Its a Prime Time For Champions

By David Marr IiiNovember 15, 2004, 5:00 pm
2004 UBS CupYouth is no longer wasted on the young.
In three brief years the UBS Cup has become a celebration set in an international team competition. It is a festival of personalities and golf skills that have withstood lifes maddening balance. Mind and body, that fragile mix vital to any champion, are at odds in the natural process of aging. As a golfer matures the mental aspects of his game improve while his physical skills diminish. Understanding different shots and situations, learning to control emotions and pressure help mold a champion, yet these experiences are accumulated while strength, flexibility and reflexes ebb.
An exception to this rule is Jack Nicklaus whose preternatural strength of mind led to his 1962 U.S. Open victory as a 22 year old. His first PGA Tour win was a major championship, as was his last, the 1986 Masters, where Nicklaus willed his body to recapture its youth for nine holes closing in 30 for a one stroke victory.
Since that magical week at Augusta professional golfers have increasingly used advancements in nutrition and exercise to help stave off the aging cycle, keeping themselves in much better shape throughout their careers. Those wise minds are finding much more receptive physiques, and the result is better golf being played throughout golfers 40s, 50s and even approaching their 60s. Nowhere is this better exemplified than on the Champions Tour, where the celebration evident at the UBS Cup is on display weekly in a stroke play format. The golfers on each team have made their mark on the tour, or are waiting for their chance to do so.
On the U.S. team, captain Arnold Palmer is still the charismatic soul of the tour, and he constantly sees remarkable competition among his Champions Tour peers. Hale Irwin secured his second Charles Schwab Cup this year earning the most points in a season long competition. The 59-year-old proved that aside from a few aches and pains, he hasnt slowed a step in a decade on the Champions Tour. The runner-up in that competition was Craig Stadler. Stadler is still eligible to play on the PGA Tour next year by virtue of his win at the 2003 B.C. Open. The only other man to win on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour in the same season was Raymond Floyd in 1992. He and Jay Haas are the only players to compete in the Ryder Cup past their 50th birthdays.
The youngsters on the U.S. team have shown remarkable competitive longevity while awaiting their opportunity on the Champions Tour. Gallery favorite Fred Couples won at the 2003 Shell Houston Open then had a stretch of three top ten finishes in four events this season. Scott Hoch also won in 2003, capturing the Ford Championship at Doral. Curtis Strange and Hal Sutton have devoted extensive portions of their careers recently to captaining the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2002 and 2004 respectively, but each man has shown excellent form as well.
The Rest of the World team has also seen spirited play of late as well as considerable Champions Tour success. Captain Gary Players victory at the 2000 Senior Skins game, marked his 6th consecutive decade with a win. On his team he finds perhaps the hottest golfer on the Champions Tour, Mark McNulty. The elegant Zimbabwean closed out his rookie year with three wins including the final two events of the year. Sam Torrance, the lovable Scottish rascal, thrilled American galleries in 2004 but found the time away from his wife and children unbearable and headed back to Great Britain after some impressive Champions Tour appearances. Carl Masons limited Champions Tour exposure included a playoff loss to Tom Watson at the 2003 Senior British Open. Mason has been the leading money winner in each of his two years on the European counterpart to the Champions Tour.
Captain Player also has stellar international team match players at his disposal who have not yet reached their 50th birthday. Starting with Colin Montgomerie, certainly one of the greatest Ryder Cup players in history he was the backbone of victorious teams in 2002 and 2004. Bernhard Langer was not only a great Ryder Cup player but captained the team to its widest margin of victory ever and won two Masters as well. Another Masters champion with an impeccable Ryder Cup record who must be relishing another chance at the American team is Welshman Ian Woosnam, destined to follow Torrance and Langer as a Ryder Cup captain one day.
Present and future Champions Tour players meet at Kiawah Island, site of the 1991 Ryder Cup to once again compete for national pride with personalities that are familiar to all golf fans. Though a few years removed from their glory days on the PGA and European Tours, attention to nutrition and exercise ensures that they arent very far removed from their competitive primes at all.
Related Links:
  • Meet the Teams
  • Full Coverage - UBS Cup
  • Getty Images

    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

    Getty Images

    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

    Getty Images

    Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

    “That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

    So was Woods.

    DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

    “His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

    Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

    “He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

    Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

    “Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

    “Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

    Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

    Getty Images

    With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.