The Final Round of the Season
You find similar scenes all over northern courses where daylight savings time means the end of golf season.
Or does it?
There are three ways to approach the end of golf season:
1) Move to Florida or Southern California where golf season never ends. Hawaii is never a bad option either.
2) Make it a year-round game no matter how cold it gets.
3) When you know you are teeing it up for the last time for several months, just have fun and not try to knock the handicap down another stroke. As a matter of fact, most clubs in northern climates dont even register scores after Labor Day because of weather conditions.
Kris Gooding is a teaching professional at the Country Club of Maryland, which stays open all year, even though it can get quite chilly during the winter months. He said a lot of clubs work with the golfers to ensure that members arent overwhelmed at the thought of getting in that final under-par round before the course becomes unplayable.
We see a lot of the members with a certain amount of anxiety as daylight savings time rolls around, but we try to help. We shorten the course and the scores get better. And we dont count scores against the handicap, so it relieves a lot of tension.
In Minnesota, Chuck Klecatsky is a PGA golf professional at the Craguns Legacy Courses about two hours north of Minneapolis, one of the top-rated resorts in the nation. He said that golfers might want to go low at the end of the playing season, but it should be expected in the north.
In Minnesota, the scores go up at the end because the weather gets worse, Klecatsky said. We try to make it easy, but they shouldnt get anxious. Just concentrate on the year, but more importantly, think about ways to improve during the winter even if it is just indoors or simulators. The golf season never has to end.
For some, the golf season never does end. Its easy to play year-round in Florida. But Matt Mitchell, a PGA teaching professional at The Downs Golf practice facility, a state of the art practice site in the Tampa Bay area, believes that the golf season never has to end.
To play year-round, even in the north, you need a year-round stretching program, so golf never has to end even if you are surrounded by snow, Mitchell said. Everyone I teach says they want to hit the ball like Tiger Woods. I look at them straight in the eye and say, You cant. Its all about your upper body and making a good turnthings to think about during the winter months. Think flexibility and turn.
The Tampa area is filled with snowbirds from up north who flitter between the cold climates and Florida after daylight savings time hits. Mitchell said a lot of golfers come to him with concerns about playing that last round before going north where golf is unplayable. But he contends that there is nothing to worry about; golfers could still play in the basement not matter how bad the blizzard.
Mitchell recommends an easy practice lesson that only takes a quick trip to the Home Depot. All you need is a plastic pipe to place behind the forearms and back, and practice stretching by turning the hips for about 15 minutes a day. Repeat the maneuver while sitting.
You can do the whole thing in 15 minutes a day, Mitchell said. It involves your back and hips, the two most important aspects to the golf swing, and you can do it anywhere.
He also advocates buying a cheap driver, or even a shaft, and adding surgical tubing to the shaft to practice swinging on the correct plane as fast as possible, though controlled. A whistling noise indicates a proper and effective swing.
If you live in a northern climate such as Minnesota, you dont want to go back to where you were six months ago once the courses are unplayable, Mitchell said. It takes 15 minutes a day.
Gooding concurs with the idea of improving your golf game even if you live in an area where the season is limited.
I joined a gym last year and worked on endurance and ecliptics, Gooding said. I worked on my back, core, legs and shoulders. I wasnt going for muscle, but it improved my game so much during the winter. I was hitting it farther once we got back out on a regular basis.
Klecatsky believes that the most obvious choice for indoor practice is to work on putting. Buying a simple putting strip can make a difference. As any golfer knows, if you hit the greens in regulation, putting is half the game. And although golf simulators are prominent throughout most of the northern states, putting strips are available everywhere. If its true that you drive for show and putt for dough, it isnt a bad idea to invest a few bucks in a putting strip.
As for the simulators, Klecatsky notes that newer technology has dramatically improved the realism they now provide, compared to those of a decade ago.
The last shot of the year doesnt have to be the last shot of the year. If you live in Minnesota or Alaska, the golf season never has to end. There are plenty of ways to keep the season alive and, hey, you dont have to worry about long lines at the tee boxes, and you are usually a lot closer to the 19th hole than when you are out on the course.
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.