Punch Shot: New Year's resolutions for pro golfers

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 1, 2015, 12:50 pm

It's 2015. Time to hit the gym, shed some pounds, drink less beer or whatever resolution you want to tell yourself you're going to commit to this year. Just for fun, we asked our writers to give their New Year's resolutions for professional golfers this season. Here are their answers:


Maybe I'm still stuck in the giving spirit of the holiday season. Maybe this is going to sound corny and cheesy and all sorts of Pollyannaish. Naïve, even. But here is my New Year's resolution for professional golfers.

Be more accessible. Acknowledge the crowd. Hand out an extra ball or two every round - at least for the kids. Smile for fan selfies. Personalize some autographs. You don't have to be Phil Mickelson, but it wouldn't kill you to make a little eye contact and give a few fist-bumps every once in a while.

Follow a couple of fans on social media. Not because they're rich or famous or a potential sponsor. Just because.

When you're being interviewed, especially on live television, be yourself. You don't have to sound like a robot. Saying you were really surprised by your performance because you spent the last two weeks fishing instead of grinding makes you sound more real than reciting the old adage about hard work paying off.

That's not to suggest the majority of players aren't already personable. They are. But hey, in a game that can use help growing in any way possible, a little more is never a bad thing.


For Rory McIlroy, the man who seemingly has everything – fame, fortune and his pick of female acquaintances – here's hoping that he can do his best to avoid distractions in 2015.

They will be plentiful, no doubt. That’s what happens when you’re the new No. 1 player in the game, but this year in particular will provide unique challenges for one of golf’s biggest stars.  

Let’s start with the court case against his former management company, slated for February. Rory won’t yet have made an appearance on the PGA Tour, but the case could affect his early-season schedule on the European circuit. Add in the fact that the trial could include some unsavory details about both his buddy Graeme McDowell and his ex-fiance Caroline Wozniacki, and this figures to be a massive headache.

The run-up to the Masters will be insufferable as well, with the 25-year-old looking to become just the sixth player to win all four major championships. Rory and Tiger will be the biggest stories at Augusta, where McIlroy doesn’t have the best of histories, with just one top 10 in six tries and a collapse for the ages in 2011.

That figures to be a wild two-month stretch.

From a writer’s prospective, how Rory handles the most intense spotlight of his career will be one of the two most fascinating stories of the year.


Like joining a gym or vowing to cut back on adult beverages, New Year’s resolutions are more about the call to action than the actual result.

While Rory McIlroy is a more polished player today than he was in 2013 when Superman clocked more time as Clark Kent, the basic elements were the same – nuclear driver, pinpoint iron shots, serviceable short game.

The difference between that 2013 campaign, when he failed to win on the PGA Tour and didn’t contend in any of that year’s majors, and his ’14 masterpiece was the subtle advantage of unbridled confidence.

In ’14 when the world No. 1 won two of four majors, moved within an Augusta National green jacket of the career grand slam and added a World Golf Championships undercard to his resume, he arrived at the first tee each Thursday confident in the knowledge that he could win with or without his best stuff.

At his current ebb-and-flow clip, collecting the odd major every other year, McIlroy is destined to be remembered as one of the game’s greatest alongside the likes of Nicklaus, Woods and Palmer. Just imagine how good he could be if his New Year’s resolution was to avoid another mental lapse like the one he endured 2013.


I’d like to see Adam Scott resolve to put a standard putter in his bag before this season’s final major championship. 

Scott’s major championship fortunes changed after he put a long putter into play early in 2011. He didn’t have a top 10 in a major in the four years before he made the switch to a long putter. In the 16 majors since switching, he has nine top 10s, including his Masters victory in ’13. He has been T-5 or better in five of his last 10.

With the rule against anchoring going into effect in 2016, Scott has this year to figure out whether he will modify his stroke with an unanchored motion with the long putter or go back to a standard putter. Scott says he doesn’t believe going back to a standard putter will be a major issue. If that’s the case, getting one in his bag before a major in ’16 shouldn’t be an issue, either. The longer he waits, the more we’ll all wonder if it will be a major issue.


Patrick Reed, embrace the dark side. Golf has plenty of room for heels – just ask Ian Poulter – and based on his performance in 2014, Reed clearly thrives in a me-against-the-world scenario. He took some criticism for his top-five comment in March, sure, but he also made those comments after dusting a field that included most of the game’s best players.

The line between confidence and arrogance is thin, but it’s not a delineation that should concern Reed. He wasn’t thinking about that when he enthusiastically quieted the crowd during his singles match at the Ryder Cup, one he went on to win to cap a weekend during which he earned more points than any other American. He shouldn’t lose sleep over image, or what fans or players think of him from one week to the next.

Reed should focus instead on what it takes to put his name near the top of the leaderboard. Based on 2014, that means keeping the earbuds in, tuning the competition out, and letting the results speak for themselves.

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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.

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Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – 

Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.

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Mickelson 'displeased' with iron play; 10 back

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:18 am

All of Phil Mickelson’s offseason work on his driver has paid off through two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

His iron play? Not as sharp, and it’s the reason why he heads into the weekend 10 shots off the lead.

“I’ve been pretty pleased, overall, with the way I’ve been driving the ball, and very displeased with the way my iron game has been,” said Mickelson, who shot 68 Friday on PGA West’s Nicklaus course. He has hit only 21 of 36 greens so far this week. “Usually my iron play is a lot better than what it’s been. So I’ll go work on it and hopefully improve each round in this tournament and build a solid foundation for the upcoming West Coast events.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

“I feel like if I continue to drive the ball the way I am, and if I got my iron play back to my normal standard, I should have the results that I’ve been expecting.”

Mickelson, of course, is always bullish this time of year, but he has been able to find 10 of 14 fairways each of the past two rounds, including at narrower La Quinta Country Club, which doesn’t always fit his eye.

“This is actually the best I’ve driven it in a lot of years,” he said.

Currently in a tie for 67th, Mickelson will need a solid round on the more difficult Stadium course Saturday to ensure that he makes the 54-hole cut. He hasn’t missed a cut in his first West Coast event of the new year since 2009.