Jacks Back - If Only for a Day
Say, is Jack really 65 now? Doesnt seem possible, does it? But there he was, playing alongside Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and the youngun of the group, Craig Stadler. It was just a Skins Game, and Stadler was supposed to run the table ' he is by far the best player in this foursome. But I was spellbound, intrigued enough to stop by the TV and watch Sunday ' could it be that Jack Nicklaus might really win?
Yes, he actually won. He won 11 skins and $340,000. He won his first skins game since way back in 91, when he was just 51 years old. That was back when he was still a feared player ' he won three Senior majors that year. That was before a surgeons knife had ripped through his torso so many times that he felt like melted butter. He could actually get outside and practice a little.
He cant contort his body to practice anymore, of course. Far too often the past 10 years, he will catch lightning in a bottle one day and swear he is going to play more this year. Then some other body part begins to ache and he realizes he just cant stand long enough to rehearse his drills. He had played just four rounds ' four rounds! ' since his own Memorial Tournament in June of 2004. And those were all at course openings of yet another Nicklaus design.
But, by cracky, he won the Skins last week! The $340,000 check, incidentally, is the biggest payday of his playing career. It seems preposterous, but he never won that much for a victory during a regular-tour career - a career in which he was the champion 73 times. In fact, he never won $340,000 during the course of a single season in his PGA Tour career. Jacks biggest year was 72, when he won $316,911. And that was a year when he won seven times.
The game to me has always been ' I dont care if I won $20,000 or $2 million playing golf, he said. It was winning the tournament, playing the game, playing it well, doing what youre supposed to do and winning the event. The prize was ancillary to whats going on.
The Skins course was set up to suit the talents of the gentlemen, by way of explaining the generous fairways yet short yardage. Jack realizes he never would have shot 5-under if the course were set up for a normal Champions Tour event, much less a regular tour event. But why quibble over such a niggling thing ' the important thing was, here was a 65-year-old doing exactly what he had to do ' and he was able to do it!
Nicklaus just had another hip surgery and there was much doubt whether he would even get to play. But the mind can do amazing things with the golf club. And though his lack of great technique undoubtedly hampered his length, still he was able to place the ball enough times in just the right spots to make a bushel of birdies. And every time he had a reasonable chance to make a putt, he jarred it. He shot what was the equivalent of 5-under.
It was a far different Jack from the one we have seen on the golf course lately. More and more, its been a frustrated Jack, unable to derive happiness from a good score for an old man. Nicklaus does not see things that way ' the days when he was No. 1 in the world are still seared into his mind, and thats the only way this game is any fun. A shot that is pretty good for a 65-year-old is not nearly good enough to satisfy him. Better - much better - to be fishing or hunting.
He won the match Sunday on No. 14, when his six-foot putt earned him five skins. That gave him a total of $300,000 and, for all intents and purposes, the entire game.
I saw where Tom put his ball, 15, 18 feet, and I saw where Arnold hit a really nice shot behind the hole, said Nicklaus. I said if I want to win the Skins Game, I can win it right here.
I just went ahead and aimed it six feet left of the hole, and thats where it went - 165-yard 6-iron. Putt was dead-center and once I did that, I knew the only one who could catch me was Stadler and he had to win all the rest of the skins.
Once again, the outing was enough to light a spark. Jack saw a little something. He wants to play a tournament or two before he decides if the Masters is possible. No, he doesnt just want to show up and go through the motions for a couple of days. But he does want to be competitive ' even if there isnt one chance in a million he might win.
Why does he feel so good? Because he was able to do this when he had sore hamstrings.
I dont have the power in my legs yet, he said. I have to get my legs back. Thats where your power is at. That will come back when I play more.
And the youngsters really enjoyed seeing Grandpa Jack play so well.
The old man here played really good, said Stadler. He moans and complains about the hips, the back, the legs, he just lulls you to sleep and then he makes four birdies in a row. Im not surprised by anything he does.
The game still has room for Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, said Watson. It still has room for them. Yes, theres a lot of room for people like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer to promote the sport the way they do.
Palmer is content to play just for the sake of playing ' thats how he promotes the game. But Jack ' Jack needs to play well to derive any satisfaction. And this weekend ' he did it to perfection.
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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener
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.''
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?''
The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros
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:
Once we give 'em a lesson, we are faced with:— Trackman Maestro (@TrackmanMaestro) January 16, 2018
A. Will they do what we asked them to do
B. Can they do what we asked them to do
C. Will they put in the practice time
D. The fact that golf is a hard game
We face multiple barriers as golf instructors.
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.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
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.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
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.”
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.