The Hope Isnt Just a Cakewalk

By George WhiteJanuary 19, 2006, 5:00 pm
OK, the average winning score the last umpteen tournaments was 66 or less. Thats over five rounds on par-72 courses.
Why, you ask, do the layouts which comprise the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic have such user-friendly scores? Must be because the courses are so simple.
Not so fast, Sherlock Holmes. The Hope courses, as a rule, are short. But there are a lot of other factors which figure into the equation. These courses in the California desert, all within a driver and a wedge of Palm Springs, arent the dollhouse set-ups you might imagine.
Start with pristine conditioning. The weather in the desert this time of year is perfect for golf. Grasses grow well with no heat stress on them. Rarely is there a bare spot in the fairways. The greens are perfect for rolling putts. Therefore, a ton of putts are usually made with the greens rolling true. Ergo, lower scores.
Most of all, though, lower scores are a product of professionals playing with amateurs. The Hope is a pro-am for four days (the fifth is totally pros.) And as such, the courses have to be set up to get the amateurs around through 18 holes in one day ' preferably five hours or so.
This means that the holes cant be cut three paces from the edge of the green, for example. Holes wont be cut directly over a bunker. And holes wont be cut perilously close to water.
The fairways? They are w-i-d-e. No railroad-track routing here. Remember, you dont want the amateur to have to waste an undue amount of time searching for balls which have strayed off the fairways. So ' you just make pretty much the whole course a fairway. And ' of course 'the rough, what there is of it, is considerably trimmed. All in the interest of getting the ams around before dark.
These factors make a difference of, say, three shots a round. Instead of an average score of 66, lets say the average winners score would be 69 on the typical course.
The fact that amateurs play alongside the pros, and the fact that the courses are set up so generously, is the reason some of the pros bypass them. Certainly not all the professionals who skip the Hope are anti-amateur. But enough of them are to make a dent in the field. In the Hope, the pro plays with four different groups of amateurs in the four days. At Pebble Beach, the pro often can select his amateur partner, and that partner plays with him the entire tournament. Not at the Hope. And that is just one more reason to stay home, if youre inclined to bypass this tournament anyway.
Of course, many professionals enjoy playing with the amateurs. Mark OMeara won five times at Pebble Beach and added a sixth pro-am victory when he won at Disney. He enjoys the guys, banters with them easily and mixes very well with the gents on the golf course.
Justin Leonard won the Hope last year, and he actually pencils this tournament in among the first each year.
Ive loosened up on the golf course, and I enjoy playing at the Hope, he said. Ive been in the celebrity rotation since I started playing, and I really enjoy it.
The celebrity rotation is a Hope oddity in which the top pros play each day with the celebrities. Some pros dont particularly like the celebrity rotation ' they can ask out of the rota, as Phil Mickelson did. The pros who play with the celebs are constantly besieged by cameras, along with the mostly good-natured antics of their high-profile partners.

I had a little difficulty in the early 90s playing in that rotation, said Mickelson. I had a few instances occur. So I ended up not coming back for five or six years.
And then I got a call from the tournament director at the time who said, Listen, every player in the field has the right to opt out of the celebrity rotation; and I did, and that's when I started coming back and really enjoying it. It's just it's very hard to get into good competitive frame of mind (playing with the celebrities.) It's just quieter (playing with the other ams.)
Others dont particularly care. Last year, Leonard partnered with actor Samuel L. Jackson and actor/comedians George Lopez and Cheech Marin in the celebrity rotation.
I had a ball. Sam is over there contemplating the game of golf and what it means, all this other stuff. And Cheech and George are trying to figure out who has had the best one-liner so far. That just cracks me up, Leonard said.
And, there is another advantage, he believes.
The spotlight is as much or more on the celebrities and amateurs as it is on the pros those first few days, Leonard said. To be quite honest, thats kind of nice. I enjoy that.
Mike Weir, a winner here in 2003, also enjoys the celebrities. It's fun, he said. It's a fun chance to mingle with some people that are not just sports celebrities, but different celebrities and you get a chance to talk to them and see how they hand handle certain things. It's a nice change. It's a nice format.
Email your thoughts to George White
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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.