Big 5 are Now Big Questions

By George WhiteSeptember 14, 2006, 4:00 pm
They were part of the group known by the particularly catchy phrase (not!) of Big Five when this year started. There was Tiger Woods ' of course you remember him - and the other four: Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els.
Only Tiger has held up his end of the bargain. Singh has sputtered along, playing not badly but certainly not great. Mickelson was brilliant the first half of the year, very average since the U.S. Open. Goosen and Els ' well, neither has performed like someone in the top 10 in the world rankings.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has once again put everyone else in the golfing background.
This week, Woods, Goosen and Els will play in the HSBC World Match Play tournament near London. Mickelson, as befits his usual status, has pretty well put up the clubs for the duration of the year, though of course he will play the Ryder Cup next week. Singh plays the PGA TOURs 84 Lumber Classic.
Whats happened this year to the quartet who was supposed to battle Tiger toe-to-tie, trophy-to-trophy? Well, theyve went south.
Start with Singh, who was No. 2 in the world back when the year started. Singh, remember, was No. 1 back at the start of last year after he won nine times in 2004. And he won four times in 2005.
This year? He has just one win, at the Barclays Classic at Westchester. He lost in a playoff at the first tournament of the year, the Mercedes, to Stuart Appleby ' a tournament in which Woods didnt play, incidentally. And, he beat everyone except Tiger at the Deutsche Bank.
But Singh missed the cut in two majors this year ' the British Open and the PGA Championship. He has had a year which would have been good for the rank-and-file player, but not so good for Vijay Singh. He hinted that maybe he lost a little confidence in his 43rd year.
Once you don't have confidence, I think the whole swing goes haywire if you lose it, he said. You see a lot of things wrong with your golf swing, when in actual fact there's nothing. But I did not feel very comfortable on the tee box.
And I think that my game, if I'm not driving the ball the way I want to drive it, then I don't enjoy playing the game. And funny, I've been putting so well in the last few months, but I've been striking the ball so poorly it never showed up. It didn't matter how good you putt; if you're not on the greens, you're making pars rather than birdies.
Mickelson is the real mystery at the moment. Everyone thought he had finally put the inconsistent golf behind him after he won the BellSouth, and particularly when he stopped Woods at the Masters, earlier this year. He rose to No. 2 in the rankings and he looked as though he was ready to push Woods for No. 1.
Alas, he has slipped back to No. 3. Its been a struggle for him since he melted down while holding a one-shot lead on the tee of the 72nd hole at the U.S. Open. Since then, his finishes have looked like this: 65th at the Cialis Western; T22 at British Open; MC at International; T16 at PGA; T54 at WGC-Bridgestone.
Els apparently hasnt fully recovered from the damage done by a knee operation in mid-year last season. True, he got into a playoff ' and lost to Tiger ' early in the year at Dubai. But he still hasnt won yet on the PGA TOUR, and hes 101st in the putting stats, which seems to be his problem.
My putting, for some reason, hasn't been quite up to my standard, he said. My ball-striking has been OK. I wouldn't say I've been playing terrible golf. I haven't been totally off the map. But I just haven't quite been to that level where I was maybe two, three years ago.
You know, I think here and there I've tried to push a little too hard in some rounds where I could have just let the round be. So I've been pushing a little bit here and there. I definitely think not making a lot of putts has been working on my patience a little bit.
Goosens fall-off has been the most perplexing. He stands 102nd on the TOUR in greens hit in regulation, and, for the first time in six years, he doesnt have a victory. His last top-10 on the PGA TOUR was a tie for third in the Masters way back in April, although he did finish tied for second last week when he lost a playoff in the European Tour's BMW.
I'm not hitting it well, not putting well, said Goosen.
For me it's more of a setup thing. A bit of bad habits tends to creep in with your setup, and if your setup is not correct, the rest of your swing is struggling to be correct. I'm very much a feel player, so I'm not very technical at all what happens through the club. I just feel my way through the swing.
Altogether, that foursome has won a total of only three times this year. Jim Furyk and Adam Scott have weaseled into the top 5 now. Goosen has been bumped down to No. 6 and Els to No. 7. Woods has again made the rankings laughable with his big lead.
The Big Five, alas, has turned into the Big Mystery.
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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. 

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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.