Press Pass Annika Michelle Tiger and Phil

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 30, 2007, 4:00 pm
Press PassEach week, GOLF CHANNEL experts and analysts offer their thoughts and opinions on hot topics in the world of golf with the Press Pass.
Hot Topic
In regards to this weeks Memorial Tournament, do you like Jack Nicklaus use of gap-toothed rakes to create furrows in bunkers?
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Columnist,
I wasn't wild about the fact that he sprung the rakes on the players last year with very little advance notice. This year he has modified the severity of the rakes and I think that's fine. I agree with him that the conditioning of the sand at Muirfield Village had gotten so fine that to be in a greenside bunker was better than being in greenside rough.
Steve Sands Steve Sands - Reporter, GOLF CHANNEL:
I think Jack is trying to make things more difficult to keep the scoring down at his tournament. Other courses and tournaments do certain things to try to achieve the same result so I don't have a problem with what they're doing in Dublin.
Steve Duemig Steve Duemig - Panelist, Grey Goose 19th Hole:
Jack's reasoning is that being in a bunker is supposed to cost you half a stroke. If I was playing, probably not. But I'm not playing so - You go, Jack.
Mark Rolfing Mark Rolfing - Analyst, GOLF CHANNEL:
I think it is an interesting idea. I dont think the grooves should be overly severe, but anything to make the sand other than a perfect surface to play a shot out of would make the area more of a hazard. To me there should be some disadvantage to being in a bunker. After all a bunker is a hazard.
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer,
I don't have a problem with it. But that being said, even Tiger Woods only gets up-and-down from a greenside bunker less than 64 percent of the time. Bunkers are pretty penal to begin with -- still, I don't mind making them a little more difficult for the best players in the world.
Hot Topic
Annika Sorenstam returns to action this week in her own Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika. Will a healthy Sorenstam regain the No. 1 spot in the world this year?
I think a 'healthy' Annika will regain the No. 1 spot this year. The question (and we will learn a lot more by the end of this coming week) is how healthy will Annika be and how soon. Her doctor has told me she has been careful to be conservative in her treatment of neck and back injuries since learning of them last month. Annika is competitive and there might be a temptation to come back too soon. But all signs point to her being smarter than to give in to the temptation. In her mind, I believe, Annika is shooting for a healthy defense of her U.S. Women's Open title at Pine Needles late next month.
If Annika is healthy there's no question she'll regain the No. 1 spot in the world this season.
I don't think so. Being off that long and not practicing for some of that time during rehab will definitely affect her. Besides, Ochoa is playing very well.
I think the answer is no, but dont ever count Annika out. She has three disadvantages when it comes to her rivalry with Lorena Ochoa. No. 1, the age difference; No. 2, Annikas potential for lingering injury; No. 3, Annikas focus on other things in life besides competitive golf.
I think it's Lorena's for the rest of the year. She's easily capable of winning a few more times and could (should) land a major title. Right now in their careers, I think a healthy Lorena Ochoa is better than a healthy Annika Sorenstam.
Hot Topic
Michelle Wie is also making her return this week. She will be playing the PGA TOURs John Deere Classic in July. Good move or bad move?
You must understand that Michelle Wie at the John Deere is, in a sense, kind of a one-off. She has become extremely popular in the Quad Cities region where that tournament is played. And tournament director Clair Peterson has told me all their feedback has been positive about Wie returning there. Wie is a big draw at the John Deere and she has made charitable contributions to worthy causes there. What I don't think you'll see any time soon are any other tournament directors on the PGA TOUR looking to get Wie in their fields. She needs to score better in PGA TOUR events to get consistent invites there.
I do not think it's a good idea for Michelle Wie to play in a PGA TOUR event. She's a professional golfer. Professionals play to win. She cannot win the John Deere Classic. Learning how to win on the professional level is difficult. Trying to make a cut Friday afternoon is not the same as trying to win a tournament Sunday afternoon.
LOL!! Cut me a break. At what point does this become comical? Oh yeah, it already is.
I still think its a good move for Michelle and dont be surprised if she does better this year at the John Deere Classic. I really think this extended layoff she has had from the game will turn out to be good for her. Most importantly just look at what Michelles presence has done for the John Deere Classic, the Quad-Cities community and all the local charities.
I feel like Michelle has gotten about all she can right now out of playing against men. I think she should focus on competing against her own gender, get better as a player, get her confidence back, and then take another stab at it in the future.
Hot Topic
In your opinion, whats the ONE thing to watch for this week?
Sergio Garcia has a new putter (YES C-Groove) that he started using at THE PLAYERS. It certainly worked for him there (second-place finish). If he ever regains the kind of confidence in his putting he had in his late teens, he will be an immediate force again and a player to be watched closely at next month's U.S. Open.
I'm curious to see how Tiger Woods plays at Muirfield Village after being away two weeks since his disappointing week at THE PLAYERS.
The thing I will be looking for the most is the way Tiger's putter is reacting at the Memorial. (The Muirfield greens have) Open-type speed. It may paint the picture as to his true chances at Oakmont.
To me, the most interesting thing will be to see which tour gets bigger play in the media, the PGA TOUR or the LPGA. You have two premier events on the same weekend.
I'm very curious to see how Annika plays this week. Two of the next three tournaments are major championships, one of which Annika will be defending (U.S. Women's Open). This week, for once, isn't about winning for Annika -- it's about finding her feel, and feeling well.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Memorial Tournament
  • Full Coverage - Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika
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    Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

    Getty Images

    Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

    After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

    With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

    “I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

    Getty Images

    Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    “I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

    “I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

    Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

    Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

    “We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

    Getty Images

    Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

    The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

    Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

    Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

    • Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

    • Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

    • Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1