Senior playoff opener: Monty leads, Couples returns, Langer WDs

By Associated PressOctober 29, 2016, 2:05 am

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - Fred Couples shot a 4-under 68 in his first competitive round in eight months, while Bernhard Langer withdrew without hitting a shot Friday in the PowerShares QQQ Championship.

Returning from a chronic back injury, the 57-year-old Couples had three straight birdies on the back nine at rain-softened Sherwood in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff opener. He was tied for eighth, three strokes behind leader Colin Montgomerie.

''Honestly, I could have shot 80 and been OK with it because my goals were just to be able to swing and play,'' Couples said. ''Today was just a very nice day. Just to get out of the house and walk around and see if I've made any progress in the last seven months.''

Langer re-aggravated a left knee injury at home in Florida doing routine spinning, had an MRI on Monday and wasn't able to play a practice round. ''I can't transfer my weight,'' Langer said Thursday. ''I can't put any pressure on my left knee.''

Montgomerie shot a 65, closing with a birdie after nearly holing his approach on the par-4 18th. The Scot birdied the first three holes, and had four more on the back nine. He won in Canada this season for his fourth tour title and is fourth in the Charles Schwab Cup standings.

''Even Ben Hogan allowed himself two mistakes a round of golf, so no bogeys around here is good, very good and that was key today,'' Montgomerie said. ''Hit the fairways, hit the greens. Fairways and greens, that's what this course is all about.''

Fred Funk was two strokes back at 67 along with Scott McCarron, Jim Carter, Joey Sindelar, Jerry Smith and Brandt Jobe.

Couples played the rainy front nine in 1 under with a birdie on the par-5 fifth. He birdied the par-4 10th, dropped a stroke on the par-5 11th, then birdied the par-3 12th, par-5 13th and par-4 14th.

''Playing in that rain early, it just kind of made the course maybe, I hate to say, easier,'' Couples said. ''But it was really hard, the greens were rock hard and that little rain I think helped us. There were a lot of good scores in the morning.''

In 1999 at Sherwood, Couples teamed with David Duval to win the final Shark Shootout at the course. Couples also won with Raymond Floyd in 1990 and Brad Faxon in 1994.

''I've played a hundred rounds here probably and I don't know how many guys can say that, or if they need to even worry about it,'' Couples said. ''But all the little nooks and crannies and that's what I did today. I didn't really hit many bad shots.''

Langer leads the tour with four victories and has wrapped up the season money title with $2,697,459. The 59-year-old German star tops the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs standings, and has a big enough advantage over second-place Miguel Angel Jimenez that he will keep the No. 1 spot without playing this week.

The top 72 players on the money list earned spots at Sherwood. The playoff field will be cut to 54 for the Dominion Charity Classic next week in Richmond, Virginia, and to 36 for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship the follow week in Scottsdale, Arizona. Each dollar earned in the first two events is worth two points and will be added to the regular-season total. At the Charles Schwab Championship, points will be reset so that the top five only have to win to capture the Charles Schwab Cup.

Jimenez shot a 71.

John Daly also had a 71, making bogeys on two of the last three holes. He qualified 70th and has five top-25 finishes in 14 starts since turning 50.

''I really kind of lost it there,'' Daly said. ''You can't bogey the last two out of three any day out here. I think 7 will be leading, so I'm pretty much out of it really. I would have to shoot really, really low on the weekend to even have a chance.''

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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.