Press Pass Feeling the Pressure Having Fun

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 18, 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
Who was under more pressure in the final round last week: Lorena Ochoa, who was vying for the No. 1 spot in the world rankings, or Laura Davies, who was looking for her first tour win in six years and was trying to inch closer to the Hall of Fame?
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Columnist,
This is a good question. I think Davies, mainly because she is in her 40s now and she may be running out of opportunities to qualify on points for the Hall of Fame. Ochoa, on the other hand, will become No. 1 soon enough, especially now that Annika is sidelined with injuries.
Steve Sands Steve Sands - Reporter, GOLF CHANNEL:
Laura Davies. Because Lorena is so young, she'll have time to reach the No. 1 spot in the world rankings, especially with Annika Sorenstam being injured. Laura plays a lot in Europe, therefore, her chances of winning on the LPGA Tour don't come often.
Mark Rolfing Mark Rolfing - Analyst, GOLF CHANNEL:
Without a doubt it was Lorena Ochoa who was under pressure. Not to take anything away from Laura Davies, who needs to cap what has been a great career, but this could have been a passing of the torch from Sorenstam to Ochoa. Clearly, the pressure had an impact (along with the difficult conditions) on Lorena as she played her final six holes in 6 over par.
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer,
Davies, by far. She hadn't won -- still hasn't -- on tour since 2001 and has spent the last six years trying to accumulate those final two points to gain entry into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame. Lorena knows that she will get that No. 1 ranking and will have plenty of opportunities to do so. Laura, closing in on age 44, knows that chances to win are rare; and she has plenty of doubt as to if she will ever get those final two points.
Hot Topic
Davies remains two points shy of automatic entry into the LPGA Tour and World Golf halls of fame. Do you like a points system to determine Hall of Fame eligibility?
I do like a points system because it takes subjectivity out of the equation. Hubert Green, not popular in many circles, almost certainly would be in the Hall of Fame on the men's side if there was a points system in place. Popularity should have nothing to do with it. (Note: Green was elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame Wednesday through the Veteran's category.)
No. If a player is dominant over a period of time, clearly one of the best of her generation, but doesn't reach the necessary point total, she should still be able to be considered for the Hall of Fame. Jim Brown and Barry Sanders both retired well before their talents diminished and potential yard totals were reached, but are still in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
No. There is a great deal more to what makes a Hall of Fame athlete than simply points that are accumulated during a career.
Not at all. I think that those around the game -- historians, writers, dignitaries -- should be able to implement judgement and reason in determining who gets into the Hall of Fame. Davies is a good example. She has won 20 LPGA events, 47 more times around the world, four major championships, and single-handedly kept the Ladies European Tour alive by playing there when she could have won more events and made more money in the U.S. If she never hits another shot, she should be in the Hall of Fame.
Hot Topic
This past week's event on the Nationwide Tour was played on a course listed at 7,781 yards. Is length the best way for a course to combat technology?
Not necessarily. Look at Westchester on the PGA TOUR. I think if the landing areas are created smartly and the green complexes are difficult, a golf course doesn't have to be 7,000 yards to give even the TOUR pros fits. Look at Merion. Anything under 7,000, though, should be a par 70, not 72. Some day don't be surprised if you see a par 69 on TOUR.
No. Tighten fairways, place bunkers strategically on the course and have difficult pin placements. Length is only one facet of the game.
No. If length is the best way to combat technology then many of the worlds greatest courses will forever be obsolete. Course set up can have an even greater impact, particularly if a course plays firm and fast, with narrow fairways, and penalizing rough. I think Merion (not long) will be a terrific U.S. Open venue in the future.
One word: rough. Let distance be an advantage for players, but penalize them if they are erratic. If longer players can hit it in the fairway and only need a wedge to reach the pin, so be it -- just make them use a wedge as well to hack out if they hit their tee shot too far left or right. Accuracy should count just as much as distance.
Hot Topic
The PGA TOUR is in New Orleans this week. What's the best U.S. golf destination for both great courses and great fun?
New Orleans is very high on my list. As is Fort Worth. So is San Francisco (when they play at Harding Park). Chicago is tough to beat as well. The common denominator for me is terrific golf and terrific food.
Las Vegas, the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, and the Palm Springs area. Great golf. Great nightlife. And not necessarily in that order!
Let me see ... I think I will say HAWAII!!!
A buddy of mine has a house in Pinehurst. There's not a whole bunch of nightlife there, but there is plenty of great golf. And if you go with the right crowd, you can find plenty of ways to entertain yourselves.
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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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    Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

    “That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

    So was Woods.

    DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

    “His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

    Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

    “He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

    Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

    “Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

    “Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

    Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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    With blinders on, Rahm 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.