Notes: How long is long enough on Tour?

By Doug FergusonJanuary 28, 2015, 12:44 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Tim Clark was wrong about one thing. He's not the shortest hitter on the PGA Tour.

Justin Leonard earned that distinction last season on the PGA Tour by finishing at No. 177 in measured drives at an average of 270.3 yards. Clark was three spots better at 272.2 yards. Either way, he quit worrying about driving distance a long time ago, realizing he can make up for it with other parts of his game.

But it led to a question: How long is long? And when is it long enough?

Russell Knox has the reputation of being on the short side, even though he feels he can get it out there far enough. Knox was at No. 120 in driving distance last year. He believes there are three categories of length.

''Guys that are a little short. Everyone else. And guys who bomb it,'' Knox said. ''And there's probably 10 guys who bomb it.''

There were 25 players who averaged 300 yards off the tee last year, though that group included Charles Howell III and Lucas Glover. They are power players, but probably not in the same ''bombers'' class as Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Gary Woodland or Rory McIlroy.

''I played with Bubba a couple of years ago and I almost cried,'' Knox said. ''I was like, if this guy hits it straight, I might as well try to caddie for him. But the reality is, distance is maybe 10 percent of golf. If those guys hit it so much further than me, there's obviously part of my game that is better than theirs or I'd never beat them. I need to focus on those parts.''

Knox might be too stingy by saying there are only about 10 guys in the A-plus power group. He also thinks there are no more than 10 players who are seriously short.

''Most guys that are short have been out here a long time,'' he said. ''They're absolutely geniuses. They have great short games. They're great putters.''

Clark referred to players like Adam Scott who could be in the A-plus group if he wanted to except that Scott tries to play more under control.

''There's a lot more real bombers than we think,'' Clark said. ''If you're just looking at the stats, it doesn't give a true picture of how long these guys are. ... That's almost as big of a group as the medium guys.''

One ''medium guy'' might be Russell Henley, who was No. 61 in driving distance last year. Henley said there were five levels of power on the PGA Tour, and he put himself somewhere around the middle because the smashers - Watson, Johnson, Holmes - ''are probably two levels above me.''

Henley offered this definition of his driving distance: ''When you're short, it puts pressure on your drive because you've got to hit the fairway. I need to hit the fairway, but it's not the end of the world if I don't.''

Henley already has two of the 10 drives that have been measured at 400 yards or more this year, all of them at Kapalua. One of them was on the 17th hole, all the way to the bottom. He still made par.


MOVING ON: Phil Mickelson is more interested in the next decade or two in the Ryder Cup, not what happened the last time in Gleneagles. Mickelson made his first public appearance last week since he spoke openly in the closing press conference at Gleneagles about the lack of a communication between U.S. captain Tom Watson and the team.

Mickelson is part of a Ryder Cup task force geared toward creating a model. It already has met once, with another meeting expected next week.

Would this open dialogue have occurred had Mickelson not spoken up after the loss to Europe in September?

''I just think there's a lot of great input. I'm excited about what we're doing moving forward,'' Mickelson said last week. ''How we got there, doesn't matter. We're there now and we're going to make it a really great experience for the next generation of players as they go through the next decade or two.''

Watson, too, is ready to move on.

He played the Champions Tour opener last week in Hawaii and was excited to see two Ryder Cup players, Patrick Reed and Jimmy Walker, win the Hawaii events.

''I'm proud of Jimmy and Patrick, and the way they played at the Ryder Cup,'' Watson said. ''I'm proud of the way all the players played on the Ryder Cup team. They gave it their best shot. The other team just played better is the bottom line. It was a great event for the Europeans. It was not a great event for us, although we had our moments.''

When asked if it was time to move on, Watson replied, ''Sure. Because there's nothing we can do about it now.''


SPIETH DEAL: One new deal, one long-term renewal. Jordan Spieth has made quite an impression since the end of the last PGA Tour season, all very quietly.

First was the deal with AT&T, significant because the Dallas-based telecommunications firm not only is one of the strongest corporate partners on the PGA Tour, but because it has not signed any golfer to a personal endorsement since it cut ties with Tiger Woods in 2009.

The deal shows a lot of trust in the 21-year-old Spieth.

And then last week, Under Armour announced a comprehensive, 10-year extension with Spieth.

Spieth first signed with Under Armour in 2013 when he turned pro and is the first golfer to be outfitted head-to-toe in Under Armour gear. The company plans international marketing with Spieth, and he is involved in a golf shoe that is to debut in the spring.


BASEBALL FEAT: Rob Manfred took over Sunday as commissioner of MLB, and during a guest appearance on the league's network he was asked his greatest athletic achievement. After taking a mulligan (he played two years of tennis at Le Moyne College), Manfred said he has made a hole-in-one - twice, on the same hole.

Manfred said he used a 6-iron to ace the third hole at Sleepy Hollow.

''And the next year I was older, used a 5-iron,'' he said.


DIVOTS: Juli Inkster has selected Wendy Ward to be one of her assistant captains at the Solheim Cup in Germany this year. ... Frank Nobilo is joining CBS Sports as a golf analyst. Peter Oosterhuis announced last week he was retiring. Nobilo will continue his work at Golf Channel. ... The USGA has selected James R. Hansen for its Herbert Warren Wind Book Award. Hansen wrote ''A Difficult Par: Robert Trent Jones Sr. and the Making of Modern Golf.''


STAT OF THE WEEK: Starting with the final round at Kapalua, the low scores in each of the last nine rounds on the PGA Tour have been 62, 62, 62, 62, 63, 63, 61, 63 and 63.


FINAL WORD: ''I lost a few world ranking points, a trophy and some money. But I can handle all of those three things.'' - Martin Kaymer, on losing a 10-shot lead with 13 holes to play in Abu Dhabi.

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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.

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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.”

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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.