By Chris DatresMay 6, 2008, 4:00 pm
The window is open again after having closed it on my fingers at the Masters. Tiger came close to making me look clairvoyant but just couldnt get a clutch putt to drop. Now, he doesnt even give me a chance to jinx him again as hes off rehabbing his bum knee.
So its on to Ponte Vedra, home of the most menacing par 3 in all the game, especially when the wind is causing problems. Yours truly has played it one time and lets just say that I tied Sean OHairs Sunday effort of a year ago. But enough about my pitiful game, lets move on to equally poor prognostications, shall we?
Adam Scott (3-1): The top choice on the board may come as a very big surprise but Ill explain why in a second. The 2004 winner has two worldwide victories this year and has been pretty consistent throughout the year. He even cut short a surfing vacation at home in Australia to collect the win in Dallas. He said he didnt want to watch his good play go to waste and I can think of no other way of wasting it than wiping out on the beautiful shores of the Gold Coast.

Phil Mickelson (4-1): So why isnt Lefty the top choice? Well heres a little something you may not know about The PLAYERS ' no man has successfully defended his title. Lefty claimed last week that hes grown somewhere between a half-inch to an inch in the last year, which I think is right there along the lines of his boast at the beginning of 2007 that he had lost 30 pounds but gained 15 pounds of muscle. Anyway, this new discovery has led to Phil maybe ironing out his recent putting issues. However, I dont think he can beat history.
Vijay Singh (6-1): Dont you think its about time THE BIG FIJIAN won this thing? The man spends 25 hours a day on that driving range honing his game and making poor Shawn do his job. The closest he came was 2001 when he finished second to Tiger. He also had 2006 in his sights but shot a final-round 77. But one other thing Im wondering ' if I moved him to the top spot, would it get me an invite to that awesome party he has at his house? I can be bribed!!
Jim Furyk (8-1): Heres another player that most thought would have won this event by now. He also lives right down the street from the gates and uses his constant straight driving to keep it out of trouble. You might have to close your eyes when he swings the club but Im sure 105% of us would like to hit the fairway as often as he does (70%).
Sergio Garcia (12-1): I compared his putter combinations to Sonic drink combinations in the Masters Odds and maybe, just maybe, hes figured something out. Hes been working with noted short-game guru Stan Utley and he thinks he has everything under control. Its about time he scores again on U.S. soil, as his last win here was 2005. If he can keep that flatstick under control like he did here last year, there could be a huge fiesta on Sunday night.
Padraig Harrington (15-1): Paddy was close here with runner-up finishes in 2003 and 2004 but hasnt been under 70 in his last 9 rounds. So really, there isnt any reason to put him in this category, right? Well, thats sort of what could have been said about Trevor Immelman and Im not getting blindsided by that again!

Anthony Kim (25-1): He pretty much killed any chances of winning this event when he demolished the field at Wachovia last week. Lets face it, nobody but Tiger goes back-to-back anymore. Anthonys first foray around Sawgrass was forgettable as he went 78-83 to miss the cut by a mile. But you have to admit that the snappy blue Wachovia jacket will look good in his closet. Now, can I have a loan?
Trevor Immelman (30-1): I nearly forgot about Trevor again but since hes won the Masters, his play has been rather forgettable. Hes missed the cut in each of his two events since donning the green jacket and dealing with the maelstrom of media that goes with it. So hopefully on his trip down from Charlotte, he stopped by whatever location in Augusta that he left his game so he can have a good week here. However, hes never made the cut at Sawgrass in three attempts so Id say hes still going to be checking milk cartons for the picture of his game.
Brandt Snedeker (35-1): Sneds captured everyones heart at the Masters and then went all Dick Vermeil on us and thus, sending every armchair Bob Rotella into convulsions about what letting it go would mean to his reputation. Hey, the kid can flat-out play. And for all the ladies out there, hell probably even sit through a chick-flick with you. Id call that well rounded.
Boo Weekley (40-1): Excellent ball striker? Check. Can recover from a bad hole? Check (just witness how he held on to his lead at Verizon). Biscuits, grits, and sweet tea for breakfast? Double check. Boos excellent adventure continues and if he cant win this event then Id at least like to watch him wrassle one of the resident gators at Sawgrass.
Fred Couples (60-1): Freddy nearly ended up in the off the board category below but thankfully, Kims victory got him into the field. The TOUR would have looked real foolish to have put the two-time PLAYERS Champion on their online field list on Saturday only to have to remove him and place him on the alternate list had someone that wasnt already eligible gone and won Wachovia.

Mike Weir/Stephen Ames (75-1): Canadas Stanley Cup losing streak is now at 15 but a win would make it two out of three by our North of the Border neighbors at Sawgrass.
Fred Funk (100-1): Freddy would probably say I could add a zero or two to that and it would be about right but hes on there simply because Id love to see him re-create maybe the best celebration after a winning putt that Ive ever seen after winning the 2005 PLAYERS.

Tiger Woods: No. 1s knee finally said enough was enough and Tiger decided to get it taken care of. Funny thing is that hes probably not too sorry that hes missing this tournament. You see, hes only won it once in 2001 and has been outside the top 10 each time since then. So hell continue his rehab and continue to get QT with Elin and Sam and sit back to watch everyone else get frustrated by the Sawgrass layout.
John Daly: Big John is spending PLAYERS week in Italy playing on the European Tour. Yes, they require shirts and shoes on those courses, unlike the one we saw him on last Monday in Arkansas (Click HERE if youve been in a cave and havent seen it). But I do have one question. He missed the cut in Spain last week and Im guessing hell miss in Italy this week. So is he going to get the full tourist effect? You know, go to a bullfight, check out the nude beaches, maybe check out a few art museums in Italia. Ciao!

Theres only one prop that matters this week. The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass is roughly 135 yards. The first time I saw it in person, I figured it for a good hard pitching wedge. When I finally got to tee it up at that monster, I thought about hitting the wedge but ultimately settled for an 8. It was maybe the crispest, purest 8 Ive ever hit. And naturally hit the back half of the green and skipped into the water. One Moe-Larry-Curly routine from the drop area later and I walked off the proud owner of a Quad. Someday, Ill get my revenge. But as for this week, heres the fields number to beat. If the wind blows like it did in the first round last year, this number could be topped on Day 1:
Over/Under number of shots in the water at the 17th ' 75
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    McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

    McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

    Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

    McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

    Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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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.