Halfway around the world Tiger and Phil meet again

By Doug FergusonNovember 5, 2009, 12:22 am

HSBC ChampionshipSHANGHAI – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson sat across from each other in a mock game of Chinese checkers against the spectacular backdrop of Shanghai’s trendy Bund district. Later, they posed with the HSBC Champions trophy.

The world’s best two players have been taking part in plenty of photo opportunities together lately.

Only six weeks ago in Atlanta, they shared the spotlight at the Tour Championship when Mickelson won the tournament by three shots over Woods, and Woods hoisted the FedEx Cup trophy. Then came a trophy they shared at the Presidents Cup, where both produced unbeaten records in San Francisco.

Halfway around the world, they are going at it again.

Despite a 78-man field from 23 countries at this World Golf Championship – the strongest field ever assembled in Asia – Woods and Mickelson remain the top attraction.

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“I’m excited that Tiger and I are able to compete in the same event here in China,” Mickelson said Wednesday on the eve of the HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club. “I think that it will provide some exposure to the game of golf throughout the country, and I’m hopeful that we compete head-to-head over the weekend, and are both in contention.”

The HSBC Champions might be the appropriate way to celebrate a phenomenal year for golf in Asia.

Y.E. Yang of South Korea made history in two respects at the PGA Championship, becoming the first Asian-born golfer to win a major and the first player to win a major where Woods had the lead going into the final round.

Only a week ago, the first Asian Amateur Championship was staged at Mission Hills Golf Club in China, with the winner awarded a spot in the Masters next year and an exemption into the final stage of British Open qualifying.

The year ends with the first World Golf Championship in Asia that counts toward the world ranking.

“I’m looking forward to it. I think everyone is,” Woods said. “Having this now become a World Golf Championship, I think everyone is very excited about what this tournament means in the scope of things, not just here in China but in all of Asia. As a player, we are looking forward to playing this golf course against such a great field.”

The field includes defending champion Sergio Garcia, three-time major winner Padraig Harrington, British Open champion Stewart Cink and Lee Westwood, who is leading the Race to Dubai on the European Tour.

Woods is no stranger to playing overseas, having played at least one international tournament every year since his pro debut in 1996. But while that familiar spinning globe – the World Golf Championship logo – is now found on the bright red signs around the course, there is no denying this tournament has a different feel.

HSBC has expanded its promotional effort to the point that it had sand in the bunkers on the practice range painted red, its corporate color. It also had pictures of Woods, Mickelson, Harrington, Geoff Ogilvy and Paul Casey painted on elevator doors at the official hotel.

Advance tickets sold at double the rate compared with last year, a product of Woods returning to Shanghai, the tournament being upgraded to WGC status and the appearance of 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan.

One Chinese boy no more than 10 was so excited to see Woods that he raced under the ropes with a camera draped around his neck to get a clear shot, only for a security guard to gently scoop him up and put him back in the gallery.

Hysteria erupted on the 14th hole when Woods and caddie Steve Williams stopped for a bathroom break, with Williams leaving the golf bag just off the tee. Within seconds, some 50 fans had it surrounded, gawking as though a meteorite had fallen on Sheshan International. One woman giggled as she timidly stroked the Kiwi head cover on Woods’ 3-wood until security shooed her away.

Even the excursions to Shanghai’s massive metropolis have been adventurous, as cars weave six-wide along three-lane highways.

“Amazing,” Nick Watney said. “The lanes are more like suggestions.”

The list of champions at Sheshan International is impressive. Garcia won last year, pushing him to a career-high No. 2 in the world ranking. The year before belonged to Mickelson in his first sanctioned international victory. And while not many knew him at the time, Yang introduced himself in 2006 by finishing two shots ahead of Woods.

“The biggest memory is of sitting with Tiger during the awards ceremony,” Yang said. “Having my picture taken with Tiger was probably the biggest thrill.”

That was nothing compared with Yang taking Woods apart at Hazeltine, then hoisting his golf bag over his shoulders after winning the PGA Championship. Yang said he is not quite as relaxed at the HSBC Champions as he was three years ago.

“There’s a little more pressure, I guess,” he said. “Maybe it’s because Tiger is here. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through a lot of tournaments. Maybe it’s because of the stress finally trickling down. As I told you, I’m trying to take it as just an ordinary tournament.”

From red sand in the practice range bunkers to Woods and Mickelson leading a world-class field, there is nothing ordinary about this tournament.

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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.