Texan Leonard Back in the Saddle

By Associated PressNovember 11, 2003, 5:00 pm
Justin Leonard had just missed a short par putt when a voice from the gallery turned his glare into a scowl.
``I'm walking to the 10th tee and this guy says, 'Nice putt,' and I turned around and looked at him like he was crazy,'' Leonard recalled. ``I had to fight myself from walking back there to say something.
``Then, I realized he was probably talking about last week. At least I hope he was.''
The year was 1999, and the week before, Leonard stood 45 feet away from the hole on the 17th green at The Country Club with nothing less than the Ryder Cup on the line and his country counting on him.
What followed became one of the most famous shots in golf.
When the ball banged into the back of the cup, the Americans were assured the half-point they needed to pull off the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history.
Leonard was the hero.
Little did the patriotic Texan know when he walked off the course, it would be four years before he would get a chance to return to the atmosphere he cherishes.
Leonard and Jim Furyk will represent the United States in the World Cup this week at Kiawah Island, S.C., then join the rest of the U.S. team at the Presidents Cup in South Africa.
``I've missed it a lot,'' Leonard said.
Certain shots can become a player's legacy.
David Duval's 6-foot eagle putt to shoot 59. Hal Sutton's 6-iron into the 18th green to hold off Tiger Woods at The Players Championship. Ben Hogan's 1-iron into the 18th green at Merion in the U.S. Open.
Leonard is a major champion. Coincidentally, the decisive blow when he won the '97 British Open at Royal Troon also was a long birdie putt on the 17th. A year later, he came from five strokes behind to win The Players Championship.
But mention his name, and the first thing that comes to mind - maybe the only thing - is the Ryder Cup. The twisted part of Leonard's fame is that he's never even won a Ryder Cup match.
Everyone remembers the putt. Not many realize that Leonard only halved his match against Jose Maria Olazabal.
Throw in the Presidents Cup, and Leonard's record in team matches is bordering on pathetic - one victory, nine losses, five ties.
``I know it's pretty bad,'' Leonard said. ``I know I haven't won a lot of matches. I've tied a lot of matches, but I've lost a bunch. I'd certainly like to change that.''
Leonard, who played in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup four years in a row, never imagined having to wait so long for the next opportunity.
Some of it was bad play. Some of it was bad timing.
He went through a slump in 2000 and just missed out on the Presidents Cup. Leonard hired Butch Harmon to retool his swing, and he didn't adapt to the changes until after the 2001 Ryder Cup team was selected.
Then came the one-year delay because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
``It's been strange the last couple of times to be on the outside looking in,'' he said.
Leonard seems to have all the right ingredients for match play, especially the team variety. He is easily paired. He generally keeps the ball in front of him. While he's not a power player, Leonard has a gritty short game and a knack for making pivotal putts.
So, what gives with that 1-9-5 record?
Nothing that can be explained. Nothing for which he should apologize.
``He's a guy you want out there making putts that are important,'' said Davis Love III, who walked with Leonard during his comeback against Olazabal in the Ryder Cup. ``His record is not that good, but he played the best stretch of six holes maybe in Ryder Cup history. He knows he can do it.''
One of the most overrated aspects of the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup or Solheim Cup is an individual's record, especially the team variety.
There are countless stories about two guys who play well enough to win any match during that session except the one they're playing.
Records never reflect how well, or how poorly, a partner is playing.
``His record is not the greatest,'' Furyk said of Leonard. ``But he's a hell of a teammate.''
Love would be the first to admit that he played below his standards in the 1998 Presidents Cup by hitting a few errant tee shots and plenty of missed putts. He and Leonard were 0-1-1 as a team, and that halve was courtesy of Leonard's approach into 6 feet on the final hole for birdie.
``I put him under some trees,'' Love said. ``We were both not good, but I killed him. If not for me, he would have won a few matches.''
Raymond Floyd was as tough as they come, yet his record was 12-16-3 in the eight Ryder Cups he played - and he was on the winning side seven times.
Tiger Woods is 10-13-2 in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
``People don't talk about Bernhard Langer's record or Nick Faldo's record in the Ryder Cup,'' Woods said. ``They talk about how many teams they made. That's what is important.''
Leonard is back on the team. To him, that's what matters the most.
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.