Monty Out of Sight Not Out of Mind

By George WhiteApril 27, 2005, 4:00 pm
The last time we saw Monty here in the States, he was leaving a soaked Los Angeles airport after shooting a 64 in the second round at the Nissan. That 64 was the best round of the day in L.A. Was it the second round? Third? Fourth? Whatever ' the tournament was reduced to two rounds as all hands were called out in an attempt to replace the plug in the bathtub.
 
We havent seen or heard much of Colin Montgomerie other than that cameo appearance on the West Coast. Hes spent most of his time thrashing around in China, Indonesia, Thailand and Australia. Those locales, incidentally, are where the European Tour spends most of the first four months of the year.
 
Montgomerie usually spends much of February through April in the U.S., as does his upper-class brethren of the Euro Tour. Lets see, theres the Match Play tourney in Southern California the end of February. Then theres always the Florida events in March leading up to The Players Championship. And, of course, the Masters in early April.
 
Except Monty missed all those this year, all except for the one aborted event in L.A. He was obligated to spend the first three months of the season chasing rankings points, all with the chance of getting into the Match Play (top 64) or The Players Championship or the Masters (top 50). Along the way, he has become an expert on eating with chopsticks.
 
No, he didnt succeed in his quest, though he zoomed up the rankings from No. 75 on New Years Day to No. 54. All that got him was a Good show, old chap! He KNEW it was a good show. What he wanted was a place in the Masters.
 
Montgomerie finished third in Tiger Woods tournament, the Target World Challenge, in December last year and that was a big confidence-booster to the man who had finished in Europes top six or better for 12 years. But that was before 2003. In 2003, he dropped to 28th, his worst finish since his rookie year in 1988. Then last year he finished 25th.
 
Not surprisingly, the man who won the European money list for seven years in a row sagged down, down, down the World Ranking, to 81st. A faulty back took its toll, as did a failed marriage. You had to wonder if Montgomerie had the heart for this anymore.
 
But then came the stirring victory over the U.S. in the Ryder Cup, with Monty playing a key role. And this year? Well, he missed his points goals and he hasnt yet won a tournament. But at age 41, he may be playing the best golf of his life.
 
I spent the last three years trying to hit the ball too hard and too fast, and I was playing someone else's game instead of my own game, he said. And now I'm back to playing my own game and that seems to work.
 
He started the year in Singapore, where he tied for second. He followed that with a stop in Australia, where his T11 finish was his worst of the year. Three weeks of rest followed, then a fourth-place finish at Dubai in early March.
 
By now Montgomerie was up to No. 56, and there appeared to be a sliver of hope that he could crack the magic 50. He agreed that the number had appeared near-impossible when the year began, but now it appeared do-able. You can eat an elephant, but you have to do it bite by bite, he said in Dubai. You can't do it all in one go.
 
A sixth-place finish in China at the TCL Classic was the best Monty could do in his next event. So he knew he had to win in Jakarta the third week of March to have a chance of moving into the No. 50 spot. And numbers like 67, 69 and 66 would put you near the top in most tournaments. But not in Jakarta with its par-70 track and lift-clean-and-place rules.
 
Monty shot a 60 the final round, but all it got him was a tie for fourth place. He lost by five strokes - time to go home and tend the roses, maybe work a little on his course-design business. There wouldnt be any golf for nearly a month.
 
You might have missed all this outstanding play if you arent a professor of Far Eastern Studies. But hes been magnificent ' I think. No one can say for certain, the kind of competition hes played. But hes played very well.
 
Its the best golf I have ever played, said Monty, even back to the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, I might have three weeks off now.
 
That he did, of course, until he went again to the land of lotus blossoms last week and finished sixth in the Johnnie Walker. But now he wont be spending anymore time in the Far East. He will play the European Tour in, surprisingly, Europe, with his sights set on another biggie ' getting into that same top 50 to get an invite to the U.S. Open.
 
I have five events to try and gain three spots. I'm 53rd, I believe (actually 54th), in the world and I've got to get into the top 50 by the end of the PGA at Wentworth (May 29th).
 
So I've got this week, I've got next week, I've got the British Masters and I've got the Irish Open, and then the BMW Championship at Wentworth. So I've got five events to gain three spots. I think I can do that.
 
Hes become a man in search of a ranking, going to the ends of the earth to try to move up four or five points.
 
Yeah, I've got to, he conceded. The prize money is incidental, to be honest with you. It's the ranking points I'm here for and for most of the year to get as many points as possible.
 
So every shot, every shot is a ranking point of some kind. I've got to try and negate the mistakes and try to get as many points as possible, and that's the whole deal for the next six months.
 
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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.