A new world order at this World Golf Championship

By Doug FergusonMarch 10, 2011, 7:14 pm

WGC-Cadillac ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. – The top three players in the world ranking will be in the same group for the opening two rounds of the Cadillac Championship, the second time in five weeks for such a glamorous 1-2-3 punch. There is on notable substitution.

Luke Donald is in.

Tiger Woods is out.

And for most fans at Doral for this World Golf Championship, the main event will be one notch down the ranking for Woods, Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell.

Donald moved up to No. 3 two weeks ago in Arizona when he captured the biggest win of his career at the Match Play Championship. That puts him alongside Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood when the Cadillac Championship gets under way Thursday on the Blue Monster.

Donald doesn’t obsess over the ranking, although it’s hard to dismiss one fact.

“There’s only two players ranked higher than me in the world right now, and that’s pretty amazing to think about,” Donald said.

Even more amazing – Woods isn’t among them.

He had been No. 1 for more than five years until his shocking fall, on and off the golf course. Westwood was the first to replace Woods at the end of October, and then Kaymer replaced Westwood with his runner-up finish at the Match Play.

McDowell took over at No. 4, pushing Woods down to his lowest level since the week before he won the 1997 Masters.

Even so, there’s always something special about Woods and Mickelson, particularly at Doral.

They are the top two players of their generations, supported by the record alone. Woods has 82 victories around the world, including 14 majors. Mickelson is at 40 worldwide wins with four majors.

Their combined 18 majors is equal to the rest of the 69-man field at Doral combined.

“We don’t get paired together very often,” Woods said.

This will be the 27th time that Woods and Mickelson have been the same group, and only the fifth time it took place on Thursday and Friday of a tournament. The last three were either majors (2008 U.S. Open, 2006 PGA Championship), or a FedEx Cup playoff event (2007 Deutsche Bank Championship).

Mickelson, who played Augusta National on Tuesday, rested on the day before Doral. His caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, walked the course and met up with Woods early in his practice round.

“Bones and I were on the golf course today and trying to remember the last time it happened in a non-major,” Woods said of their pairing. “And he thought it was in ’98. So obviously, we don’t get to do it very often.”

That was the 1998 Nissan Open, the year it moved from Riviera to Valencia, the only time a Woods-Mickelson weekday pairing was done by a blind draw. And that streak continues, for there was nothing blind about this one.

The PGA Tour has been tweaking its pairings this year to make for interesting stories on television, perhaps to attract more viewers when it gets to the network coverage on the weekend.

Woods and Mickelson figured to be put together at some point, and it was coincidence that they were next to each other in the ranking. The twist is that neither is among the new “Big Three,” at least at the moment.

They first played together at Doral in the final round of 2005 when it was a regular PGA Tour event, and a sold-out crowd that approached some 50,000 turned the Blue Monster into a rock concert.

Mickelson took a two-shot lead into the final round, only for Woods to rally and take a one-shot lead into the final hole. Mickelson’s chip from just off the green to force a playoff caught the lip, and Woods won to return to No. 1 in the world.

A year later, they were in the final group of the third round when Woods shot 68 and took the lead, leaving Mickelson four shots behind. Woods went on to win the next day.

It was part of three straight wins at Doral, although victories haven’t been piling up for Woods in the last few years. He now has gone 15 months since his last win at the Australian Masters, right before his personal life imploded on Thanksgiving night with the revelation of extramarital affairs.

Mickelson, meanwhile, has not won since the Masters.

Who could have imagined that Woods and Mickelson would have one victory between them over the last 15 months?

Woods has not shown many signs that he is close to regaining his form, and the venue doesn’t help like it once did. He had won five straight times at Torrey Pines, then finished out of the top 10 for the first time ever. He had never finished out of the top 10 at Dubai, and wound up fading on Sunday into a tie for 20th.

Woods might continue to fall in the ranking if he doesn’t start playing better. As for no longer being No. 1?

“It’s about winning golf tournaments, and I haven’t done that,” Woods said. “There’s no reason for me to be up there at the top. You have to win golf tournaments and you have to do it consistently. Lee did it, Martin’s done it, and that’s what it takes.”

Getty Images

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?''

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

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.