Punch Shot: Most anticipating for remainder of 2014?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 7, 2014, 5:40 pm

The LPGA and European tours are entering their stretch runs, while the PGA Tour is beginning its new season. With three months left on the calendar, GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with what they are most anticipating over the remainder of the year.


It’s the Hero World Challenge – an 18-man event with plenty of intrigue.   

Headlining the star-studded field, of course, is tournament host Tiger Woods, who hasn’t hit a competitive shot since the PGA Championship. When he appeared at media day last month, the former world No. 1 said he was mostly focused on getting stronger in the gym and that, barring any setbacks, he planned to start making full swings in early October. That leaves him two full months to prepare for his tournament.

Sure, too much will be made of one 72-hole event, but it should shed some light on a few burning questions:

How is his health? How does his swing (sans coach) look? If he plays well, is it all systems go for 2015?

During this largely uninspiring fall slate, the World Challenge is must-see TV.


Although there is still plenty of meaningful golf remaining on the 2014 calendar thanks to the PGA Tour’s wrap-around schedule and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, the one event that stands out among the remaining fields will be one of the year’s deepest.

Last year’s WGC-HSBC Champions in China was the strongest field among the four Race to Dubai events with 66 Official World Golf Ranking points going to the winner and it was a who’s who list of top players.

Dustin Johnson won the event, by three strokes over Ian Poulter followed by Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Rory McIlory.

The limited-field, no-cut HSBC affords players a multitude of opportunities, including a chance to secure a late/early start on the PGA and European tours for players who split time between the two circuits.

The World Golf Championship became a full-point event on the PGA Tour last season thanks to the new split-calendar schedule, and is the second of four Final Series events on the European circuit.

The result is one of the year’s deepest fields and one last chance to see golf’s stars compete in a meaningful event. So enjoy the HSBC; golf won’t see a field this deep until the Florida swing.


You can accuse me of not caring enough about the beginning of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season and the conclusion of the 2014 European Tour season – the former starts 55 days before the latter ends, by the way – but I’m more intrigued about a certain 14-time major champion returning from injury without a swing coach for the first time.

Tiger Woods has vowed to make his return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge in early December. His performance at Isleworth isn’t very meaningful as far as how he winds up on the leaderboard that week, but should be considered of the utmost importance when projecting his long-term potential over the next year and beyond.

If Woods can return pain-free and his swing once again finds the right angles and planes, it may be a prelude to big things in 2015. If he returns with signs of that back injury still lingering and his swing looks balkier than it did toward the end of his Foley Era, it may be a precursor to further struggles.

Neither of those is certain based on one late-season hit-and-giggle at his former home course, but during the months when golf’s never-ending schedule is less important, the prospect of seeing how Tiger returns has me more excited than anything else.


Unless Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson are booked together on an upcoming episode of Dr. Phil, the Hero World Challenge intrigues more than anything left to see in golf in 2014. The return of Tiger Woods is about the only event remaining this year capable of mustering more obsessive analysis and dissection than the dysfunctional American Ryder Cup team.

The Hero World Challenge might be an unofficial event, but what may unfold Dec. 4-7 looms as more compelling than anything threatening to unfold at the Race to Dubai or in the PGA Tour’s wraparound opening. This glimpse of how Woods is healing, how his swing is progressing without a coach and how hopeful his outlook is toward the new year rank as more capable of luring eyes away from NFL games than anything else golf is going to muster these last few months of the year. There will be more electricity in the air for his start than for the start of anything else this fall.

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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.