Season opener could change locations

By Associated PressJanuary 11, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 Mercedes Benz ChampionshipKAPALUA, Hawaii ' The stunning contrast of green grass, blue Pacific and the occasional white splash of a humpback whale gave way to dreary clouds Sunday morning for the final round at Kapalua.
 
Perhaps it was only fitting.
 
After 11 years of the winners-only field at the Mercedes-Benz Championship being pampered with butler-drawn baths in their free room at the Ritz-Carlton and playing a Plantation course with spacious fairways and sharp changes in elevation ' unlike any other style they play the rest of the year ' the future at Kapalua suddenly is cloudy.
 
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was as vague as the Sunday view when he said this week that we are looking at some options in terms of what is the best future for this tournament.
 
That was as far as he went, so its not clear who is looking for change, only who isnt.
 
We want to continue at Kapalua, said Gary Planos, the tournament chairman and senior vice president at Kapalua. But were not sure whats going to happen in the future.
 
If the players had a vote, speculation probably wouldnt last long.
 
The best part of winning the Honda Classic for Ernie Els was a return trip to Kapalua, where he set the tournament record (31 under) in 2003 during a week of pristine conditions. Even though his putter has been a problem this week, its tough for Els to say it has been a bad week. He spent one morning in the ocean with his son, Ben, teaching him to body surf.
 
Rory Sabbatini was here this week, even though he didnt qualify. He loves the place so much he comes to Kapalua on vacation.
 
We all want it to stay here, Davis Love III said. Theres a few players that dont like coming here, but for the most part, this is a great place for us to come. I love coming here and I would hate to see it leave.
 
The Plantation course can be an acquired taste ' with so much elevation, 400-yard drives can be the norm ' but it offers wide fairways that can be ideal for players trying to knock winter rust off their game.
 
This is a perfect place to start, Geoff Ogilvy said. Its quite easy to hit a lot of fairways.
 
Ogilvy is among those who took up joint membership on the European Tour this year, and one reason was a variety of courses that he believes the U.S. tour lacks. He finds it odd that a move from Kapalua is being discussed.
 
After Florida, you probably play the same golf course 20 times in a row, Ogilvy said. But to play such an extremely different setup, its a cool place to start.
 
The Mercedes moved to the western tip of Maui in 1999 after 30 years at La Costa Resort north of San Diego, which could get cold and soggy. Tiger Woods won a 54-hole event in 1997 in a playoff on the one hole that was above water. Three years later, he won a playoff against Els at Kapalua in what remains their most epic duel.
 
Woods hasnt returned since 2005 for reasons that had to do more with his family and the calendar than the golf course and how he was treated. His season-ending charity event has been moved so late in December that Woods felt he needed time off. He is lobbying to have the Chevron World Challenge moved to the week after Thanksgiving.
 
Whatever the case, his absence is a bigger blow to this tournament than when he skips the first playoff event.
 
What hurt the perception even more was the absence of the next three guys behind him in the world ranking. Phil Mickelson played only the first three years at Kapalua. He wants time off to spend with his family, but its no secret he is not a fan of Kapalua and the wind, saying it gets him into bad swing habits.
 
Padraig Harrington is from Ireland and takes January as his one month away from golf. Sergio Garcia is a past winner at Kapalua, but the schedule didnt work for him. He lives in Spain and plays next week in Abu Dhabi.
 
The Tour is said to be looking at Wailea, about an hour to the east on Maui, where the weather is more predictable. It might have more options for Mercedes clients to play golf, but it doesnt have the caliber of course that Kapalua offers. Players often criticize the Tour for not playing on the best courses available; this could be one of those example.
 
I love coming here, said Stewart Cink, one of four players on the Tours policy board. I like playing here. I think this is a fun course to play. Its different and a challenge in its own way. I would not want to move it. But its a business decision, Im sure.
 
Some players believe the Tour is looking at a move to the mainland to make it easier to travel.
 
If youre trying to get one or two players, youre going to have to move it to San Diego or Orlando, said Justin Leonard, referring to Mickelson and Woods. And even then, I dont think those guys would play. Its nice to start here.
 
Moving to the mainland also would leave the Sony Open in Honolulu on an island, such as it is.
 
The wild card in all this is Mercedes. Its sponsorship expires in 2010 After 11 years of the winners-only field at the Mercedes-Benz Championship being pampered with butler-drawn baths in their free room at the Ritz-Carlton and playing a Plantation course with spacious fairways and sharp changes in elevation ' unlike any other style they play the rest of the year ' the future at Kapalua suddenly is cloudy. as does the Tours contract with Kapalua ' and the automaker has been quiet this week in casual conversations with tournament and resort officials.
 
Finchem said it wasnt only Kapalua under review.
 
The way we like to believe you will get better is to constantly challenge what you are doing and ask the question, Can you do it better? he said. It doesnt necessarily mean we will do anything particularly different.
 
Most players would tell him its pretty good as it is.
 
But maybe in these economic conditions, its not always about the players.
 
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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.