Toms Howell hoping to continue to rebound

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2009, 5:00 pm
50th Bob Hope Chrylser ClassicLA QUINTA, Calif. ' David Toms has been reacquainted with an old friend.
He showed up at the Sony Open with that familiar red-and-white golf bag of Cleveland Golf. Toms likes to say that 11 of his 12 victories came with the club company, including his PGA Championship, three Ryder Cup teams and a World Golf Championship.
But he also knows that whats in his head is just as important as whats in his hands.
Absolutely, its wanting to do better, Toms said. And its putting the time into doing better. That doesnt mean more time, just more focus when I take time. Its easy to get away from that when youre not playing well. My goal this year is to make it count.
All that counts is who won, and that would be Zach Johnson.
The former Masters champion went through a dry patch similar to Toms for most of last year until he took a six-week break to evaluate his game and chart his course, then won the Valero Texas Open and Sony Open in a span of six starts.
What was fascinating about the leaderboard at Waialae, however, was the next three players behind him: Toms, Adam Scott and Charles Howell III.
All of them took a big step toward rebounding from a dismal year by their own standards.
Toms tied for second with Scott, who recorded his first top 10 on the PGA Tour since he tied for eighth at the Wachovia Championship last May. Scott prides himself on consistency, but he was consistently MIA the latter part of last year.
He split up with his longtime girlfriend and continued to play, often looking as though he was on autopilot. He had only one top 10 worldwide the final eight months of the year, missing the last month with a recurring knee cap injury.
Its important for me to play well in these first three weeks to get my mind back to where I like it to be, said Scott, who is defending his title this week in the Qatar Masters. Im really motivated, and I feel like the drive is back. It had certainly gone a little off-track there at the end of last year, so Im feeling good about things.
Howell turns 30 this summer, but he already is overlooked when the conversation turns to the surge in young players.
Even though he has won twice, has 10 runner-up finishes and has played on the Presidents Cup team twice, Howell is coming off the worst season of his career. He was 69th on the money ' certainly no reason to panic ' but the better barometer of his season is that he plunged to No. 137 in the world before his fourth-place finish in the Sony Open.
There are noticeable changes this year.
Howell has added about 20 pounds to what always was a rail-thin frame, and his hair is slightly longer. He looks older, his eyes reflecting experience of someone who has been toiling on the PGA Tour longer than anyone under 30. The Sony Open was his 249th start.
He left swing coach David Leadbetter for the second time, switching to Sea Island-based Todd Anderson and is trying to get away from his obsession with mechanics that led to a singular style of play.
I felt like a pitcher who only had one pitch, he said. Now Im trying to learn three or four pitches.
Despite his failure to birdie the par-5 18th, his back nine Sunday was an attention-grabber the way he gave himself birdie opportunities and holed enough putts (and one chip-in) to at least give himself a chance.
I havent played a tournament in two months, Howell said. For the first week, Im pretty happy.
Beyond winning, the immediate goal for Howell ' who grew up in Augusta, Ga. ' is to get into the Masters. He has not missed it since 2001, qualifying in 2007 with a strong West Coast swing that began with a runner-up finish at Waialae.
Toms isnt eligible for the Masters for the first time since 1997, and that bugs him.
Every time I see those previews for the Masters, it drives me crazy, he said. Im working toward that.
Its not just Augusta. He also isnt eligible for the Accenture Match Play Championship, which he won four years ago, or even The Players Championship because he finished out of the top 125 on the money list last year.
He wound up at No. 131. Toms probably could have played more in the Fall Series, but some of those events fell on the same week as LSU football games that he didnt want to miss, and he doesnt apologize for that. He recently bought a house in Baton Rouge.
Just one of my hobbies, Toms said. If someone had a different hobby, that might interrupt their golf schedule. Its always been that way for me, and it always will be, as long it makes sense. Missing the FedEx Cup is one thing. But in the fall, when I get to spend time with friends and family, thats what Im going to do.
He did just that last summer, the highlight of an otherwise forgettable season. Toms took six weeks off during the summer, even skipping the British Open, to restore his health and spend time with his wife and two children at their Louisiana lake house.
He didnt record his first top 10 until September and ended the year at No. 116 in the world ranking.
The runner-up finish at the Sony Open bumped him up to No. 76. Equally important as the result was the ease with which he played. Toms found himself pressing last year in the few opportunities he had. He looked like the old Toms at Waialae, constantly applying pressure without seemingly breaking a sweat.
Thats how he used to be. And thats how he wants to be again.
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  • Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

    By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

    Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

    Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

    What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

    Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

    Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

    Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

    Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

    Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

    Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

    In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

    "It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

    Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

    “Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

    “That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

    Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

    The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

    Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

    Lexi Thompson:

    Baking time!!

    A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

    David Feherty:

    Jack Nicklaus:

    GC Tiger Tracker:

    Steve Stricker:

    Golf Channel:

    Frank Nobilo:

    Ian Poulter:

    Tyrone Van Aswegen:

    Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.