Tigers Long Odyssey Has Paid Dividends Before

By George WhiteDecember 16, 2004, 5:00 pm
He says that after wins in Japan and his own Target World Challenge, the transformation is completed. Tiger Woods, says Tiger Woods, is all the way back. A brand-spanking new swing has finally been constructed with help of friend Hank Haney, and since were not in the business of peering into crystal balls, were not about to disbelieve.
He did this thing once already, you know. That was with a different friend, Butch Harmon, even with different irons, Titleist, and a different caddy, ol Fluff. And he went on a tear from the middle of 99 until early in 2003 when he won 40 times around the world. By then he was well into tearing down the swing again and bidding adieu to Harmon.
Lets peek into those two years when he first began tinkering, beginning in his second year on tour, 1997. Woods had won twice in a short eight-event start in his rookie year of 96. He had stunned the world, remember, with a 12-shot win at the Masters in 97. But, he says, he couldnt hit finesse shots, hit it 100 yards with a pitching wedge when the shot called for it. The Harley Grip, he called it. Tiger could hit it 160 yards with a 9-iron, but try to bring it back to 100 with a wedge ' uh-uh.
So, after winning the Motorola Western Open in July, Woods made the decision. While the world around him gushed about this new 21-year-old prodigy, the prodigy himself decided to toss in the old swing and change everything.
What happened over the next two years? Read on.
It started at Troon in the British Open, when he scored a triple-bogey the first day, a quadruple-bogey on the second and another triple Sunday. Not surprisingly, he finished tied for 24th while Justin Leonard took home the Claret Jug.
Tiger finished in a tie for 29th at the PGA that year, shooting a 75 in the last round. Two tournaments later, he suffered the only missed cut in his career at the Bell Canadian Open. He could do no better that a T-26 at Disney, a T-36 at Las Vegas ' two tournaments he had won as a young upstart the previous season.
Then came 1998, and Woods briefly showed promise when he finished just one shot behind Phil Mickelson at the Mercedes, then roared back from eight shots down in the final round in Thailand to clip Ernie Els in a playoff.

Tiger appeared to have it altogether when he went into a playoff at Nissan before losing to Billy Mayfair. But Pebble Beach was a near disaster ' both for Woods personally and the tournament as a whole.
Woods shot a 148 (76-72) the first two rounds, which left him 14 strokes behind co-leaders Tom Watson and Tim Herron and in grave danger of missing the cut. But the ravages of El Nino caused the tournament to be postponed until a one-day finish in August, and Tiger ' along with many others ' failed to show up for a one-round playoff.
He broke through again with a win at the BellSouth in 98. And he finished just one stroke out of a playoff at the British Open, then lost a playoff to Nick Price at the Nedbank Challenge in December in South Africa.
Remember the beginning of 1999? There was the famous rock incident at Phoenix ' Sunday Woods hit his tee shot on 13 behind a boulder. He asked if 1,000 pound rock could be moved and roles official Orlando Pope said yes, as long as it doesnt hold up play. A dozen members of Woods gallery rolled it out of the way, he took his shot and eventually finished third.
But he finished T-53 in another Pebble Beach disaster that was, of course, weather shortened. And when he came from way off the lead (nine shots on Saturday) to win the Buick Invitational, he said, I told you I was close to putting it all together. Its been this way for months, but nothing has ever jelled. Golf is a wave, and youre constantly going up and down.
Ever heard that? Oh yes ' he shot 62-65 on weekend at San Diego to win by two shots.
He finished in a tie for second at the Nissan, was tied for fifth at the Match Play, then finished outside the top 15 in four straight tournaments. During that stretch he shot in the 60s just once in 16 rounds.
Then, it happened. He was home in Orlando practicing alone when the epiphany occurred. He hit one shot just the way he wanted, then another, then another. Excitedly, frantically, he reached for his cell phone and dialed Harmons number. Ive got it! he said deliriously.

He went to the Byron Nelson and shot a 61 in the opening round. He proceeded to knock four balls in the water the remainder of the week and finished in a tie for seventh, but Woods was overjoyed by his progress. And over the next three years, until early in 2003, he would win 40 worldwide events, 24 on the PGA Tour alone. He went on a tear starting with his next event at the Deutsche Bank in Germany ' which he won. He returned to the U.S. and played the Memorial ' which he won.
He rode that wave until he got tired of that swing ' and of Harmon. He said welcome aboard to Haney and went to work again changing everything. Some think it began back in 2002, though with Tiger everything is very secretive. He suffered a knee operation in the offseason of 2002, he met his wife, Elin, and they set up house, only to be married this year.
Now, are we about to see another run like 1999-2002? No question, if you believe Tiger.
I had to take baby steps and I did that all year (in 2004), he said. I was working in the right direction.
Sometimes it might have been just three, four holes in one round that I played great, the way I know I can, and then the rest of it wasn't so good. Then eventually it became nine holes and 18, then 36 and 54, now a whole tournament. It's exciting.
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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.