Theres Still Plenty to Watch

By Brian HewittSeptember 24, 2007, 4:00 pm
By now you have to have seen the clips on TV or YouTube or at least read about the Florida student who was stunned by the cops when he hijacked the microphone at a John Kerry appearance last week.
 
There are no tasers in golf.
 
Which is just another reason to appreciate the game that is such a great sport.
 
But its that time of the year when friends are asking me if theres any compelling reason to follow golf at its highest levels.
 
Since I work for GOLF CHANNEL, it would be sufficient to tell them that without coverage 12 months of the year I would be without a paycheck and health benefits.
 
But they know that. Some of them have been satiated by the four majors, the FedExCup, the WGC Championships, the LPGA and hundreds of individual dramas that have played themselves out on courses all over the world in 2007.
 
In no particular order, and for reasons good and bad, we have put headlines on the stories of Tiger Woods, Tadd Fujikawa, Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Steve Stricker, Colt Knost, Oakmont, Stack and Tilt, Annikas neck, Ernies knee, High Carolinas, Boo, Carnasty, Drivers shaped like boxes, 82, 61, 19 and 13.
 
The list goes on.
 
The casual sports fan has moved on to the NFL where, perhaps, they do need tasers. So much bad news in such a short period of time. Bill Belichick, the video cheater; Michael Vick, the dog abuser; Pacman Jones, the barfly. Sadly, that list goes on, too.
 
Major League Baseball sweeps to its season-ending crescendo with the faint and extremely distant possibility of a Cubs-Red Sox World Series which would pit Wrigley Field vs. Fenway Park. The ratings would spike through the ceiling while the people of New England and the Midwest put away their golf clubs and glue themselves to their televisions as the cold weather advances.
 
Before you know it Lebron James will be driving the lane and creating more unimaginable vertical magic and Sidney Crosby will be making you forget he does what he does while wearing ice skates.
 
But there is a lot of golf left. Good stuff if you know where to look. The Fall Series is full of players talented enough to have big dreams. The money list has replaced the FedExCup points for now. And a bunch of grinders are out there trying to pay attention to their next shot without fixating on the 125 number. Another group of players is checking the top 30 spots on the money list every Sunday night. Their goal is to get one of those coveted invitations to next Aprils Masters.
 
Up until this week my favorite late season story was the ascent of Steve Stricker into the heat of the $10 million FedExCup footrace with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. A more unassuming professional golfer than Steve Stricker you will never meet.
 
Now I am enjoying the recent successes of Steve Flesch. A little more edgy on and off the golf course than Stricker, Flesch is, nevertheless, totally unaffected by the fact that hes a hot shot in the minds of so many others.
 
Prior to the PGA Championship Flesch won at Reno-Tahoe and ended a three-year winless drought. Then he caught fire again at Turning Stone where he took a four-shot lead into the final round of the first event of the Fall Series.
 
That lead shrunk to two quickly Sunday and expanded back to five by the end of his eighth hole. From there, Flesch guarded his advantage and cruised to a two-shot win over Michael Allen and a $1.08 million payday.
 
I remember, earlier this year, visiting with Flesch on the putting green in New Orleans. He had chalked off a line about 6 feet in length. And he was stroking putt after putt after putt. We talked, gossiped and kibitzed as he putted for close to half an hour. I wasnt keeping track but his percentage was in the high, high 90s.
 
At one point he looked up and said, After a while your ball actually starts to putt a groove in the grass. It gets hard to miss. Its good for your confidence.
 
That night Flesch took three of us GOLF CHANNELers out to dinner at Emerils restaurant. You learn in this business never to root against anybody. But it gets hard, at times, not to root FOR certain players. Stricker and Flesch are among the latter. There are plenty of others. Natalie Gulbis is that way on the womens side and its not just because of the way she looks. Shes a good person. So is Mike Weir. And Joe Durant. And, yes, that list goes on, too.
 
Maybe Im nave, but I just dont think there are any pit bull entrepreneurs among the card-carrying members of the PGA or LPGA tours.
 
There are no tasers in golf. And if you have passion for the game, theres no reason to stop paying attention to the results just because were about to arrive in October.
 
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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.