Players scoff at USGA's Chambers Bay warning

By Doug FergusonMay 19, 2015, 5:55 pm

Mike Davis hasn't caused this much consternation since he spoke at a PGA Tour players meeting about the evils of the long putter.

Only this time, he was extolling the virtues of Chambers Bay.

Maybe to a fault.

The USGA's executive director hosted a preview of the mysterious U.S. Open course south of Seattle and suggested that even the best in golf will have little chance unless they arrive early and play often.

''The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book, that person's done,'' Davis said. ''Will not win the U.S. Open.''

In the three weeks since that bold prediction, the reaction has been, well, predictable.

''We'll play for second,'' former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson said at Quail Hollow with no shortage of sarcasm.

''What's Mike Davis' handicap?'' asked Rory McIlroy, another U.S. Open champion and the best player in the world, something Davis is not. It was a playful reminder that amateurs who run tournaments should not underestimate the skill of those who do this for a living.

No amount of chirping would be complete without Ian Poulter weighing in. Never mind that Poulter has never seen Chambers Bay. He listened to a few players who made scouting trips on their way to the Match Play Championship and tweeted, ''The reports back are its [sic] a complete farce. I guess someone has to win.''

The U.S. Open begins June 18. In some respects, it already has started.

With one comment about what will be required for a golf course hardly anyone knows, Davis added a layer of mystique to Chambers Bay. And perhaps he introduced the one element of a U.S. Open that often gets overlooked.

It's all about attitude.

Jack Nicklaus is famous for saying how he would listen to players complain about the U.S. Open and figure that was one less guy to beat that week.

''It's a massive advantage if you get your head in the right place before you go,'' 2006 champion Geoff Ogilvy said.

Davis didn't make the comment with intentions of putting the world's best players in a foul mood before they even arrive in the Pacific Northwest next month. Given a chance to clarify, he said his point was strategy should be as important as a good short game.

He believes course knowledge will be imperative because of the grass, the elevation changes and sprawling fairways so unlike a U.S. Open test. It's not about how far the ball goes in the air. It's what happens when it's on the ground. The yardage book, to his point, only helps so much. And he lamented the drop in practice rounds as players appeared more concerned with conserving energy than studying for the toughest test in golf.

''My point is, we've seen a trend where golfers are coming and lot of them play nine holes a day and do it for two days,'' Davis said. ''In the old days, they'd come in and play three or four rounds. And they're not doing that anymore for different reasons.''

Jack Fleck once played 188 holes over five days of practice at Olympic Club in 1955, the year he beat Ben Hogan in a playoff. That's a little extreme. Phil Mickelson can take two days to play 18 holes as he meticulously studies a course, particularly around the greens. That's Phil.

''Take Merion,'' Davis said, referring to the 2013 U.S. Open. ''No one played Merion more and studied it more than Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson. They spent more time than anybody studying the intricacies of Merion. And guess who finished 1-2?''

Mickelson, however, was asked which U.S. Open course caused him to spend the most time in preparation. Merion was mentioned, and Mickelson dismissed it.

''It's a pretty straightforward course, Merion,'' he said. ''I think maybe Shinnecock was a course that I found there were important areas to know where to go, where not to go, that might be surprising if you played it the first time.''

Any player would be foolish not to see Chambers Bay before arriving for the U.S. Open. Mickelson plans to head there next week, after it closes to the public and before he embarks on his schedule of playing the two PGA Tour events before the Open.

It's impractical, bordering on arrogant, for the USGA to expect golfers to drop everything and go to the far end of the country for one tournament.

''With the way the Tour is, no one is going to go out there and play 10 practice rounds,'' McIlroy said.

McIlroy believes preparation is meaningless if he doesn't have his game. He plans a few practice rounds the weekend before the U.S. Open, another one during the week. That's three practice rounds, which is one more than two, meaning Davis can't rule him out just yet. Right?

But what about the players who don't qualify until the Monday before U.S. Open week? Or the players – two of them last year – who qualify through the world ranking on the Monday of U.S. Open week?

''Will not win the U.S. Open,'' is what Davis said.

Someone will. Someone always does. It could be a surprise, much like the golf course.

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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, four 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.

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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.