Haas tabs son, Mickelson with Presidents Cup picks

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 8, 2015, 9:35 pm

Good news for the Haas family: This week’s vacation won’t be the least bit awkward.

On Tuesday, U.S. Presidents Cup captain Jay Haas named his son, Bill, as one of his two captain’s picks for the Oct. 8-11 matches in South Korea. Phil Mickelson was the other selection for the Americans, keeping alive his streak of 21 consecutive teams made.

International captain Nick Price picked Steven Bowditch, a winner this season at the Byron Nelson, and hometown favorite Sangmoon Bae to fill out the 12-man roster.

The first 10 players on each team were finalized Monday, following the completion of play at the Deutsche Bank Championship.  

The U.S. holds an 8-1-1 record in the biennial event, but recent changes to the points system – most significantly, reducing the number of team matches from 22 to 18 – should make the exhibition more competitive.

Mickelson hasn’t needed a captain’s pick for two decades, but Lefty is winless in two years and recorded only three top 10s this season. The 45-year-old is still viewed as a valuable asset in the team room, a mentor to the younger players, and an important member of the Ryder Cup task force. He was 30th in the standings, but Jay Haas said that Mickelson was an “overwhelming choice to be a pick” among the players and assistant captains. 

“If anyone deserves a pick, it’s Phil Mickelson,” Haas said. “He is without question the leader of our team in the team room, on the golf course. The guys on the team trust him 100 percent.” 

Bill Haas, meanwhile, will be making his third Presidents Cup appearance, but this was the most hotly debated. To avoid any hint of nepotism – and to make the decision easier for his father – Haas hoped to leapfrog Chris Kirk (who missed two months with a broken hand) and make the team on points. After tying for 60th at TPC Boston, Haas landed one spot out of the automatic qualifiers.

“I really wanted to be on this team, but to be in the team room with my dad as a captain, I don’t think it’s something that we or I will ever forget,” he said. 

With Haas' selection, the U.S. player who finished 11th in the standings has now been added to the team in 10 of the 11 Presidents Cups.

“I’ll be honest: I probably would have picked the 11th person regardless of what their name was,” Jay Haas said. “I feel like Bill deserves this as much as anybody.” 

Perfect timing too, because Bill Haas said Monday that he planned to take his wife and two children on a vacation to Primland in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his parents. “Whether or not I’m picked, we’re all going to have a good time,” he said.

The most notable omission on the American side was Brooks Koepka, who won the Phoenix Open, made the cut in all four majors (including top-10s at the last two) and finished 20th on the points list despite becoming a full-time member in October. Also left off the team were J.B. Holmes, who at No. 20 is the second-highest ranked U.S. player not on the team; Brandt Snedeker, one of the world’s best putters who has posted six top 10s this season, including a victory; and Robert Streb, who is inside the top 15 in the FedEx Cup standings on the strength of nine top 10s this season.

Danny Lee earned the 10th and final automatic spot for the International team and edged out Bowditch by .0098 points – or the equivalent of one shot. Bowditch, who is 55th in the world rankings, has finished in the top 15 in two of his past four events.

“He has played exceptionally well this summer,” Price said. “He has shown consistency, and I think he’s just hitting his stride as a player.” 

Price said the final spot came down to Bae and Matt Jones, and that the final decision wasn't made until lunchtime Tuesday.

Bae got the nod, Price said, in large part because he has won an Korean event in back-to-back years at the event's host site, the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.

“It’s very important for us to have someone on the team that the Korean fans and media could pull for,” Price said. 

Bae’s Presidents Cup status was unclear because of his mandatory 21 months of military service in South Korea that will begin as soon as his season is over. This will be the two-time PGA Tour winner’s final event before he can resume his playing career in 2017.

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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.