Tiger the Whistle Stop Tour Pt 4

By Casey BiererJanuary 7, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editors note: Golf Channel business reporter Casey Bierer participated recently in Nike Golfs Whistle Stop Tour; a press and media junket that traveled a group of Nike execs and invited media to four cities in 48 hours. This column is the fourth entry of a six-part series chronicling the journey.

Heres a recipe we havent seen before. Take the following key ingredients: one Nike GV jet, four cities in 48 hours, three PGA TOUR stars - Tiger Woods, David Duval and Jason Gore, a number of key Nike Golf executives, five print journalists, one television reporter (me) and the launch of two new Nike drivers. Mix thoroughly. The result? Nikes Whistle Stop Tour (WST); a media junket extravaganza that, even by Nike standards, is unprecedented.

The assignment given to me by Golf Channel ' create a reporters first person video journal of the trip. Roll tape as much as possible. When in doubt shoot first, beg for forgiveness later. And, oh yeah, interview Tiger Woods. This was going to be fun.

Part 4
So whos on this plane besides me, anyway? Glad you asked. Nike was represented by Bob Wood, president of Nike Golf; Cindy Davis, domestic general manager; and Beth Gast, Nike Golfs public relations directorthe Whistle Stop Tour was her brainchild. One guy wasnt so lucky with bad weather. Tom Stites, head of club creation for Nike, had been on a hunting trip in Canada and got snowed in. As things stood hed be meeting us in Scottsdale.

From the press there was Mark Soltau from Golf Digest. Marks an interesting chap in that he is also the main content administrator for Tiger Woods official Web site. They met when Mark was a Bay area sports journalist and Tiger was at Stanford. Other Whistle Stop media passengers included Gene Yasuda from Golfweek, Bill Saporito from Time Magazine, and John Garrity from Sports Illustrated. I had a cameraman with me ' MaGoo (Mike McGarry) ' as well a producer, Hegs (Matthew Hegarty).

Now, lets talk about this jet. Too cool for words, but Ill give it a try. James Bond never had it this good. Plush is an understatement. Beautiful burled wood, fit and finish like a Rolls Royce and then some. Wonderfully comfortable living room style seating for 12; you could squeeze 14 if you had to. Galley and bathroom aft, all arranged for ultimate efficiency, service and comfort. The ride was smooth and quiet. No need to raise your voice on this aircraft. What a way to travel. I want one.

Allison, our flight attendant, served a nice breakfast while we all chatted away amiably, had another cup of coffee, read the paper, etc. My producer Hegs seemed right at home, I must say. Kind of looked like Richie Rich sitting there in his sport coat, legs crossed, reading the paper, drinking his coffeelike he owned the joint. Good for Hegs.

About 35 minutes out from touchdown in Los Angeles the conversation quieted. Little notebooks appeared... pads of paper, scraps of paper and the like came out. Everyone was making notes. The journalists, I presume, were thinking about what we would ask Tiger; the Nike execs about what they would say and do in each of their respective roles -- being buttoned up, being professionally prepared and ready to go; it is seriously important when dealing with the No. 1 athlete on the planet. No one wanted to drop the ball on this deal.

A gust of wind hit the GV at what looked to me to be about 200 feet above the runway. I later saw on video how the plane rocked and shifted in air before the wings leveled out again just prior to touchdown. No worries, wheels down, and we made it to Los Angeles. Hawthorne Airport, actually, just across the street from LAX. Captain Blair reported nice weather on the ground as we taxied to the opposite end of the runway and parked at the airports admin building.

Everything happens much quicker where private jet travel is concerned. As soon as the plane came to a stop the door was opened, the stairs folded down and within moments we were all deplaning as the ever smiling Captain Blair bid us good luck.

Fifty feet or so up the nose of the jet were gathered some 40 television cameras and still photographers. Obviously, they must have thought Tiger was on this plane. I was the last passenger off. They didnt look too impressed.

We were hurried in to waiting vans and SUVs ' all shiny and black ' it reminded me of a Secret Service detail. Kind of menacing, really. A caravan of these vehicles made way on a service road to the other end of the runway and stopped in front of an open hanger. It was all readied for Tigers press conference.

No attention to detail was left unattended. There was upbeat music playing, people were milling about, TV cameras were setting up in a long line against the back wall of the hanger. Still photographers roamed about looking for the best vantage point and print journalists readied their pads and tape recorders as they took their seats in front of the stage.

There was an energy in the air. Most distinct, in fact. The kind of electricity you feel in anticipation of something (or someone) unique and special happening. I had previously felt the Tiger factor at the Players Championship a year or two before. On a Tuesday, as Tiger was finishing his practice round, hundreds upon hundreds of spectators gathered near the practice green in anticipation of Tiger making his way off 18 green on his way to the clubhouse. It was like a rock concert had broken out at a golf tournament. People screaming, Tiger, Tigerhere, please sign thisoh, Tiger, pleaseover here, over here. Little kids yelling their heads off and people actually chanting, Ti-ger, Ti-ger, Ti-ger! You had to see it to believe it.

Well, you know how the media is, acting cool and all. No where near that level of exuberance. However, the same electricity was in the air. It was unmistakable. Im not afraid to admit it; I was jazzed up. I mean, I wasnt jumping around yelling Tiger or anything dumb like that, but, my eyes were wide open. I realized this wasnt the kind of thing that happened every day. It was a unique event and everyone knew it was unique. No matter how cool they acted.

As everyone took their seats, a rousing, pounding music video began to play on a huge screen behind the stage. Images of all the Nike Golf tour staff players dashed before our eyesgreat shots, fist pumps, huge smiles, steely-eyed stares. If this didnt get your heart pumping nothing would. The official Nike Whistle Stop Tour was about to begin.

Related Links:
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 3
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 2
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 1
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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.