Punch Shot: Biggest story of the Tour season?

By Randall MellSeptember 17, 2014, 1:30 pm

The recently concluded PGA Tour season featured a split-year calendar, an incredible stretch from Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods' injury saga and Billy Horschel's late season surge to capture the FedEx Cup. The GolfChannel.com staff weighs in on their story of the year:


Tiger Woods splitting with swing coach Sean Foley ranks as the biggest story of the year because it significantly impacts one of the most important stories in the history of golf. It impacts Woods’ pursuit of Nicklaus and the Golden Bear’s record 18 major championship victories.

Woods didn’t win a major with Foley.

Why it didn’t work won’t matter when history eventually gives context to their four years together as it relates to the pursuit of Jack. Did Tiger make it harder on himself trying to change his swing for a third time? Did he become “over engineered” as some analysts suggest? Would emotional turmoil and injury have derailed Woods no matter what swing he committed to making? Did Tiger's changing priorities impact his quest?

History will remember that Tiger’s four years with Foley didn’t get him closer to the driving ambition of his professional life. It will remember the split signifying their union was a failure in that singularly cold and narrow regard. 


In time, we’ll likely view the season as the one in which the game’s two biggest stars stepped aside and ushered in a new era in golf.

Tiger Woods’ slide was more understandable. A five-time winner in 2013, he teed it up only seven times this season because of injury. Mickelson, meanwhile, played a reasonably full schedule, with 21 events, but his only top-10 was a T-2 at the PGA Championship, where a late bogey doomed his bid for a sixth career major. Those believing that performance would translate to a strong finishing kick were disappointed. Lefty bowed out at the BMW Championship, meaning that neither he nor Woods participated in the Tour Championship for the first time since 1992.

Mickelson’s thrill ride at Valhalla was a prime example of what we can expect in this new world order – occasional flashes of brilliance, followed by stretches of mediocrity. There’s a new king of the sport in Rory McIlroy. Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Billy Horschel seem poised to take the next step, and early-30-somethings such as Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia aren’t going anywhere, either.

So even if they return to championship form next season, Woods, who turns 39 in December, and Mickelson, 45 next summer, will find a more crowded, competitive landscape in which sometimes even their best won’t be enough. 


It took six months, but golf's Season of Parity was starkly interrupted by the Summer of Rory, as Rory McIlroy won two majors, four events overall and reestablished himself as the world's No. 1 player.

To me, that was this year's biggest story.

Remember: Entering the year, McIlroy was an ultra-talented rising star with two major titles on his resume, but his future was also shrouded in mystery. After an equipment change, he won just a single tournament in 2013 – and that was a late-season start in Australia.

His performance this year proved that he is not just the future of golf; he's the present, too.

The number of players in the modern era with four major titles at the age of 25 can be counted on one hand with a few fingers left over.

If we learned anything this year, it's that the game at its highest level has transitioned into the Rory McIlroy Era – a stark contrast to what we've seen over the past two decades.


While the coinciding struggles of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson helped define 2014, the key takeaway from this season will be the return of Rory McIlroy. McIlroy flashed his brilliance in 2012, but this year he sustained it. In between, he faced questions about equipment changes, relationship issues and even an apparent fear of Fridays. The Ulsterman persevered, and his tear through the summer that included a run of three straight wins and two majors will be the lasting image of this season.

McIlroy’s overall major haul is still to be determined, but that’s beside the point: this year he showed that he is able to both step into the spotlight and thrive under the brightest lights. Winning tournaments as the top player in the field is a tall task, but it’s an accomplishment he pulled off in consecutive weeks in August, and while comparisons with Woods are essentially unfair, McIlroy’s run through the summer – when his best was simply better than the rest of the world – was at least a little Woods-ian.

Tiger will be back, and so will Phil. Their seasons were each an exception, rather than a rule. The re-emergence of McIlroy, though, will have lasting effects that linger well after the calendar flips to 2015. 

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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.