Se Ri Loves a Golfers Life - Again

By George WhiteJune 12, 2006, 4:00 pm
So now, its Se Ri.
It was supposed to be the year when the young ones really broke out, the Paula Creamers, the Morgan Pressels, the Michelle Wies. Instead, what we got was a major surprise in the first major of the year, Karrie Webb winning. And now we get an even bigger surprise ' Se Ri Pak. Just dont tell me that Nancy Lopez is going to enter the U.S. Womens Open.
Here is a little indication of how bad it had been going for Se Ri: this year alone, in the first five tournaments she entered, she missed the cut twice, withdrew after the first round, finished tied for 41st and tied for 45th. You would have had to search awfully deep to find a reason to pick her for the championship at McDonalds, the second womens major of the season.
Last year? Forget it. It was a complete washout. She at various times tried to play with injuries to her neck, shoulder and lower back, and then a finger which led her to cancel the season at the Womens British Open. Her tally for the misbegotten year ' 12 tournaments, three missed cuts and two WDs, no finish higher than a T-27.
The problems really started in 2004. Though she says she wasnt injured at that time, the considerable price was weighing heavily on her. She was absolutely smothered by the attention the Koreans ' both the public and the press ' lavished on her. She grew to hate golf and the resulting chaos that accompanied her every move. She withdrew inside her own little world, drawing the cocoon tightly around her.
Pak had won 21 times in six years as 2004 began. May 9th of that year she won for the 22nd time, simultaneously earning enough credits for the World Golf Hall of Fame. But she immediately cratered, missing her next two cuts and then going a span of six tournaments when her highest finish was T-17. Alas, she had started sliding down the slippery slope, and she would have to hit the mud at the bottom before she could get to the point where she is today.
Sooner or later, I still work hard for my game and so I said, this game comes and goes, said Se Ri. Suddenly totally gone for like two years. And then it just came back for like a week. I mean, that's kind of, you know, that much difficult.
In case you dont understand perfectly good Korean-English, heres the translation: Suddenly the game is gone for two years. Then, it just came back this week. Thats difficult.
From the shy girl who spoke nothing but Korean when she came to the U.S., to a disturbed young woman who just knew that there had to be more to life than golf, to this charming lady who now speaks English well enough to be understood, Se Ri has been to the end of the road and back. The stories of the attempts her strong-willed father took to make her mentally tough are legend now making her sleep in the graveyard when she was still a young teen-ager, running the stairs backwards numerous times to build up her legs. And her brain finally short-circuited, which was altogether understandable.
So now the tendency is to look at Se Ri and consider the careers of Hillary Lunke and Birdie Kim, who have won two of the last three U.S. Opens. Both slid back into mediocrity almost as quickly as they achieved the pinnacle. Could this happen to Pak?
You never know, of course. But Se Ri is a little different ' she has had it, then she lost it, now she has a chance to have it again. And this time, she wont have quite the crush of attention from the Far East. When she first appeared on the womens scene, she was the only Korean. Now she is one of 32 n the LPGA Tour. And already this year there have been six different Korean winners. The odds have to be greatly in her favor.
Sounds a lot like the Karrie Webb story.
I know how she feels, said a knowing Se Ri. Then, with the quote altered somewhat to make her meaning clear ' For eight years (her previous time on the tour) I cant even remember one tournament to the next, despite all the success Ive had. But I just remember all starting this year, every tee shot and every week, every each day - which I really appreciate for my comeback.
She couldnt even touch a golf club at one point last year, she says ' thats how far her disenchantment with the game and her injuries had gone. She took four months off after the Womens British Open the end of July. What did she do during those four months?
I saw my friends, hanging out with a friend every day and I made some new friends, she said, sounding more like any woman would do who suddenly finds herself out from under an onerously heavy burden of carrying the flag for an entire country.
It's no more - like it's like a more comfortable life, said Se Ri, not thinking about practice next day, thinking about the play next morning and stuff like that.

All I need is some kind of very normal life for me, just being like see the friends or not think about the golf and then do something else without, you know, go out and see my coach and stuff like that. So that makes me a big difference.
Her finger and the assorted other ailments have healed completely. At 28, she has finally gotten the time to get completely away from golf. Its OK if she doesnt play this game, she found out. And now that she doesnt feel as though she HAS to play, now that an entire country isnt fawning over her every move ' she suddenly finds that golf is really OK.
I'm very happy to be back again, she bubbled. I'm very excited to play back in the golf again. And I really enjoyed it outside the golf course and everything.
I'm a very lucky person. The way I am loving this, so much love with my game and I'm still playing golf which is, I'm very lucky.
So I really am (as happy a) person as Ive ever been, and Im very having fun on the golf course ever been. So this year no matter what, I'm still trying to play best as I can and trying to have some more fun out there.
Email your thoughts to George White
Getty Images

Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

Getty Images

McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

Getty Images

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?''

Getty Images

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.