The 5 best stories to emerge from U.S. Open qualifying

By Ryan LavnerJune 9, 2015, 3:37 pm

David Lingmerth topped the sixth-ranked player in the world in a playoff Sunday at the $6.2 million Memorial Tournament, but he’ll watch the U.S. Open from home after he slept two hours and failed the 36-hole test.

The Road to Chambers Bay proved a bit smoother for a slumping former world No. 1, a Champions Tour regular and a 15-year-old high-school freshman, all of whom earned their spot in the field through sectional qualifying on Monday. 

Gotta love golf’s ultimate meritocracy.

Here are the five best stories to emerge from one of the most fascinating days in golf:   

MICHAEL PUTNAM: Imagine all of the pressure he felt to get through – and then the relief after he closed with 64 to lead the toughest sectional. Putnam lives about a mile and a half from Chambers Bay, his dad still walks the four-and-a-half-mile loop around the course each morning, and he estimated that he’s played there about 40 times. That’s a big deal, remember, because USGA executive director Mike Davis cautioned that only the players who took the necessary time to learn the course had a chance to win. Putnam isn’t the favorite next week, of course, but he is one of two local products in the field, along with Ryan Moore. Last week Moore, who grew up about 15 miles from Chambers Bay, said that he “can’t go anywhere” without being asked about the upcoming Open venue. To have a rare home game, it’s definitely worth it.

CASTRO BROTHERS: Roberto Castro had a few uneasy moments Monday in Ball Ground, Ga. Waiting to see if his 12-under 132 total would be good enough to secure one of the three berths, it became clear that only one player could spoil his bid: his younger brother, Franco. In fact, he stood over a 15-foot birdie putt on the final green that would have forced a playoff between the two brothers, but it slid by. “A friend of mine said if you play this game long enough, you’ll see everything,” Roberto told Georgia Tech’s website. “That definitely goes to the top of the list. Crazy stuff.” Franco is now the first alternate from that site, and there is a chance that both Castros could still make their way to Chambers Bay. The U.S. Open field has eight spots available, which will be filled by those who move into the OWGR top 60 Monday and then the alternates. 

LUKE DONALD: Back in sectional qualifying for the first time in 11 years, the former world No. 1 benefited from not only playing his home course (Bears Club), but also having swing coach Pat Goss on the bag as he earned one of the four spots in Jupiter, Fla. It’s been a rough go of late for Donald. He has one top 10 this season and has played so poorly over the last 18 months that he’s fallen outside the top 60 in the world, thus necessitating his return to sectionals. This will be his 13th Open appearance, and likely the one he enters with the lowest expectations. 

OLD AND NEW: Fifty-year-old Lee Janzen, who won the U.S. Open in 1993 and ’98 and now plays full-time on the Champions circuit, medaled in New York, while 15-year-old Cole Hammer, a rising sophomore who has already committed to play college golf at Texas, was two shots clear of the cut line in Dallas. They are the oldest and youngest qualifiers, respectively. Janzen hasn’t played in the Open since 2008, when his 10-year exemption expired. Hammer, meanwhile, is the third-youngest qualifier in the Open's long history.  

AMATEUR HOUR: Fourteen youngsters yet to join the play-for-pay ranks moved on to Chambers, the most since 2009. Some big names among them, too: Beau Hossler, who is already making his third Open appearance; Bryson DeChambeau, the NCAA champion who advanced through the Tour-heavy Columbus regional; Lee McCoy, a Haskins Award finalist and four-time winner this season; and Sam Horsfield, the English prodigy who has been trumpeted by Ian Poulter. Last year only one amateur made the cut at Pinehurst, but a few up-and-comers have starred at the Open over the past several years. The battle for low-am honors should be fierce. 

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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.