Road Noise On the Range

By Casey BiererFebruary 18, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editor's note: Golf Channel buisness reporter Casey Bierer will be filing stories throughout the year 'from the road.' In this weeks addition of Road Noise, Casey hit the driving range and tour trailers at Riviera Country Club on Tuesday of the Nissan Classic. And on Friday, Casey happened across a first-hand scoop involving Phil Mickelson that youll want to read at the end of his column.
Rocco Meditate told me on Tuesday it just doesnt get any better than Riviera Country Club. I was in the Callaway Golf Tour Trailer watching all the activity when Rocco jolted in. Look up the words positive and lively in the dictionary and youll find Roccos picture next to each. The always gracious Jon Laws, Callaways Odyssey Putter Tour Rep, introduced Rocco to Michael Yamaki, Corporate Officer of Riviera Country Club. Before Mr. Yamaki could reach across the work bench and shake Roccos hand, Rocco effused, Mr. Yamaki, Riviera is my favorite golf course hands down. Dont pass go, dont collect two hundred dollars, the buck stops right here at this golf course. Mr. Yamaki smiled a knowing smile and Rocco continued, And I bet if you took a poll of the guys out here a lot more than you might think would agree with me. Rocco and Mr. Yamaki went on to discuss some of the bunkering and greens complex changes that have been made. For the most part, Rocco is supportive of those changes. As I headed out the door of the tour van, I heard Rocco exclaim, The way hole number two challenges you with the driving range all the way down the left side and nothing but trees and no shot down the right by the practice holethe gaping bunker front right and a saucer cup of a green that looks like the head of pin from the fairway ' are you kidding me? Is there a better par four in golf?
David Sticky Williams, PGA TOUR rep for Adams Golf, told me on Tuesday that the juicy rough at Riviera this week is making it difficult for some of the guys to muscle long irons out of the long rough. The solution? Long irons come out of the bag and hybrids go in. According to Sticky, Im building hack-em and crack-em clubs today. A lot of 24 degree hybrids to potentially replace 3-irons and 4-irons this week. But, its not just the rough the guys are planning ahead for this week. Its the par-3 fourth hole. Sticky calls it, A really odd animal. The hole is a 230-yard carry over bunker and in to the wind. A 5-wood will balloon up too high so these guys are looking to modify whats in their bag even for just this one hole. I also asked Sticky about the status of Adams presence on the PGA TOUR. Adams is of course known to have a robust presence on the Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour. It has been a focus of the company the last couple of years to increase their activity on the PGA TOUR. Right now its amazing, says Sticky. Last week we had 36 hybrids in playits the most weve ever hadits a blast right now. The more players are using the hybrids, the more they are telling other players and that sure does make my job a lot easier.
Jim Tosh McIntosh, PGA TOUR rep for UST Golf Shafts, says its all systems go on the professional golf tours this year. The company has had some recent player signings they are thrilled with. Davis Love and Rod Pampling recently came aboard in an official capacity, says Tosh. Kristie Kerr is also on our staff now and of course Jim Furyk has been with us a while. The Accra shaft has been doing great for us as well as the ProForce V2. We had wins already this year at FBR and at the Hope, so thats a really good start. The interest is there from the players all across the line, really. From iRod in the hybrid shafts to Accra to V2, things are looking really good for us right now. Its hard to find a more consistently better player week in and week out on the PGA TOUR than Jim Furyk. Every time the guy tees it up he is a factor and that is fantastic when he is playing a shaft that is as visible on television as the ProForce V2. So, were thrilled.
Steve Stach, PGA TOUR rep for Nike Golf, is excited about the amount of attention the Nike Tour Staff is paying to the new Sumo driver. Stach told me, Guys are really sitting up and paying attention to this new driver. We just got a fresh shipment of the heads in on the trailer this week and a lot of the players on our staff who havent had a chance to hit it yet will be trying it in the next couple of weeks. I asked Stach about the process of moving players in to a new driver like Sumo. We have all the players specifications on the tour van, says Stach, So when we have a new product we build it for them ahead of time so its ready to go if they do want to try it. Theyll give us their feedback, but also, a lot of times they will put it right in play. What we see is that if a player thinks the club will help their game, thats what theyre interested in.
The marketing side is one thing, but with these guys they just want to play great golf. If a new product helps them do that they are going to put it in their bag. I asked Stach if they are most often initially able to build the new driver using the same shaft the player has in their current gamer even though this is a new head they are trying. We typically build them the new driver with their current gamer specs. Say a player is using a Mitsubishi Diamana 63 X in an SQ Tour head at 7.5 degrees of loft, we would build that exact same driver with the new head and that way it gives us a baseline. We know those specs are working for them because thats the way we set up their current gamer. So its a good place for us to start with the new head. Then if we have to make adjustments we can do that moving forward.
John Oldenberg, VP of Engineering and Product Development for Aldila, tells me there are a couple of brand new prototype shafts being tested at Riviera this week. First time out of the gate on a couple of new shafts for us, says John. Were looking at some ways to take some more spin off the ball and these guys are always happy to hear were working on that. They dont like the ball to spin too much off their driver. Asked specifically about the new shafts John says, Well, its kind of like we always do. We take a successful platform like the VS Proto and we modify it based on the feedback we get from these guys on TOUR. One of these new prototypesweve made the butt of the shaft very stiff and the tip of the shaft very soft. Now, this is kind of against what most TOUR players tell people they have to have. But you dont necessarily have to have a stiff tip if the butt to tip aspect ratio is in a range that matches the spin and flight characteristics were trying to achieve. And as far as the other prototype being tested this week, John says, Were working on a shaft to accommodate the torque challenges created by these newest large driver heads you see out here. These new high MOI heads create a whole new set of challenges for us. So we want to take our already successful platform, like VS Proto, and adapt it to work well with the new shape geometry drivers. Thats the kind of stuff were working on out here this week.
Phil Mickelson
On Friday I was in Carlsbad, Calif., just a couple hours drive down the coast from Hogans Alley; Riviera Country Club and the Nissan Open. I was at Callaway Golfs Ely Callaway Performance Center to interview a couple of the R&D boys about Callaways newest products. While my cameraman was setting up the gear in a conference room I wandered out on to the second floor balcony that overlooks the Performance Centers magnificently manicured driving range. It was a beautiful Southern California morning; a sunny blue sky accompanied by a nice cool breeze. Just perfect, really. I happened to glance over to the right in the direction of the parking lot. No big deal. A couple of guys shooting the breeze. One of the men in the group, however, kind of caught my attention. He had his back to me but even so, and being a good distance off, there was a familiarity about his posture; his bearing, if you will.
I started to take a closer look and really focus in: the build (bigger than the other fellas), the posture, the well-tailored golf clothes, and the visorthe visor? Holy smokes, thats Phil Mickelson! But, wait a minute. Its 9:00 am on Friday morning and Lefty has a 12:40 pm tee-time up the road in Pacific Palisades at the Nissan Classic. Never mind. I keep watching. Sure enough, after a couple of minutes of talking, Phil walks over to his car, takes out his golf bag (which, by the way, he carried himself) and walks on to the driving range. He stakes out the far right piece of turf, throws down his alignment shaft and starts doing a little light stretching.
The European Tours Johan Edfors from Sweden was already hitting balls and Johan and Phil struck up a brief conversation. Nice vacation you had Phil, said Johan. And a great win at AT&T. Phil responded, You had a great year last year, Johan. Three wins out there. Thats good stuff. Then Phil was all business. He pulled sand wedge and started to hit little shots.
Im thinking, this is too cool. Phil Mickelson has a 12:40 pm tee-time and hes here at the Ely Callaway Performance Center to warm up instead of warming up at Riviera. So, I ask the Callaway Tour Reps to ask Phil for permission to tape him warming up. No problem, Phil says. Boom, done. We shoot some b-roll of Lefty going through his warm-up routine and that tape gets couriered back up to the tournament site to air on the Golf Channel. I was going to ask Phil to take the tape back with him on his Gulfstream V but I thought that might be pushing it a bit.
About fifty minutes after he arrived at Callaway, or approximately 9:55 am, Phil Mickelson put his golf bag in the car, drove himself to Carlsbad airport, hopped on his plane and jetted to Santa Monica airport. Im assuming he made his tee-time with plenty of room to spare since he fired a sizzling second round 65 en route to sharing the lead with Padraig Harrington. Can you say cool as a cucumber?
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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.