The Highs and Lows from Golf

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 15, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Front 9 and Back 9, our staff will showcase the highs and lows from the world of golf. We start with the Front 9, which offers up the top moments and stories from this previous week, and then make the turn for the lowlights.
 
Front 9 Hole 1
THE PLAYER: Leading up to THE PLAYERS, both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were sharing headlines: Tiger for his win at Quail Hollow a week prior and Phil for his change to Butch Harmon as his swing coach. But once they teed it up at TPC Sawgrass, it was all Phil. As Tiger quickly faded, Mickelson grabbed the first-round lead as well as the 36-hole lead, much on the strength of his short game and putting. Come Sunday, Lefty was in complete control of his ball striking, missing only four fairways and two greens en route to his first PLAYERS title.
 
Hole 2
DE LA HOYA/MAYWEATHER PART II: One week after what was billed as the fight of this young century in Las Vegas, THE PLAYERS offered up its version of a boxing match, albeit in the form of verbal sparing. Following up his brash comments about wanting to go head-to-head with Tiger at Wachovia, Rory Sabbatini was at it again in Ponte Vedra Beach. And while Tiger let his clubs do the talking at Quail Hollow, an off-form Tiger responded this week with actual words. If I remember the quote correctly, he said he likes the new Tiger, said Woods. I figure Ive won nine out of 12 and Ive won three times this year, the same amount hes won in his career. So I like the new Tiger as well. Rory, Rory, Rory.
 
Hole 3
A TIP OF THE CAP: It was announced last week that former PGA TOUR commissioner Deane R. Beman was named as the seventh recipient of the TOUR's Lifetime Achievement Award. Beman was the TOURs second-ever commissioner, starting his reign in 1974 then handing it over to Tim Finchem upon his retirement in 1994. One of his many highlights as commissioner was the blueprint of the THE PLAYERS Championship itself, as well as the development of the Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour.
 
Hole 4
REDEMPTION IS SWEET: Playing in the shadow of THE PLAYERS was the LPGA Tours Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill, where Norways Suzann Pettersen finally found her first tour title along with a little bit of sweet redemption. Pettersen, whos been a fiery team member for the Europeans at the Solheim Cup the last six years, had twice this season failed to hold leads and had to settle for second. The most painful was her loss at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she was three shots up with four holes left. However, she said that experience helped her down the stretch at Kingsmill.
 
Hole 5
THAT WAS RARE - OR WAS IT?: Never in THE PLAYERS Championship's history had any player recorded a double eagle. Until Friday that is, when Hunter Mahan holed his 227-yard approach at the par-5 11th with a 5-iron. A rare feat for certain. Well, at least it was for about 24 hours, until Aussie Peter Lonard also used a 5-iron to hole out from 230 yards for an albatross at the par-5 second.
 
Hole 6
MOVING DAY INDEED: Saturday at THE PLAYERS was absolutely electric with players going low and shots dropping from all over the place. In addition to the aforementioned double-eagle, the day also produced 11 eagles and 298 birdies, many coming from players holing out from the fairways and around the greens. NBC broadcaster Johnny Miller later summed it up quite nicely, The most amazing day.
 
Hole 7
YOU KNOW YOU HAVE ARRIVED WHEN...: ...You are invited to have a sit down chat with Oprah. And that's just what Masters champ Zach Johnson did, when his appearance on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' aired on Monday, replete with surprise visits on the show from his sister and former NFL MVP and fellow Iowan Kurt Warner. Said Warner, 'A new baby boy, a green jacket, Oprah - not a bad year, kid.' And that's not including the well-done Top-10 List he performed on Letterman.
 
Hole 8
HAS IT REALLY BEEN THAT LONG?: While the world's best had gathered in Ponte Vedra Beach, the European Tour played out in Marbella, Spain, at the Aloha Golf Club. And aloha was what Lee Westwood was saying to the trophy he had not handled in nearly four years. The European Tour Order of Merit winner in 2000, Westwood had a David Duval-like fall from the game and with this win he's hoping this could be the start of his rise back into a premiere world player.
 
Hole 9
GOOD ISLAND GREEN: Despite Tiger calling it gimmicky at the beginning of the week, there is just no denying that the par-3 17th is THE best hole to watch in all of golf. With each shot the fans stationed in and around the green hold their collective breath as they follow the tee shots over the water, letting out cheers when the ball lands safely on the green. On the other hand...
 
Back 9 Hole 10
EVIL ISLAND GREEN: ... If a players ball doesnt find land, that same crowd also lets out one of the loudest united groans youll hear in all of sports. A record 50 groans were recorded on Thursdays windy opening round, but the 17th saved its cruelest intentions for late Sunday afternoon when the final group stepped up to the plate.
 
Hole 11
GONE FISHIN: After going toe-to-toe against Mickelson all day and impressively holding his own, Sean OHair reached the 17th alone in second place and two back of Lefty. His next two shots found a watery grave as did his hopes for victory, as he walked to the 18th now six shots behind the eventual champion. Second place at THE PLAYERS paid $972,000, but OHair dropped all the way down to 11th and instead walked away with $225,000 ' a difference of $747,000, an amount that would have vaulted him from 66th on the money list to 16th.
 
Hole 12
JOAKIM, P.E.T.A. IS ON THE PHONE : Sweden's Joakim Haeggman was strolling up the 18th fairway ' two shots off the lead ' Thursday at the Andalucia Open when he reached his ball. He then noticed that a wild goose also had made its way to his ball. An apparent misunderstanding between the two resulted in Haeggman hauling off and slapping the goose across the face, later claiming, I had no choice. The goose gods with help possibly from the golfing gods, made sure karma came into to play as Haeggman drifted from contention the rest of the week.
 
Hole 13
OK, HE IS HUMAN: Coming into THE PLAYERS, it was, as usual, hard not to think Tiger Woods would be sitting in the winner's circle come Sunday. But a rough start on Thursday - a round in which for only the fifth time in his entire career he failed to produce a single birdie - left him struggling to even make the cut. Even with a Sunday rally that left him in a tie for 37th, it was Tigers worst finish since the 2005 Deutsche Bank Championship where he placed T-40.
 
Hole 14
RORY MEET STEPHEN AMES: Rory Sabbatini keeps talking about Tiger. And he keeps finishing behind him. Sabbatini wanted a piece of Woods at Wachovia and was paired with him in the final group in the final round. Woods shot 69 and won. Sabbatini, who led Tiger by one, shot 74 and tied for third. At THE PLAYERS, Rory kept on yapping after his opening 67 had him in a share of first place, eight shots clear of Woods. He then went 79-71-72 to fall into a tie for 44th ' one shot back of Tiger, who closed in 67.
 
Hole 15
CAN I START OVER?: Clichs are boring. Often times, however, they are true. It is said that you cant win a tournament on Thursday, but you can lose it. Sometimes, it doesnt even take the whole round to let a tournament slip away. In fact, Charley Hoffman did it on the very first hole of THE PLAYERS. This years Bob Hope champion began his first-ever PLAYERS with a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 10th. He managed to claw back to 1 under late in the second round, but tied for 75th at 7 over.
 
Hole 16
LEE ON LPGA: Of all the Lees who had a chance to win this past weeks Michelob Ultra Open, none were in better position to do so than Jee Young Lee. The second-year player, who shot 63 Saturday to take a one-shot lead into the final round, found herself in a playoff with Suzann Pettersen. After both players parred the first two extra holes, Lee had a 12-footer for birdie and the win on the 75th hole. Not only did she miss that one, but she rushed the 2-foot comebacker and missed that one as well. Sarah Lee, who was one back of Jee Young Lee to start Sunday, shot 3-over 74 to finish third. Seon Hwa Lee had a 73 and dropped into a tie for seventh.
 
Hole 17
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Every time a player comes close to winning he can point to something he did wrong that cost him the tournament ' like the double-bogey Sergio Garcia made on the 18th hole Saturday (he ultimately lost by two strokes). Or he can point his finger at someone else. Garcia felt that the caddie of his Sunday playing competitor, Cliff Kresge, accused him of cheating, which definitely, according to Garcia, cost him a stroke. Kresges caddie felt that Garcia didnt take full relief on a drop on the second hole. Garcia birdied the hole, and the fourth, before a bogey at No. 5. He did manage to make five birdies on the back nine to storm into second place, but was quite upset about the accusation.
 
Hole 18
UGA-LY STORY The Associated Press has reported that Todd McCorkle, the women's golf coach at the University of Georgia, has resigned in the wake of complaints from players about inappropriate sexual comments and jokes. McCorkle, who coached the Lady Bulldogs to the 2001 NCAA championship, also reportedly shared the sexually explicit Paris Hilton video from the Internet with the team.
 
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    McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

    McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

    Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

    McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

    Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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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.