No Way Jose Well Maybe

By George WhiteApril 7, 2005, 4:00 pm
He missed winning at Atlanta on Monday because he gagged on two putts of inside five feet. Jose Maria Olazabal misfired the first time on 18 in regulation play, then he missed again on the first playoff hole. Either one would have won it.
Its Page 1 news when Olazabal misses such putts. He has forever been one of the best in the world at putting. Even today, he stands 13th on the PGA Tour at holing them (and 11th in putts per round). This man is Dead-Eye Sam when it comes to pouring them in under pressure.
Today, Olazabal begins play in the Masters. If anyone knows his way around Augusta National, its Jose Maria Olazabal. He won the first time here back in 1994, then repeated the feat in 1999. Four other times he finished in the top 10, including a runner-up finish to Ian Woosnam in 91 when Olazabal led through the 15th hole on the final day and was tied for the lead until Woosnam birdied the 72nd hole. He tied for eighth as recently as two years ago, in 2003.
Can he win the Masters again? No, of course not. Hes too old, isnt he? Hes too crooked with the driver, isnt he? He doesnt have the confidence ' right?
Well, maybe we ought to reconsider a little. Ollie wasnt playing great when he won in 99, either. Some of those top-10s have come during years when his game certainly didnt suggest he would excel at the Masters. But he manufactures a good score, even when he cant manufacture great shots.
He loves this place, said fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia simply.
Olazabal doesnt try to deny it. It must be something with this place, I don't know Every time I come here, I try to do my best. I feel in a way a little bit at peace with myself. You know, those things happen.
A lot of people forget that, were it not for a two-shot penalty in Atlanta, he would have won easily. That came in the second round when he slammed the bunker with his club ' which of itself is not a penalty. Unfortunately, the ball trickled back into the bunker. His no-no cost him the tournament eventually.
He did tie for second, however, and that second-place finish did something for him that he had been vainly trying to accomplish the last couple of years ' he regained his tour card. It boosted his money won to $685,732, which is most important. It pushed him above the 150 level of last year (Paul Stankowski made $442,872 and finished at No. 150) and allows him to play unlimited tournaments the rest of this year. And it virtually assures him of finished in the top 125 this year (the figure was $623,262 last year.) He wont have to go begging for sponsors invites next season.
Olazabal is popular with the rank and file of the tour for many reasons. He has always conducted himself first and foremost as a gentleman ' witness his gesture of shaking hands with his two opponents at the Monday playoff after leaving the battle. He has always been among the most highly regarded of the international players to the Americans.
One remembers the outburst on the 17th green at the Ryder Cup in 99, Justin Leonard sinking the 45-foot putt. And one remembers Olazabal, patiently waiting for the Americans to get off the green so he could putt. And one also remembers Olazabal refusing to lay blame for the incident on anyone. That one act struck a hugely responsive chord in the U.S. players.
One remembers the painful time Olazabal had for 18 months in 95, 96 and 97 with the debilitating foot ailment when he couldnt walk. One also remembers when he won his third tournament back from the prolonged absence at the 1997 Turespana Masters on the European Tour.
Most of all, Americans remember the way that Olazabal has always felt about the PGA Tour. Ive always wanted to play over here, he said last year. I've always said that this tour is excellent. ... If you want to improve your game, or at least if you want the best of the challenge, I think it's here.
Ollies home is still in Spain. He hasnt yet event so much as purchased a condo in the U.S., but he spends much of his time in the America. He wouldnt go so far as to say he would have gone to Q-School if he had missed getting his card again this year. But he would never ' ever ' have left the game of golf. Thats how strong his love is for the game.
I do have to love it a lot, he said. I love the game a lot. I love the competition. I love the challenge. When I'm not playing, I miss it a lot.
Will Olazabal do the near-unthinkable and win the Masters this week? No, probably not. But the chances are that he will come a lot closer than people think. Ollie has been surprising people for a long, long time.
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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.