Notes: DJ's new junior event has eyes on China

By Doug FergusonNovember 11, 2015, 12:37 am

SHANGHAI - Dustin Johnson has already made a name for himself in China with his golf. He won the HSBC Champions two years ago, and was closing in on the lead Sunday until a bad break with his wedge. The ball hit the pin and caromed into the water on the par-5 eighth hole, turning a sure birdie into a double bogey.

The next step could be making an impact with juniors. His coach at Coastal Carolina, Allen Terrell, has been coming to Shanghai for six years to teach at Sheshan International and to educate families on how their children can get golf scholarships in America. Terrell runs the Dustin Johnson Golf School in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Johnson says they are looking into prospects for starting such a school in China.

The first step is a golf tournament.

The inaugural Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship is Feb. 13-15 at the TPC Myrtle Beach, and Terrell said there will be qualifiers held in China that would allow Chinese juniors to compete in the tournament. The tournament will be Presidents Day weekend, and also around the time of the Chinese New Year.

''Dustin always wanted to have a junior tournament, and then we have a strong influence from China,'' Terrell said. ''A group from China bought 23 golf courses in Myrtle Beach. We're trying to bring Chinese families over, show them around and explain the college system.''

The PGA Tour launched its China circuit last year and it produced Haotong Li, who played well on the Web.com Tour this year and tied for seventh in the HSBC. Terrell said he first came over as a coach because he saw China as an untapped market. Other golf programs haven't made much of a difference.

''Look at the number of players from China playing in college,'' he said. ''It's a small percentage. The transition is difficult. A lot of them haven't made it more than one year, and that's going to hurt China down the road. We're hoping to bridge that.''


FALLING PHIL: Phil Mickelson dropped to No. 27 in the world this week, the wrong kind of milestone.

The last time he was out of the top 25 was Sept. 10, 1995. That was right after Tiger Woods won his second straight U.S. Amateur. It was two years after Jordan Spieth was born. Greg Norman was three months into his longest reign (96 weeks) at No. 1 in the world.

Because he is not playing again until the CareerBuilder Challenge in the California desert, Mickelson could be out of the top 50 the next time he tees it up. He hasn't been outside the top 50 since the week before Thanksgiving in 1993.


GENDER BLENDERS: LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan believes there's a place for men and women to share the same stage in golf.

He's just not sure when.

Among the ideas that have been kicked around over the years is for the PGA Tour and LPGA to compete on the same course at the same time, perhaps at a winners-only event or in a match play format. They could play their own set of tees and compete separately, different from the Mixed Team event from nearly two decades ago.

The U.S. Open and Women's Open was a big hit in consecutive weeks at Pinehurst No. 2 last year. And the Olympics will feature men and women on the same course is successive weeks next year in Rio.

But playing the same course at the same time? Whan says PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem ''shares that interest.''

''I work on next year's schedule, Tim works on 2019, so we have a slightly different sense of urgency in getting there,'' Whan said. ''I've brought a few specific suggestions of tournaments where I thought we could do something together. It's not tomorrow. But I feel comfortable we'll get there.''


SURPRISE CALL: HSBC Champions winner Russell Knox has been managed by R.J. Nemers his entire career, and he still doesn't know how it happened.

Nemers founded Icon Sports, which recently was acquired by IMG, and he counts Ian Poulteramong his longtime clients. But his phone call to Knox came out of blue. He was at PGA Tour Q-School for the second time and failed miserably.

''I was at second stage and almost finished last,'' Knox said. ''I was miles away from getting to the final stage. I went home and was depressed because I would have to wait another year to get on the Web.com. My phone rang and it was R.J. He said, 'We're interested in signing you. We think we're going to make it.' I had never spoken to an agent. I always thought it was the coolest thing if you had an agent.

''It was the nicest thing anyone had done for me.''

Knox played four years at Jacksonville University and even now can't figure out why Nemers would be interested.

''I told him that 25 guys just make it through to the final stage from my site, and there are six or eight other sites. 'Why are you picking me?''' Knox said. ''He said, 'We think you're going to be better than them.' He'll be my agent for life.''


PRICE SUPPORT: Peter Thomson was captain three times in the Presidents Cup, which included the lone International team victory. Gary Player also was International captain three times, including the tie in South Africa.

Adam Scott is in favor of Nick Price getting a third shot at it.

The International team nearly pulled off a remarkable rally in South Korea until Chris Kirk made a 15-foot birdie putt that led to a 15 1/2-14 1/2 victory. Price was adamant that the number of matches be lowered to help make it a closer contest, and it's difficult to deny that made a difference this year.

What didn't change was the outcome, and Scott believes Price should get one more chance.

''I think that would be great if he is,'' Scott said. ''I think he did a fantastic job for us this year. He learned so much after his first one and put that experience to good use. My personal feeling is I'd love to have Nick be the captain again and try and get a win for him. It would be something special for all the players, but something very special for Nick and his career.''


DIVOTS: Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar will have new caddies for 2016. Mahan and John Wood parted after nine years, and Wood went to work for Kuchar, who split with Lance Bennett. Mahan said he had a couple of caddies in mind. ... Sei Young Kim has wrapped up the points-based Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year on the LPGA tour. Kim won three times this year. ... Branden Grace is buying a house in the West Palm Beach, Florida, area for his first full year on the PGA Tour. His only other home is in South Africa. The tournaments he has never played that excite him the most? The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Northern Trust Open at Riviera. ''I've never played Pebble Beach,'' Grace said. ''I know it's with amateurs, but it's Pebble Beach.'' ... Sports Illustrated selected Jack Nicklaus to receive its newly named Muhammad Ali Legacy Award.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Three of the four World Golf Championships were won by players from Britain and Ireland - Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland), Shane Lowry (Ireland) and Russell Knox (Scotland).


FINAL WORD: ''A full month of killing birds, drinking beer and watching football. All the stuff I wish I was doing now.'' - Kevin Kisner, on plans for his offseason.

Getty Images

Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

Getty Images

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, five 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.”

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.