Sergios Lament - Whither the Putter

By George WhiteJanuary 6, 2006, 5:00 pm
Weve been waiting ' oftentimes impatiently waiting ' a long time for Sergio Garcia to make it to the top.
Not a lot of people realize that Sergio was only 19 years old when he was leaping and running down the 16th fairway at the PGA Championship, a tournament where he finished second only to Tiger Woods. He had already won three times in Europe by that time, including one when he was just 17.
Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia ranked 196th on tour in putting average last year.
Not many people stop to realize that Sergio was still only 21 ' an age when most pros are still finishing their college careers ' when he won a couple of big U.S. tournaments in 2001, Colonial and the Buick Open. Or that he was just 22 when he won the Mercedes Championships, a tournament for the elite of the elite, confined to winners of the previous year.
But now he is just days short of his 26th birthday. He cant blame fuzzy-cheeked youth as the reason why he so often has risen spectacularly to the top of leaderboards, only to have a dramatic flameout. If he is going to be great ' no, if he is going to be just very good ' then this is the year that he needs to start showing something. Tiger, remember, had won 29 times when he was just 26.
Garcia is again at the Mercedes this week, compliments of his win at the Booz Allen Classic last year. In 2005 he made $3.2 million, 10th on the tour. Thats absolutely amazing, when you consider how atrocious a putter he was. Only five players among those ranked had a worse average than Garcias.
This putting thing is a relatively recent bugaboo in Sergios game. Would you believe that he was fourth on tour in putting in 2000? He was a very respectable 24th in 2001, still up there at 35th in 2002.
Then, the bottom fell out. He was 175th in 2003, 129th in 2004. And last year was the worst. He led the tour in greens hit ' No. 1. And he still managed to finish seventh in scoring average. But he might as well have putted with a mop handle, the way the ball skittered around its target so often.
His putting cost him at least two tournaments last season. The first was at the Wachovia, where Sergio went into a playoff with Vijay Singh and three-putted the first hole from 45 feet ' missing a 6-footer for par. The second was the British Open. Garcia hit almost 80 percent of the greens, but at the same time averaged almost two putts per green. Winner Woods averaged four strokes per round less per green when the stats of the two were matched side-by-side.
Garcia is not exactly incorrect when he analyzes his putting problems. You make the putts with your head, not with your hands, Sergio oh-so-correctly observed.
The fact that he made them once upon a time should be encouraging. He knows a good putter is inside there somewhere, just waiting to get out again. For the better part of his first four years, he just didnt miss. And in 2003 ' the year the putting went way south ' he underwent a full-swing change and began hitting greens much more often. But alas, the putting soured.
Since that time, Sergio has tried just about everything. Hes even endorsed a putting aid or two. And each time he thinks he has it figured out, this same old villain re-surfaces.
And, sure enough, this year he thinks maybe he has it figured out. He says he has watched tapes and discovered that at certain key moments ' pressure moments, he says ' he has constantly mis-hit the ball. Not off the toe, but off-center to the right side of the center of the clubface, he says.
And so, he has been working on striking the ball solidly each time, in the middle of the putterface. He takes two tees, places them in the ground, and just kind of swing it through it while I'm putting, make sure that I strike it in the middle. If I hit one of the tees, I know I'm not doing properly.
I feel like my stroke is a bit more consistent and I feel like my pace is going to improve with that. The more inconsistent you are by striking it - when you strike it well, it rolls a bit more; when you strike it a bit off the toe, it goes a bit softer.
He hits absolute lasers into the green, he drives it plenty long ' but the adventures often begin when he reaches the putting surface. IF he can finally solve those problems, and IF the rest of his game remains as sound as it was last year, he can wedge his way in amongst the top four or five in the game.
You know, I think that if you know what you're working on and you're confident about what you're working on, you know that's the right way to go, you don't need anything else, he says. 'Cause at the end of the day, it doesn't have to be a perfect stroke. But it has to be one that you trust and one that you feel good with it. You know, if you hit the ball in the middle of a club face, it doesn't matter what you do.
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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.