Westwood out of the gates fast in Memphis

By Associated PressJune 11, 2010, 4:32 am
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Lee Westwood prefers competition the week before a major to tune up his play. The Englishman looks quite ready now for the U.S. Open based on his opening round at the St. Jude Classic.

Westwood took advantage of no wind and a rain-softened course to shoot a 7-under 63 Thursday that equaled his best on the PGA Tour and gave him a one-stroke lead in the suspended first round. The world’s No. 3-ranked player tied the course record for the back nine with a 29 with four of his five birdies and an eagle. He parred out his final eight holes.

“Pleased with the start, 63 is always a good start,” Westwood said. “I couldn’t be disappointed with that. Could have been better, but I’m not going to cry too much about missing from 4 feet on the last.”

Not bad for someone who flew from London to San Francisco to play 27 holes Sunday at Pebble Beach with another 18 Monday before heading to Memphis. Westwood played nine holes Tuesday and a practice round Wednesday in his first visit to this course, but wound up with near-perfect scoring conditions in the eighth group off the 10th tee Thursday.

“My caddie said normally there’s a bit of breeze that blows. You try and score when you get your morning time on the first two days when it’s fairly calm, so that’s what I tried to do,” Westwood said.

Lee Westwood round 1 at St. JudeCasey Wittenberg shot a 64, Padraig Harrington had a 65 and Tim Petrovic, John Senden and Bob Estes were among eight tied at 66 before a severe thunderstorm stopped play for nearly an hour. The round was suspended with 20 golfers left on the course.

No one teeing off in the afternoon cracked the leaderboard with muggy conditions smothering the course with 100-degree heat, and wind that usually toughens this course staying relatively still before the storms developed.

“It was probably as easy conditions as you will get out here on Southwind,” said Garrett Willis, who shot 66 in the morning.

Defending champ Brian Gay, who was under par each round in winning a year ago, opened with a 73. Jordan Spieth, the Texas teen who became the sixth-youngest player to make a PGA cut at the Byron Nelson last month, shot a 73.

Westwood is playing on a sponsor’s exemption extended after being originally turned down. That prompted him to joke to reporters at the time it might be due to his sponsorship deal with UPS for an event in a town where rival FedEx is headquartered. He had been given an exemption two years ago, then withdrew a week before the tournament.

“I’ve never been to Memphis, so it’s somewhere I wanted to come and play,” Westwood said. “It’s the week before the U.S. Open. I like to be competitive before a major championship. I played Houston before the Masters. Being competitive means more to me than actually adapting to the conditions. … I like to get used to making the 3-, 4-footers when they mean something.”

Westwood mixed good putting with strong iron play, needing only 11 of his 24 putts through his first 10 holes. He rolled in a 30-footer on the par-4 15th and a 15-footer on the par-4 18th for birdies. He stuck a 5-wood within 4 feet to set up his eagle putt on the par-4 No. 16.

The putter failed him on his 18th hole, the par-4 No. 9, as he just missed from 4 feet.

Westwood matched the 63 he shot during the third-round of the 2005 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. The 37-year-old Englishman is playing well this year, having made the cut in all seven events here this year including second at the Masters with four top 10s.

He got started with an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 12, then hit a 5-iron to 5 feet on the par-3 14th for a birdie-birdie-eagle stretch. After a 29 on the back side to match the mark last shot by Tom Pernice Jr. in 2004, Westwood said he wasn’t even aware of that mark.

Did he think of cracking 60 as he made the turn to the easier side?

“I didn’t dwell on that for too long,” Westwood said. “I’ve had a chance to shoot 59 before. You tend not to do it when you let your mind get away from you a little bit. I was just trying to hit good shots really and carry on doing what I had been doing on the front nine.”

Westwood hit into the water on the par-5 third before just missing with the putter on Nos. 4 and 5. He saved par on No. 7 with a 15-footer.

Wittenberg, who lives next to the course, took advantage of his local knowledge and his father carrying his bag to equal his low round on the PGA Tour. This is his first start this year on a sponsor’s exemption, and he said he’s relaxed knowing he didn’t qualify for the U.S. Open.

Wittenberg has missed his last four cuts on the Nationwide Tour this season.

“My expectations are really kind of low. I knew if I could come out here and hit good golf shots that maybe I could get something going,” Wittenberg said.

DIVOTS: Robert Allenby, ranked 13th in the world, withdrew due to illness after nine holes. He was 5 over on the back nine. David Gossett withdrew after shooting 47 on the front nine with a hamstring injury, and Jerod Turner also withdrew. … Billy Mayfair had a hole-in-one on No. 8, using a 7-iron from 170 yards. Will MacKenzie followed five groups later with his own hole-in-one using the same club.

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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.