The Lessons of Royal Montreal
The more the wonderfully-enthusiastic Canadian golf fans in Montreal rooted, the more the energized American team routed.
If this had been a heavyweight prize fight, they would have stopped it, on points, before it was over. The U.S. lead Saturday night after a stunning display in foursomes and fourballs was a commanding 14 to 7 .
That left the Americans needing just three points to win the competition in the Sunday singles. Which meant the final day would be little more than a glorified exhibition. But just try telling that to Weir, who drew Tiger Woods one-on-one Sunday. Try telling it to Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh (yes, Chris Berman, these two guys dont much like each other) who also squared off in singles.
Weir won the last two holes to upset Woods 1-up and finish as the leading point-getter for the Internationals. It was a match you couldnt take your eyes off of. Mickelson sailed past Singh 5 and 4 in a boat race that was never close past the first couple of holes.
Final winning tally for the Americans: 19 1/2 to 14 1/2.
And now the U.S. moves ahead to the Ryder Cup next fall in Louisville. There were lessons learned in Montreal that should not be forgotten when the Euros get to Kentucky.
Lessons like freshness. Its overrated. There was a lot of palaver leading up to this Presidents Cup about players not having enough time to recover from the grueling double fortnight of the FedExCup playoffs. Looks to me like it worked the other way. The Americans were competitively sharp.
In the past, too many U.S. players showed up at the Ryder Cup coming off two and three week layoffs. It showed. Especially in their putting. The 2008 Ryder Cup will begin five days after the conclusion of the 2008 FedExCup playoffs.
Ambitious scheduling? Of course. But it may work out in the Americans favor.
Did I mention putting?
If you stretched the total footage, end-to-end, of all the putts made by members of the American team Saturday, it might be longer than Woods yacht. We have watched the Europeans drain everything but the bathtub in dominating the U.S. over the last two decades of Ryder Cup play.
So heres what the Americans should do: Give the superintendent at Valhalla a paid leave of absence for a year. And pay the superintendent from Royal Montreal whatever he asks to come in and get the putting surfaces in Louisville running at the exact speed and firmness of the greens at his place.
Meanwhile, if Im American captain Paul Azinger, Im already quietly reserving a spot among my four Captains picks for Woody Aquaman Austin. Obviously Azinger wont have to use it if the vastly-improved Austin makes the team on points.
But Austin transcended the competition in Montreal at the Presidents Cup. He not only made more than his share of important putts but he had NBCs Johnny Miller drooling over his golf swing all week.
The signature moment of this Presidents Cup was Austins face-plant into a water hazard (difficulty 1.3) on Friday. He emerged to make three straight birdies and procure the most important half point of the competition for the U.S.
By the time heads hit pillows Friday night, Austin had gone from goat to hero to mascot to legend. Paul Azinger if youre reading this: You definitely want Woody Austin on your team, in your team room and in your lineup card at Valhalla. Too many American teams have shown up too tight at too many Ryder Cups. Woody Austin will keep anybodys team loose.
And how about Steve Stricker?
Simple swing. Great putter. Great story. Great guy.
There really ought to be an unofficial award given out this year: Player of the Year Other Than Tiger Woods. POYOTW. The 2007 POYOTW, hands down, would be Stricker.
Early on in the competition I criticized U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus for instructing Austin and Mickelson to concede a four-foot putt to Singh that produced a halved match on the 18th green. In retrospect, Nicklaus looks to have been smarter than the rest of us. For that matter, Nicklaus has been smarter than the rest of us, in matters of golf, for a long, long time.
But I would have liked to have seen Stricker get a chance to play one match as Woods partner. Getting to partner with Tiger is an honor. Sort of liked being able to tell your children you once were invited to the White House or got an audience with the Pope.
All right, all right, Tiger isnt the Pope. But hes golfing royalty and he plays with a religious fervor. And Stricker earned the right to get to play with him one time.
Stricker, by the way, is the last guy who would ever complain about not getting to play with Tiger.
So theres another one, Captain Azinger: In case you havent already figured it out, Strickers a guy you have to have on your team in Louisville, too.
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.