Tour Championship a Mixed Bag of Tricks and Treats - COPIED - COPIED
Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is close to announcing a massive change in the schedule that would make the heart of the season shorter and the Tour Championship more meaningful.
Mickelson showed how little it means now.
Lefty decided to skip the tour's version of the All-Star game -- only the top 30 on the money list are eligible -- so he could spend Halloween with his kids. At least that was the reason making the rounds on the practice range Tuesday, and confirmed later by a tour official.
Yes, but did he wear a costume?
No one should be terribly surprised that Mickelson is a no-show at East Lake, even though the Tour Championship is one of only two tournaments he has won after the majors have ended.
``It's not the first time,'' Tiger Woods said with a shrug as he headed upstairs to the locker room. ``We all know he doesn't play a lot at the end of the season. Go look at his record. He doesn't play much after Firestone.''
Mickelson marches to his own beat, and this indeed is a familiar path.
He thought he had an outside chance to win the money title or perhaps even player of the year if he finished 2001 with a flourish, but when that didn't materialize -- and with the impending birth of his second daughter -- he didn't play another event the final two months of the season.
Mickelson made it clear in late February that the Tour Championship wasn't a priority, adding that a chance to win top awards, such as the money title, would be ``things that need to be considered.''
But toward the end of the interview at La Costa Resort, he spoke volumes about the Tour Championship.
``It's late in the year,'' he said that day. ``It's anticlimactic.''
But that are other issues at work here.
On the surface, Mickelson appears to be the first player in history to let a night of trick-or-treat get in the way of a $6.5 million tournament featuring only the very best players of the year.
Lefty won't say this publicly, but what annoys him is the PGA Tour's policy that players must take part in the pro-am to play in the tournament. He already cited that as the reason he didn't play at the Memorial, which also has a Tuesday pro-am. Mickelson had plans to be at Pinehurst No. 2 to prepare for the U.S. Open that week.
The pro-am for the Tour Championship was Tuesday, a good reason for him to pull out. Mickelson reasoned that he couldn't possibly get from San Diego to Atlanta for the pro-am after such a big night for the kids.
Of course, that didn't stop Scott Verplank.
``I can't say I agree with the rule, but I got to my hotel at 1 a.m.,'' Verplank said. ``I went trick-or-treating, left Oklahoma City at 9 p.m. But I wanted to play in this tournament.''
Defending champion Retief Goosen considers the Tour Championship a notch below the majors and a notch above the World Golf Championships. He's not sure why Mickelson doesn't feel the same way, but figures that's his business.
``He's got to have some sort of excuse not to play,'' Goosen said. ``I mean, serious excuse.''
Goosen didn't celebrate Halloween. Then again, this guy doesn't say boo.
But he knows about the pro-ams all too well. He wasn't allowed to play the Nissan Open at Riviera in February because he overslept and missed his pro-am tee time by 10 minutes.
``I think this pro-am thing is being revisited,'' Goosen.
Mickelson's absence has minor ripples. Lucas Glover, the last guy to qualify, will have to play alone in the first round. The tournament lost a fair chunk of change from the pro-am considering it cost nearly $40,000 for each three-man team of amateurs, and one team didn't have a pro.
But these guys set their own schedules. They have their own priorities. The phrase the tour throws around is that its players are independent contractors.
Halloween was a convenient excuse for Mickelson not making it to the pro-am. But ultimately, the pro-am was a convenient reason for what's truly behind Lefty skipping the Tour Championship.
Maybe he just doesn't want to play.
Mickelson made that clear earlier in the year, when he talked about pouring all his effort into winning the four majors and still having enough gas left for the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup. He won the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, his second year with a major. And while he was a flop at the '04 Ryder Cup, he managed to have enough game left to go 3-0-2 in the Presidents Cup.
As for the rest of the year?
Mickelson tied for 29th at the American Express Championship, then missed the cut at Las Vegas. He probably won't show up again until the Bob Hope Classic, the third event of 2006.
When the Tour Championship ends in September, only five weeks after the majors, maybe Mickelson will be interested in playing. But his absence this week should make tour officials realize that a shorter, stronger schedule won't solve everything.
Golf will always be about the majors.
``This is a great tournament,'' Verplank said. ``But it's not ever going to get more important than the four majors. That's the fundamental problem.''
It's not a big problem.
There are 29 other guys at East Lake this week, and one of them will get $1.17 million.
Mickelson doesn't need the money.
Full Coverage - The Tour Championship
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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener
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.''
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?''
The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros
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:
Once we give 'em a lesson, we are faced with:— Trackman Maestro (@TrackmanMaestro) January 16, 2018
A. Will they do what we asked them to do
B. Can they do what we asked them to do
C. Will they put in the practice time
D. The fact that golf is a hard game
We face multiple barriers as golf instructors.
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.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
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.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
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.”
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.