The Comebacker Dives In
Heres the way it works. You write me (dont worry, I have a thick skin) and I respond to you (youd better have a thick skin).
I will weigh in on the issues and your opinions. I will even hand out praise when merited.
This weeks Comebacker is a mixed bag, although its clear a lot of you still have a lot of thoughts about the verbal antipathy expressed by Tigers caddie, Steve Williams, towards Phil Mickelson.
Without further ado:
Bob writes: The rules of golf permit a player to change caddies in the middle of a round. In fact, he can change caddies as many times as he wants. I fail to see what point you journalists are trying to make when you keep bringing up the fact that Daly changed caddies. What is the point? That Jon Gruden is not a caddie? What makes one a caddie? A big foul mouth like some other caddies and players?
This refers to John Dalys decision to return from a rain delay with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden on his bag. And heres the deal, Bob: Can you spell the word travesty? Would the New York Yankees return from a rain delay with John Daly coaching third base? And not all caddies have big foul mouths. Some of them have small foul mouths.
Michael writes: The drug testing episode highlights a series of actions which could only stem from a sense of personal privilege accompanied by the conceited belief in one's uniqueness. She (Annika Sorenstam) tarnished her own image with petulant demands and attempts to intimidate others to gain unwarranted advantage in several tournaments. The image of a young Paula Creamer walking away in apparent disgust while Sorenstam dropped is a lasting one. The spirit of the game was sacrificed for self-inflation.
Wow, I can count the number of shots I have seen or heard taken at Annika Sorenstam, in my lifetime, on one hand. Tough crowd.
Dave writes: Just a thought ' the Mercedes-Benz Championship should include Winning Ryder Cup Team Members who have not otherwise qualified for the season-opening tournament. Probably would only add a couple of players ' but I think it would be a nice added perk for winning Cup members.
Off the top of my head, your concept would have gotten Hunter Mahan to Kapalua. Plus Im sure a number of Euros would have been happy to show up ' Ian Poulter first among them. Good suggestion.
Churchill writes: Happy New Year, PGA Tour! Or not. Will 2009 continue the downward spiral of talented golfers and vanilla broadcasts with little to no appeal to the viewer? The Tour seems to have forgotten that golf is entertainment. Perhaps the economic reality of 2009 and its many pains will force the Tour to recognize that players personalities are as important as a player's golfing expertise. Then maybe, they will act to put fun back into golf's agenda. Train golfers to have a personality worth watching. Require announcers to be frank as well as complimentary (good job Nick Faldo and Johnny Miller)I'm for more fun in 2009, including anything having to do with golf. I think we all will need it!
I especially like it when Nobilo is frank And, by the way, Im warning you people: Dont abuse the use of the exclamation point. The Comebacker will not tolerate unwarranted hyperbole in 2009.
Tom writes: He is fat, smokes, drinks and can't play. He should not be on the Tour. The fact he was arrested (for public) drunkenness is just one of the many..
And please, people, finish your sentences Anyway, for a second I thought Tom was talking about the late Jackie Gleason. But the subject box said Daly. Gleason, by the way, was the Great One long before Wayne Gretzky was born.
Ben writes: Brian I am very pleased with the way you do your job and just wished to say so. While I am sure you know you can't please everyone, the guys I play golf with, a bunch of old codgers and I mean old 80-plus, frequently hash out your comments over a beer after a round.
The Comebacker loves Ben and his boys, if not their demographic. Ben makes me think we ought to ask the readers for their golf Bucket List selections. What people, places or things in golf do you readers want to know, see or do before you die? Let me know.
Neil writes: About John, he and me are similar; we are both golf professionals, although I am just a journeyman club pro [and not a great typist]; (we) both share the same birth date (April 28); and we are both alcoholics (sober for 26 yrs). Once he accepts this and gets on with his life things will be OK. It is not his fault that he has this disease but it is his fault if he doesn't TRY to recover. There is lots of help out there for him. Golf needs John Daly.
Typing excused, Neil. Stay strong.
Phil writes: You said: And while were at it, lets thank our stars that the names of golfs best players arent regularly found on police blotters. Other sports should be so lucky. Let's be honest here. The word is privileged, not lucky. Crime patterns do not follow athletes who grow up in homes where china patterns are considered important. Yes, I know golf is reaching out to kids of less privilege, but too many of those efforts are doomed to financial failure, and this remains a sport (like tennis) where stars come from families who can support participant tutelage in ways few enjoy. There's a reason why you can count Tour Democrats, progressives, and (dare I say it?) liberals on one hand. Elite players come from wealthy backgrounds that are traditionally conservative or Republican, and either of unusual privilege, or with clear access to the benefits of privilege.
Never thought, when I woke up this morning, that the phrase china patterns would be linked to civil obedience. At least not in this space. The good news is the primary unusual privilege in Tiger Woods early years had nothing to do with a wealthy background and everything to do with great parents.
Thomas writes: Steve Williams spoke his mind. You can question how much of one he has (a mind that is) or what was going through it as he ripped Mickelson, but at least give him credit for putting out his opinion in a world where people work very hard not to have one. Was it a smart thing to say? Probably not as the smart thing is to play the game and say little to nothing as regards anything. Was he out of line? Probably, but I guess it depends on what you think of Phil and the degree to which you believe it reflected poorly on Tiger and the game of golf as a whole. Should he be fired? For speaking his mind, no. Did he put his boss in a tough spot? Absolutely and it required some work by Tiger to remedy a situation not of his doing.
And Ill bet you were beginning to think Id forgotten my promise to get into the Steve Williams issue. This one mostly supports him. The next one well ... read on.
Tom writes: Sounds like he (Steve Williams) is a drunk! Like a lot of golf people.
Hey, hey, hey.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
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.