogey on the last hole.
 
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    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?''

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    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.

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    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. 

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    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.