A Real Awards Race is Brewing

By Associated PressAugust 5, 2003, 4:00 pm
Tiger Woods must have grown weary giving the same speech.
Whether it was at Kapalua, Pebble Beach or Torrey Pines, the PGA Tour annual awards ceremony always featured the same routine -- Woods accepting another trophy as player of the year, making a crack about surviving a confirmed media slump, reminding everyone that winning a major constitutes a great year.
This hasn't been a great year for Woods -- yet.
And unless he wins the PGA Championship next week at Oak Hill, it might be time for someone else to pick up the tour's top prize for the first time in five years.
That could be a half-dozen players, starting with Masters champion Mike Weir and ending with British Open champion Ben Curtis.
Major championships carry that much weight.
In 1998, the only year Woods didn't win the award, PGA Tour players voted for Mark O'Meara and his two majors instead of David Duval, who won four tournaments, the money title and the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average.
The last guy to win player of the year without winning a major was Greg Norman in 1995. The Shark won three times, never missed a cut, captured the money title with a record $1.6 million and had the tour's lowest scoring average. His peers deemed him superior to Corey Pavin (U.S. Open, Nissan Open, third on the money list).
Unless someone wins two majors, the race is wide open, and a victory at Oak Hill would thrust Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and David Toms into the player-of-the-year mix.
Otherwise, here is how it's shaping up:
Tiger Woods is the first player in PGA Tour history to win at least four times in five straight seasons, particularly impressive because he has played only 11 times because of knee surgery. He also leads the money list by $400,000 over Jim Furyk, and is virtually a lock to win the Vardon Trophy for the fifth straight year.
Besides not winning a major, Woods is hurt by having already won the award five times. If it's close, players might be inclined to reward a career-year -- Weir or Furyk -- over someone who has been there, done that.
But if no one captures two majors, and Woods winds up with the most victories, most money and lowest scoring average, it will be tough to deny he was the tour's best player.
Outlook: If he wins the PGA Championships, the race is over. Otherwise, Woods will have to win at least six times and have $1 million more than anyone else.
Mike Weir became the first Canadian and the first lefty to win the Masters, capping off a stunning spring in which he also won the Bob Hope Classic and the Nissan Open at Riviera. He still has a chance to win the money title (only $500,000 behind) and is second in scoring average.
Outlook: Win the PGA Championship and the trophy goes north of the border. If not, he might need to win the money title, one more tournament and hope that Woods doesn't win again this year.
Jim FurykHe dominated at the U.S. Open and held off Woods and others to win the Buick Open.
Furyk has 12 top 10s going into the PGA Championship, more than any other player. Still, the only other tournament where he had a legitimate chance to win was at Doral (playoff loss to Scott Hoch). He is too far behind to catch Woods for the Vardon Trophy, but the money title is within reach.
Outlook: Win the PGA Championship and he's player of the year. If not, he'll have to win one more tournament to be considered ahead of Weir.
Love doesn't have a major, but he gets partial credit for winning the fifth major. He closed with an 8-under 64 in cold, windy conditions to win The Players Championship, and won at Pebble Beach and at Hilton Head.
Having started his PGA Tour career when Woods was still in elementary school, this might be Love's best chance at player of the year.
Outlook: A victory at Oak Hill makes him the front-runner because he'll have 11/2 majors. Anything less knocks him out of the picture.
Perryis the hottest player in golf, with three victories among seven straight tournaments in the top 10. Then again, Weir was equally dominant in the spring, and two of Perry's victories (Colonial, Milwaukee) came against fields that did not include all the top players on the money list.
He is the best feel-good story in golf, having won only four times in his previous 17 years on tour.
Outlook: Must win the PGA to merit serious consideration, or double his victories over the final two months.
Ben CurtisOne major played, one major won.
Does two major championships make him player of the year? It worked for O'Meara in 1998, although he was 41 and had amassed 14 wins in his career. Curtis is a 26-year-old rookie who started the year hopeful of keeping his card.
Outlook: Winning the PGA is his only a chance, but he'll still be at the awards ceremony as rookie of the year.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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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.