Mahan's playoff streak in jeopardy

By Doug FergusonAugust 26, 2015, 10:10 pm

EDISON, N.J. – Recent history is what gives Hunter Mahan a level of optimism he would not ordinarily have at The Barclays.

For the first time in 10 years, he is at risk of ending a PGA Tour season without once finishing in the top three. For the first time in more than six years, Mahan is out of the top 50 in the world ranking. He starts the FedEx Cup playoffs at No. 71, his lowest position since this series began in 2007.

Mahan is the only player to have never missed a playoff event. That streak is in jeopardy.

He also knows how quickly it can turn around.

''Takes one good week to propel you up the board,'' Mahan said. ''And you can change the schematic of the whole thing.''

A year ago, Mahan was No. 62 in the FedEx Cup when he closed with a 65 and won The Barclays. That moved him to No. 1 in the standings, assured him a spot in the Tour Championship and impressed Tom Watson enough that he used a captain's pick on Mahan for the Ryder Cup.


The Barclays: Articles, photos and videos


''You can have an OK season and all of a sudden you play good at the right time and be a FedEx Cup champion,'' Mahan said. ''It does feel like a late-season push here. You can kind of forget where you've been and you can really be right here because you know good play right now means a lot.''

One good week.

That's what motivates players like Davis Love III and Jason Gore, who only qualified for the playoffs last week in North Carolina.

It's not so much an issue for Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth, for PGA champion Jason Day and others who have played so well all year that they are virtually a lock for the Tour Championship at East Lake. Because the points are reset for the final event, whoever wins at East Lake stands the best chance at capturing the $10 million bonus.

Only the top 125 in the FedEx Cup are eligible for the playoffs, and there are some big names missing. Tiger Woods failed to qualify for the third time in the last five years. Ernie Els and Geoff Ogilvy didn't make it for the first time. Neither did Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell.

The Barclays features only a 120-man field because five players chose not to play.

Rory McIlroy wanted to give his ankle another week off to make sure there are no issues. He can afford to miss it at No. 9 in the Fed Ex Cup. Also missing are Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Francesco Molinari and Retief Goosen. Molinari, whose wife just had a baby, is No. 99 and so his season is over. Goosen is out of the top 100 and is done for the season.

Only the top 100 advance to Deutsche Bank Championship next week, and the top 70 move on to the BMW Championship. The top 30 go to the Tour Championship, a golden goose for some because it puts them in the majors for next year.

The change in the points system this year meant a little less volatility.

Points used to be worth five times as much as the regular season. Now they're worth four times as much. What hasn't changed is the need to play good golf, and the urgency depends on what kind of season a player has had.

Day and Dustin Johnson got off to a rough start on Wednesday. Day tweaked his back moving an item under his motor home, and the Australian chose to sit out the pro-am as a precautious so he would be ready to go at The Barclays.

Johnson has been battling a chest infection for the last week and withdrew from the pro-am after seven holes. He won The Barclays the last time it was held at Plainfield in 2011, when it was shortened to 54 holes because of an approaching hurricane. That week started with an earthquake.

So far, it has been nothing but sunshine on a course that is likely to play firm and features a reachable par 4 for the closing hole.

Among the surprise guests this week is the 51-year-old Love, who won the Wyndham Championship to qualify for the playoffs. That put him at No. 76, meaning he is assured of playing the next two weeks, and a good performance will get him to Chicago for the third one.

As far as Love is concerned, the playoffs began last week. He faced the end of his season, and that's what is on the line for 25 players this week.

''The huge jump I made last week, like Billy Horschel last year coming from the middle of the pack all the way to the winner, it's very, very exciting,'' Love said. ''I'm excited to have gotten in this tournament. Guys have really focused on, 'If I can just get in them, I can win it. I can win the whole thing.' I think it's really evolved, and I think it's very exciting now.''

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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.