Singh Out of Synch

By George WhiteApril 25, 2006, 4:00 pm
Its hard to be critical of Vijay Singh. A man who leads the PGA TOUR in number of finishes in the top 10 ' seven ' is certainly not playing poor golf.
Its really sharpening the dagger to say a man who has won 17 times in the past three years is in a slump. No, he isnt ' not by a long shot. But you dont judge a person with Vijays record the same as you would, say, a Tag Ridings. Vijay started 2005 as the No. 1 player in the world. Hes still No. 4, and that is rarified air not susceptible to criticism.
Vijay Singh
Vijay's winless streak on the PGA TOUR stands at 18 starts.
So, this sermon wont be criticism. It is merely wonderment ' wonderment at when Singh is going to win again; wonderment at the reason a Vijay Singh could finish T38 at Houston, a tournament he won three of the four previous years ' albeit at a different course; and wonderment when a player who held the No. 1 ranking for a total of 32 weeks is going to get close to that position again.
He last won an event late in July of last year ' the Buick Open. Hes 42 years old, but he has always been one of the best-conditioned athletes on the tour. Hes hitting the ball plenty long enough this year, hes putting very well ' 15th among the 183 players ranked. Hes just not chalking up the victories as he used to.
Vijay admits there have been niggling little problems. He hasnt won in 10 months ' thats 18 events - and the drought has him just a tad concerned.
It's like a bow and arrow - you pull the bow to the max and let it go, and I'm not quite doing that, he said.
Lets state the obvious ' two critical changes have occurred since Singh was No. 1. First, Tiger Woods has successfully revamped a swing that was still in the introductory stages when Vijay won nine times in 2004. And secondly, Phil Mickelsons game has vastly improved. Its extremely difficult seeing anyone winning nine times in 2006 if he has to fight those two guys for the Ws.
It's not because I'm not playing good, Singh said during the Players Championship earlier this month. I'm just not playing the way I did last year and the year before. My level of play has dropped, not out of neglect or anything. It's just that's the way it goes. I mean, golf is a weird game.
If someone else would bolt past Woods and Mickelson into the first two positions, they would have to play some very good golf indeed. Singh is well aware of that, too ' he just isnt about to concede the positions to his two rivals.
I'm going to try very hard to do that, he said. It's not going to happen in the next two or three weeks, but as far behind as I am - I think I'm 10 points behind him (Woods), and that's huge. That's 10 wins. He's not going to stop winning, either.
But I just have to step up. I was talking to somebody the other day, and it's just, like, the top guys have almost conceded. It's like we arrive at the golf tournament and they've conceded if Tiger is playing. That's the feeling that I don't have. I'm more aggressive. I want to go out there and take it on, and if my golf game just gets around like it was, sure, I'll be there.
Singh hasnt been contending for wins as he did early last year, either. Through the first five months of last year, he finished second or third five times. In the past 11 months, he has one tie for second ' a loss in a playoff at Mercedes. This, in addition to his win at Buick. So far this season he has been bedeviled by one lackluster round in almost every tournament he has played. He had a 77 on the final day at the Players, a 73 the second round at Doral, a 74 the second round of the Masters, a 75 last week at Houston.
Along with those blah rounds, though, he also has 12 scores of 68 or better.
Singh says that he looked at video of his swing at the Players and noticed what he was doing wrong ' a rhythm issue, the same mistake that I've been doing forever, he said. But he has tried hard to correct the flaw. Along the way, he has gotten about nine (telephone) calls from well-meaning friends about what he was doing wrong. Now, he says the swing is again where he wants it.
And by the way, he says, the 42-year-old Singh is a much smarter player than the Singh in his 30s.
I think I manage my game a little bit better, he reasons. My miss-hits are a lot better, and I know when to attack the pins and when not to ... just playing away from trouble when you need to, don't take risks when it's not necessary. If you have a short iron in your hand, sand wedges, you can go at the flags. Those are the things that I do better now.
Winning tournaments, though, is a trick that has eluded him the last 10 months. Being No. 1 has turned into being No. 4. Its time for Vijay to do something positive again. He knows it, too.
I'm feeling good about my game. Hopefully I can take it out there and just play now and not think about what's wrong with my golf swing.
Email your thoughts to George White
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.

Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

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.