Notes: Knox's game heating up at right time

By Doug FergusonMay 24, 2016, 11:05 pm

Russell Knox needed results before he could find confidence, and now his confidence is soaring.

Just over six months ago, Knox got in as an alternate for his first World Golf Championship, scrambled to secure a Chinese visa and wound up winning the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. He has become more visible since then, only partly because of his steady play.

Knox had a one-shot lead with three holes to play in the Irish Open until Rory McIlroy hit two shots with a fairway metal that will be talked about in Ireland for years - onto the 16th green for a two-putt birdie (and a two-shot swing for the lead) and to 3 feet on the 18th hole for eagle.

''I got beat by two of the best shots I've ever seen in my life,'' Knox said Monday night from England, where he playing the BMW PGA Championship.

It was his third runner-up finish since Shanghai - he went straight from China to Mexico and lost in a playoff to Graeme McDowell - and it moved Knox to a career-best No. 23 in the world. And he wasn't the least bit surprised.

''I've always had to prove to myself I can do it before I really feel like I can do it,'' Knox said. ''It's been like that at all levels. After coming close a few times, then winning in Shanghai, all of a sudden I proved to myself I can do it, and I should be able to do it again. I've just kind of run with that.''

His game is efficient rather than dazzling, though it's hard to beat the results.

Since missing the cut in his Masters debut, Knox has a pair of runner-up finishes and a performance at The Players Championship that brought him just as much attention for how he handled misfortune with humor and honesty. He was contending at the TPC Sawgrass when his tee shot on the island-green 17th came up a yard short. Rattled, he shanked the next one, and then put a third in the water. He made a 9 and tumbled out of sight.

He called it an ''epic fail.'' He said he would be ''terrified'' hitting that shot the next day (he hit the green and three-putted for his only bogey in a final round of 66). And he earned plenty of fans by going on Twitter to say, ''SHANK you very much for all the nice messages.''

Knox, who has lived in Florida since playing college golf at Jacksonville University, took up European Tour membership after winning the HSBC. He was asked about the Ryder Cup that week, and it felt like a long shot. He did not get Ryder Cup points for the WGC victory because he was not yet a member.

But he faces a big stretch now - Wentworth, the Memorial, U.S. Open, Bridgestone Invitational, Scottish Open, British Open over the next eight weeks, all of them with plenty of Ryder Cup world points on offer.

''After Shanghai when I joined, I would have given me like a 25 percent chance making the team,'' he said. ''One win is not going to get you on the Ryder Cup team. I think right now, to be honest, I'd be shocked if I didn't make the team. I feel pretty good about that. But at the same time, if I don't play well from now until selection day, I don't deserve to make the team.

''It's not what I've done in the last five or six months,'' he said. ''It's what I do now.''

And if this surge continues, the Olympics is not out of question. Knox is No. 3 in the Olympic ranking for the UK, though he most likely would have to get into the top 15 to earn a trip to Rio.


SYMETRA RECORD: The Symetra Tour is not even a third into the season, yet Madelene Sagstrom already is in the record book.

The Swede's runner-up finish last week in the Gosling's Dark & Stormy Classic was worth $9,467 and pushed her season earnings to $103,181, breaking the money record that Cindy LaCrosse set in 15 tournaments in 2010. LaCrosse earned $94,578.

Sure, some of the purses have increased to help Sagstrom become the first to break the $100,000 mark on the LPGA Tour's development circuit. Then again, she did in just under half the tournaments as LaCrosse, and the Swede even missed a cut.

She has won twice, was runner-up twice and, except for that missed cut, hasn't finished out of the top five. She has earned more money than the next three players behind her on the money list combined.

Sagstrom, the SEC player of the year at LSU last season, is taking this week off. She is one victory away from an instant promotion to the LPGA Tour.


AMATEUR PERKS: Bryson DeChambeau resumes his pursuit of a PGA Tour card, and this much is clear.

There are perks for winning the U.S. Amateur.

Colonial will be his fifth PGA Tour event since turning pro, but he has used only three of the seven sponsor exemptions he is allowed as a non-tour member. And he has at least two more starts that won't count as exemptions.

DeChambeau was one of the two players chosen by former Colonial champions (the other was Kramer Hickok). He gets in the Memorial and Quicken Loans as the U.S. Amateur champion, which has a provision that it doesn't matter if he turns pro. The Texas Open didn't count against his seven sponsor exemptions because he got in as a top 10 from the previous week (he tied for fourth at Hilton Head).

Non-tour members are allowed a maximum of 12 starts.

Depending on how the rest of the year goes, it's possible DeChambeau could reach the limit of 12 before he uses all seven sponsor exemptions. That's the advantage of winning the U.S. Amateur.

Meanwhile, he has the equivalent of 123 points in the FedEx Cup, and would need 361 points (150th place last year) to get unlimited exemptions the rest of the season.


TIME CAPSULE: Seven years is a long time, especially in the context of golf in the Olympics.

The IOC voted on Oct. 9, 2009, to put golf back in the Olympics. Based on the world ranking that week, the American team would have been Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Kenny Perry. All but Mickelson are no longer in the top 250 in the world.

The Canadian team would have been Mike Weir and Stephen Ames. And for Australia? Geoff Ogilvy and Robert Allenby.


DIVOTS: Arizona State senior Jon Rahm is the first player to win the Ben Hogan Award twice. Rahm, a Spaniard who is No. 1 in the world amateur ranking, won the award as the outstanding college player over two over highly ranked players, Maverick McNealy of Stanford and Beau Hossler of Texas. Rahm has won four times, including an NCAA regional last week in New Mexico. ... The winner of the Argentina Open on Nov. 17-20 will earn an exemption to the British Open next year. ... Jackie Chulya of Thailand, a junior at Columbia University, has been awarded the Dinah Shore Trophy that honors excellence in school and on the course. Chulya was a unanimous pick as Ivy League player of the year and carries a 3.82 GPA. ... Sergio Garcia became the second player this year to win a PGA Tour event despite hitting two shots in the water in the final round. The other was Adam Scott at the Cadillac Championship.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Jordan Spieth's scoring average on Sunday in his first four events of the year was 66.75. His scoring average in the last five Sunday rounds he has played is 72.6.


FINAL WORD: ''I can't wait. And Rory's not going, so that's good for me.'' - Russell Knox, a runner-up to Rory McIlroy in the Irish Open last week, on his first appearance in the BMW PGA Championship.

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.