Hot Topics for 2009
Who will be Player of the Year on the PGA Tour?
Rex Hoggard - Senior Writer, GolfChannel.com:
Going to go out on a limb and ship the Player of the Year hardware to Isleworth Country Club, c/o Tiger Woods; along with the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Best guess is Woods will play between 13 and 15 events in 2009 depending on when he returns. Thats more than enough time to shake off the rust and shake down the rest of the Tour.
Brian Hewitt - GolfChannel.com Insider:
The Player of the Year on the PGA Tour will be Tiger Woods. If it isnt, it only means that Woods knee didnt heal as well as expected.
Jay Coffin - Editorial Director, Golf Channel.com:
Sergio Garcia. Tiger Woods is the easy pick but if ever there was a year to bet against Woods, this would be it. Garcia will collect a victory before Woods returns then hell finally win a coveted major championship. Hell pick up at least one more prominent win along the way which will give Player of the Year to a Euro player for the second straight year.
Mercer Baggs - Editorial Manager, GolfChannel.com:
Considering Tiger Woods has won this award nine of the last 12 years its difficult to pick against him. But just to make it fun Ill go with Phil Mickelson. I thought about taking Sergio Garcia (seriously), but you have to win a major to be Player of the Year. Mickelson is due ' for a major and for a P.O.Y. trophy.
Will Tiger come back better, worse or the same as before the surgery?
Hoggard: Expect Woods to be better than hes ever been. The legs are stronger and the rebuilt ACL will allow him to swing without pain. The only lingering question will be how his injury-imposed exile impacts him mentally. For the first time he had to come to grips with his professional immortality and the prospect of life after golf. For world class athletes, it is a difficult reality to stomach.
Hewitt: The big question will be whether the surgically-repaired knee can handle Tigers practice and workout regimen. Ligaments are less predictable than muscles. Tiger is going to have to use all his estimable smarts to know when to push and when to ease off.
Coffin: At first, worse. Eventually, way better. No one would be surprised if Woods returns to win the Masters. Afterall, its what he does. But odds are that itll take him several months to get into competitive shape. When that happens ' mid to late summer ' hell be better than ever. That could be a scary proposition for rest of the Tour.
Baggs: Every time Tiger has a surgery or overhauls his swing he always seems to return better than ever. This, however, is the most serious obstacle he has ever faced in his professional career. I dont see him being better than before ' not sure how thats possible ' but Im not betting against him being as good as he was before.
Will Michelle Wie win on the LPGA?
Hoggard: No. Having a tour card will make life easier for her, but Team Wies plan to stay the course at Stanford may limit her starts in 2009 which would make her breakthrough that much more difficult on what promises to be a hyper-competitive tour.
Hewitt: She will. And the dream scenario for the LPGA will be a Wie victory in the seasons very first event, the SBS Open at Turtle Bay (Feb. 12-14). The resultant buzz would be just what the LPGA needs right now.
Coffin: Yes. A steady Q-School performance proves that the Big Wiesy is finally ready to break through and win as a professional. It wont be at a major championship, but it will come at an event where there arent many top players. If she were playing more than 12-14 events, Id say she could potentially win twice.
Baggs: Yes. Shes just too talented to not win multiple tournaments on the LPGA. If shes focused and plays at least a semi-regular schedule shell win on more than one occasion.
Which will be more compelling: the FedEx Cup playoffs or the Race to Dubai?
Hoggard: The Race will likely draw more attention early because its in its first year, but the tweaks to the FedEx Cup will assure the big finish that has been missing from Atlanta. With a little luck, the Tour could finally end up with a suspenseful Sunday in September.
Hewitt: The Race to Dubai is a novelty that will draw curiosity seekers. But the FedEx Cup will have Tiger Woods (assuming the knee holds up). And Woods trumps all in professional golf.
Coffin: Neither. Both have a chance to be good, but I dont know if either could be great. The Race to Dubai seems to have momentum and will raise the excitement of the European Tour. But its a first-year deal and there is no way to know what to expect. The FedEx Cup tweaks will make it more compelling than the previous two years.
Baggs: Admittedly, despite the changes announced at the end of 2008, Im not enthralled with the PGA Tour Playoffs. After a pair of duds it has to prove its entertainment value. On the other hand, the Race to Dubai does pique my interest, if only because its new and has attracted some popular names from across the globe.
Who finishes the year No. 1 in the world?
Hoggard: Tiger Woods. The more compelling question is who will be No. 2. The gap between first and second, although it has narrowed, is still substantial. What is interesting is the crowd that has gathered behind Woods. Sergio Garcia recently slipped into second place, followed closely by Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington and young guns Camilo Villegas and Anthony Kim are closing.
Hewitt: Tiger Woods will finish No. 1 in the world ' again, only if the knee holds up. If it doesnt, my moneys on Anthony Kim. And, yes, I know thats a bit of a longshot.
Coffin: Sergio Garcia. If Garcia is Player of the Year then he likely will be No. 1 in the world rankings. Woods lead in the rankings is diminishing because hes not playing. If Garcia can knock off a couple of victories in the first half of the year, he can end the year as the best player in the world.
Baggs: Tiger Woods. Im sure its mathematically possible for Tiger to lose his top spot, but unless he re-injures himself or the current injury severely limits his ability to swing a golf club I have to figure hell do enough to retain the top spot.
Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener
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.''
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?''
The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros
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:
Once we give 'em a lesson, we are faced with:— Trackman Maestro (@TrackmanMaestro) January 16, 2018
A. Will they do what we asked them to do
B. Can they do what we asked them to do
C. Will they put in the practice time
D. The fact that golf is a hard game
We face multiple barriers as golf instructors.
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.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
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.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
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.”
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.