Seeing Red at Augusta

By Associated PressApril 11, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- So much hype over this Masters. So many folks leaving early.
 
Even as Tiger Woods took a risky detour down the 10th fairway on his way to a theatrical par on the final hole, only a moderate-sized gallery hung around long enough Friday afternoon to surround the 18th green. Hundreds of fans carrying their folding chairs already were headed toward the exit on a quiet golf course.
 
A Masters that began with so much buzz had become little more than a murmur.
 
The Grand Slam that Woods said was easily within reason will have to start with the second-best comeback at Augusta National.
 
You can come back pretty quickly here, Woods said. This golf course, anything can happen.
 
Plenty of things already have'just not what anyone expected.
 
The 36-hole leader was Trevor Immelman, who only four months ago was in a hospital in South Africa to begin a speedy recovery from a benign tumor that doctors removed from his diaphragm. He put together his best start of the year, adding another 4-under 68 to build a one-shot lead over Brandt Snedeker.
 
This year is special, said Immelman, who was at 8-under 136. To shoot two 68s in the first two days is probably beyond my expectations, so Im pretty thrilled right now.
 
Woods only came to life when the wind died late in the afternoon. He stuffed his approach into 2 feet for a birdie on the 17th, then escaped with par on the final hole when he drove into the trees. Woods hit a low hook off the pine straw around tree trunks and into the 10th fairway, then hit a sand wedge that might have spun back closer to the hole if not for hitting Stuart Applebys ball.
 
No matter. Woods made the 8-footer for par and a 71.
 
Even so, he was at 1-under 143 and seven shots out of the lead. The largest 36-hole comeback in Masters history was Jack Burke Jr. in 1956, and that required a weekend collapse by Ken Venturi, who played that year as an amateur.
 
Im in good shape, Woods said, perhaps knowing something the 40,000 fans at Augusta didnt. Im obviously seven back. I need to play well. Weve got tougher conditions coming in. Ive just got to hang in there.
 
Woods rallied to win from six shots behind over the final two rounds in 2005, but he was tied for third. This time, he had a dozen players ahead of him, and they were no amateurs.
 
Phil Mickelson, who has won the green jacket two of the last four years, got enough out of his second round to post a bogey-free 68 and was three shots behind at 139 along with Ian Poulter of England and Steve Flesch, whose 67 was the best score of the week.
 
You want to stay close, said Mickelson, who is emerging as the favorite. You dont want to make any big mistakes and get way out.
 
Immelman set an early target.
 
Playing in the fourth group of the morning, before the wind began to rustle the pines, he made the turn in 35 and navigated the dangerous 11th hole with a 7-iron that stopped 5 feet away for birdie. And while the 28-year-old South African failed to birdie the par 5s on the back nine, he atoned for that by closing with two birdies.
 
Immelman has never taken the lead into a weekend at any major. Returning from his Dec. 18 surgery, he has not finished among the top 40 in seven stroke-play events this year.
 
But he received strong advice from a couple of Masters champions this week, South African icon Gary Player and Ben Crenshaw, who have told him his polished swing is more than adequate.
 
The best players in the world get nervous and they feel pressure, Immelman said. I guess its just who can disguise it the best and who can handle it the best. Im thrilled with my play thus far, but theres a very long way to go. I cant sit back and put my feet up. Ive got to go out there and just try and play as well as I can the next couple of days.
 
Snedeker, the PGA Tour rookie of the year in 2007, turned in the craziest birdie of the round when he used his wedge to chip from the upper tier of the par-3 sixth green, a perfect play that rattled into the cup.
 
I was more nervous over that shot than I was all day, Snedeker said. Because I knew if I messed it up, people were going to have a field day with me on that one. I had to pull it off.
 
He wound up with a 68, and will play in the final group Saturday in his first Masters as a pro.
 
If I had told you at the beginning of the week that I thought I was going to be in second place, you probably would have thought I was crazy, Snedeker said. And I probably would have thought you were right.
 
And the odds that Woods would be seven shots behind?
 
They were even-money he would win the Masters, outrageous odds for golf, and one Las Vegas bookie had 9-to-2 odds against him winning the Grand Slam'all four majors in the same year.
 
Woods might have disguised his nerves, but not his frustration.
 
After a birdie from the trees, he again played the par-5 second hole conservatively by laying up, then dumped a wedge into the bunker and wound up with bogey. He was nine shots behind when he made the turn, then promptly three-putted for bogey from 55 feet on the 10th hole, misreading the break on his first putt by 6 feet.
 
He stood over a slippery 10-footer for par on the 11th, but knocked that in to keep from falling farther behind. He saved his day over the final two holes, particularly the 18th.
 
Still, he needs some help.
 
The forecast calls for thunderstorms on Saturday, with a cold front behind it.
 
You have to play well. I dont care who you are in this tournament, Woods said. You have to play well under tough conditions here, and thats kind of how its going to end up being. Youve just got to stay so patient around this golf course.
 
The cut was at 3-over 147, leaving a short field of 45 players for the weekend.
 
Fred Couples wont be among them for the first time in his career. The 92 Masters champion missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole and shot 72 to miss the cut by one shot, leaving him tied with Player at a record 23 consecutive cuts at Augusta.
 
Even so, Saturday was loaded with possibilities.
 
Woods has never won any of his 13 majors when trailing after 54 holes, and knew he had to make up ground on the 12 players ahead of him, not to mention major champions Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh who joined him at 1 under.
 
The group at 4-under 140 included Stephen Ames (70) and Paul Casey (69), with former Masters champion Mike Weir (68) among those another shot back.
 
Its too difficult a golf course to chase anybody, Casey said, worried more about who was ahead of him than behind him.
 
Poulter, however, wasnt ruling out the worlds No. 1 player.
 
Who knows with Tiger? Poulter said. He can go out there and put two 65s on the board, I know that. Weve all seen it before. But Augusta National is a difficult golf course.
 
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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.