Backspin Leftys Clubs and Mouth Do the Talking

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 4, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
LABOR DAY FIREWORKS: Phil Mickelson beat Tiger Woods head-to-head Monday in Boston to win the Deutsche Bank Championship. The victory -- just his second ever on TOUR after the month of August -- vaulted Mickelson to No. 1 in the FedExCup Playoffs.
BackspinNo offense to Brett Wetterich or Arron Oberholser -- two other Deutsche Bank principals -- or even last week's winner Steve Stricker, but the Playoffs need the best players in the world going head-to-head against one another. That's what 'playoffs' are all about -- the best against the best. That's what we got this past week. And that's just what these inaugural Playoffs needed.
OH, NO HE DIDN'T: In his post-victory comments on live televsion, Mickelson said that he was undecided on whether or not he was going to play in this week's BMW Championship outside of Chicago. Mickelson blamed his indecision on PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem, saying Finchem didn't follow through on some Mickelson requests, and that because of Finchem's actions -- or lack thereof -- he wouldn't feel guilty for skipping Playoff Week No. 3.
BackspinMaybe Mickelson was feeling 10 feet tall and bullet-proof after his Tiger taming. Whatever his motivation, Mickelson's comments -- at least in the docile world of golf -- were boarderline scandalous. Heading to Cog Hill, these Playoff have an intrigue factor of 10, about double what they had after Week 1. But Phil, and not the TOUR, may be the ultimate victim if Mickelson decides to skip. This could prove to be a $10 million point he is trying to make.
HARD LUCK BOSTON STORY: Steve Flesch had a miserable Labor Day Monday, shooting 7-over 78 to fall from 70th in the FedExCup points standings to 71st, thus missing the cut for this week's BMW Championship. Peter Lonard also missed out, falling from 69th to 72nd after missing the Deutsche Bank cut.
BackspinInstead of feeling sorry for Flesch and Lonard, we can feel happy for Bo Van Pelt and John Mallinger, both of who played well enough to crack the top 70 and move on. Isn't it odd, however, that only two players each of the first two playoff weeks have been able to play their way into the following tournament. We smell a tweak for 2008.
FROM CHUMPS TO CHAMPS: Even before this round of The Playoffs concluded with Phil out-dueling Tiger, it began with the hype of Phil and Tiger playing together -- along with Vijay Singh. The marquee threesome -- ordered by their positions on the FedExCup points list -- played alongside one another over the first two rounds. Friday they combined to shoot 3 over. Saturday it was 19 under.
BackspinThe grouping of these three looked to be the perfect remedy to Playoff malaise for Finchem and Co. It started with a thud, literally, with Singh four-putting the opening hole. But in Rd. 2 on Saturday, the trio set off fireworks - Woods and Mickelson shooting the low rounds of the day (7-under 64s) and Singh not far behind with a round of 65. And then, of course, there was the Monday excitement. Playoff fever! Catch it!
THESE GIRLS ROCK: Sherri Steinhauer held off a hard-charging Christina Kim to win the State Farm Classic. Holding a one-shot lead coming to the 18th, Steinhauer almost gave away the tournament before miraculously holing a putt from off the green to save par and win her sixth career title.
BackspinKim, who felt slighted from being left off this year's Solheim Cup team, let her clubs do the talking on Sunday, closing with three straight birdies - two from off the green - to put the heat on Steinhauer. And after the heroics on the final green, Kim turned from competitor to cheerleader, celebrating Steinhauer's clutch winning putt with class.
THE GOOD DOCTOR: Dr. Gil Morgan began the final round of the Wal-Mart First Tee Open tied with Hale Irwin and proceeded to shoot a flawless 5-under 67 to capture his 25th career Champions Tour title at none other than famed Pebble Beach.
BackspinIt didn't quite make up for what happened to Morgan in the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach -- where he became the first player ever to reach double digits under par in an Open, only to let it all slide away -- but it was a very satisfying victory. And beating old nemesis Hale Irwin was icing on the cake.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES': Tim Finchem announced in a press conference that a new drug testing program will be in place for the PGA TOUR during the 2008 season.
Backspin Obviously pressed into action by the scandals befalling Major League Baseball, the NFL, track and field, cycling and others, PGA TOUR headquarters had to do something. Whether or not this new policy unearths any wrongdoings by the players, it should at least help ease the minds of conspiracy theorists. And perhaps more importantly, make Finchem look like the anti-Bud Selig.
A TOAST TO VICTORY: Scotland's very own Marc Warren became the first countryman to win the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in Scotland (which happens to be the site of the 2014 Ryder Cup matches). Warren's birdie putt on the 72nd hole got him into a playoff with Simon Wakefield.
BackspinWarren now has two career European Tour titles to his credit. Both of those victories have come in playoffs. And strangely enough, both wins were decided on the second playoff hole. The way he played on Sunday -- check out his scorecard -- Warren could have won easily or finished outside the top 10.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The R&A announced that the Mark H. McCormack Medal will be presented annually to the leading player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking; Bernhard Langer made his Champions Tour debut this past week at Pebble Beach; Colin Montgomerie confirmed that he is engaged to Gaynor Knowles.
BackspinMcCormack is the founder of IMG, his first client being none other than Arnold Palmer; Rookie Langer found out just how tough those old buggers are, finishing in a tie for 10th; Here's hoping Monty's soon-to-be wife is a soft talker.
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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. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    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.”

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    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.

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    Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

    Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

    ''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

    Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

    ''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

    Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

    ''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

    Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

    ''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

    The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

    ''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

    Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

    ''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

    The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

    ''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

    He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

    Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

    ''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

    Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

    ''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.