Tiger Top Seeds Ready for Rd 1

By Associated PressFebruary 20, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureTUCSON, Arizona -- Steve Stricker was at the Presidents Cup last fall when he learned he had risen to No. 3 in the world ranking. Then came a message from his wife, which would not easily be mistaken for a call of congratulations.
 
'Overrated,' she said.
 
Stricker still laughs about that. And yes, he's still part of the Big Three.
 
As far as he fell off the world ranking charts, he's not someone who is looking for respect. And it's not like he doesn't know what it's like to get little recognition for a major achievement.
 
The Accenture Match Play Championship begins Wednesday, and Stricker is one of five past champions at Dove Mountain.
 
You don't remember?
 
He was among two dozen players who only got into the 64-man field because it was held in Australia to start the 2001 season, and the stars -- Americans and Europeans alike -- didn't want to travel halfway around the world a few days after Christmas.
 
Stricker was No. 90 in the world ranking and got the No. 55 seed. It's not surprising that he didn't get much credit for winning against what many perceived to be a watered-down field. Greg Kraft was the No. 64 seed that year, at No. 104 in the world ranking.
 
What gets forgotten is whom Stricker defeated.
 
He knocked off Padraig Harrington in the first round, then Scott Verplank in the second. Stricker holed two bunker shots and demoralized Justin Leonard in the third round, then beat Nick O'Hern in 20 holes to reach the semifinals.
 
The final two victims were Toru Taniguchi and Pierre Fulke.
 
'I shouldn't say I catch a lot of flak for winning that event,' Stricker said. 'But it's not looked at, I don't think, as favorably as winning with Tiger in the event, or Ernie there -- well, Ernie was there.'
 
Els lost in the semifinals that year to Fulke.
 
'I keep telling myself I beat a lot of good players to win that event,' Stricker said.
 
That's what he has to do on The Gallery Course at Dove Mountain, perched in the high desert above Tucson. It is a course that favors power hitters and discriminates against the paying customers, who can only watch one hole at a time from one side of the fairway on terrain that slopes away from the action. Call this the anti-stadium course.
 
First up for Stricker is Daniel Chopra. Stricker doesn't need to hear the tired old line that 'anyone can beat anyone over 18 holes.' It was only seven weeks ago that Chopra beat him in a four-hole playoff at the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
 
Tiger Woods is the No. 1 seed, and while the top seed has lost in the first round only one time, Woods is facing big-hitting J.B. Holmes, who took out Phil Mickelson in a playoff to win the FBR Open up the road in Scottsdale a few weeks ago.
 
Mickelson plays Pat Perez, the eternal pessimist.
 
Els is the No. 4 seed and plays Jonathan Byrd, who won the John Deere Classic last year, and that's one more PGA TOUR victory than Els has over the last three years.
 
Nothing comes easily, and no one needs a reminder about the vagaries of match play more than Els.
 
He is a seven-time champion of the World Match Play Championship in England, in which matches are contested over 36 holes each day. At this World Golf Championship, Els has never advanced to the third round in America.
 
Not many were surprised when he said he would not be coming this year. The shock was when he changed his mind.
 
Els was supposed to be on holiday this week in South Africa with his family. But he figured he had taken a long break in the winter, so he was playing on Dove Mountain as his kids toured the Grand Canyon.
 
If nothing else, Els' expectations are probably tempered.
 
'My record is not great in this tournament, as we all know,' Els said. 'If I have a better game and I get a bit lucky, you win a couple of matches and you can find yourself in the quarterfinals or semifinals. I'm really aiming at that. And basically, that's why I'm here.'
 
Woods is the only No. 1 seed to lose in the first round, to Peter O'Malley in 2002. He didn't even know who was in his bracket, much less who he would play in the second round if he were to beat Holmes.
 
The circumstances are slightly familiar for Woods at the Match Play.
 
A year ago, he came to Dove Mountain in search of his eighth straight PGA Tour victory. He has another winning streak this year that is slightly complicated, but no less impressive.
 
Since finishing second on Sept. 3 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Woods won the last two playoff events in the FedEx Cup and opened his '08 season on the PGA Tour by winning the Buick Invitational by eight shots. He also won his unofficial Target World Challenge in California against a 16-man field by seven shots. On the European Tour, he rallied from four shots down to win the Dubai Desert Classic.
 
Unofficially, that's five straight wins spread over five months.
 
Officially, he has to win six straight matches over five days, with his first objective to get past Holmes.
 
'This is always going to be probably a little more difficult to win because you could be playing well and still go home,' Woods said. 'It's not about the marathon. It's not about the long race of four rounds to position yourself for winning a golf tournament. It's a sprint. You've got to get it done in 18 holes. If you get two or three behind in this format with only 18 holes, generally the guys lose.
 
'But in stroke play, if you get off to a slow start, you can still win a golf tournament.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Brackets - WGC-Match Play Championship
  • Getty Images

    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?''

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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. 

    Getty Images

    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.