Its Always Tiger Time

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 17, 2008, 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.
THE LEGEND GROWS: Tiger Woods battled a wounded knee, a tough U.S. Open course, a fan-favorite underdog and his own swing and somehow still managed to win his third U.S. Open Championship and his 14th career major.
Backspin Even for Tiger standards - which are already off the charts high - this week ranked way up there on the thrills and chills meter. There was Tiger's Saturday night primetime show with the pair of late eagles and his chip-in, then the mind-blowing clutch putt on the 72nd hole in regulation that forced the sudden death playoff. He finished off his week with a birdie on the 90th hole to extend the playoff and finally won the title one hole later. He was then joined by his daughter Sam and wife Elin to cap off a truely incredible week.

HEARTBREAK: Rocco Mediate battled back from a three-shot deficit to take a one-stroke advantage to the 18th hole against the world's No. 1 player only to see his hopes dashed with a bogey on the first hole of sudden death, the 91st hole in the championship.
Backspin Rocco was centimeters ' literally centimeters ' from being a U.S. Open champion on Sunday. On Monday he was one hole away from being a U.S. Open champion. Alas, what everyone knew would happen - including himself - happened. He was up against not only Tiger but the legend of Tiger as well. But the legend of Rocco was born as well this week, as the fans at Torrey - and the untold millions watching around the world - were pulling for the 45-year-old underdog to make history. He came up short, but at the same time he came up big.

REST KNEEDED: Woods admitted after his victory that he disobeyed doctor's order so that he could play in the U.S. Open. He then was vague with the press after his triumph as to when he would return to competition.
Backspin Tiger's knee will likely be a problem for him over the remainder of the year -- if not longer. We'd expect to see him at the Open Championship, but Tiger's not much on letting people in on his plans. For the sake of the game, we hope Tiger returns ASAP and as healthy as possible.

PRIMETIME SATURDAY: The USGA's decision to put all four rounds in primetime on the East Coast paid off beautifully, especially the first night of the weekend on Saturday when Tiger was featured in the second-to-last pairing.
Backspin And what a wild night it was, with Tiger producing some of the most incredible and memorable golf of his career. There was the 65-foot bomb for eagle at 13, then the chip-in for birdie at 17 and then another long eagle at the closing hole to take over the outright lead of the championship. And doing this all while being in obvious pain from his recently repaired knee. Golf fans watching the theater will never forgot that evening and those 'casual fans' who had tuned in might just put Tiger on their 'must see TV' list from now on.

LEFTY BLUES: Phil Mickelson posted rounds of 71-75-76-68 to finish seven strokes off the winning pace and in a tie for 18th. Mickelson has only one top-10 finish in the last eight major championships.

Backspin Much was made about Mickelson and his San Diego roots and his storied history at Torrey Pines, he himself calling this 'a chance of a lifetime.' After a so-so start paired with Tiger the first two days, his dream of winning a U.S. Open title in front of his hometown fans came crashing down with a disastrous quadruple bogey at the par-5 13th on Saturday. Perhaps the only good news was that he didn't have to go through another heartbreaking, near miss.

TORREYS STORY: From the fairness of the setup of Torrey Pines that the players raved about; to the excitement of all four (five) rounds; to the dream pairing of Tiger, Lefty and Scott; to golf in primetime, it could be argued that the biggest winner of the week was the USGA.
Backspin The performance by the Blue Coats this week seemed almost like a shot across the bow of the Green Jackets, bringing plenty of thrills to a major championship while maintaining a high degree of difficulty. Granted, they benefited greatly from a Herculean effort by the worlds No. 1, but hats off to the USGA for doing a fantastic job of bringing us a week of golf to remember with plenty of fireworks and drama.

BIG NAMES OUT: Some big names suffered the wrath of the U.S. Open, and failed to make the cut. For the 19th straight year there was no repeat winner at this championship as Angel Cabrera failed to make it to the weekend. Other names included K.J. Choi, 2007 Masters champ Zach Johnson, long hitters J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson, and Europeans Justin Rose and Colin Montgomerie..
Backspin History suggests that the struggles of Angel Cabrera should not surprise anyone; with the yearly change in venue and overt difficulty of the U.S. Open, it is the toughest championship to defend. However, common sense suggests that the struggles of two of the biggest hitters on TOUR, in Watson and Holmes, on the longest U.S. Open setup should surprise a lot of people.
CALL ME ICARUS: Some recognizable names who made the cut actually found themselves in contention over the weekend and when they realized this, they promptly tumbled right down the leaderboard (see Stuart Appbley, Davis Love III, Ernie Els and Robert Allenby).
Backspin Its understandable that guys like Kevin Streelman and Justin Hicks would crumble after gaining a share of the first-round lead, but guys like Appleby, Love, Els and Allenby are supposed to be able to handle this kind of pressure on Saturday and Sunday. Fortunately for Love and Els, they already have at least one major to their credit. Appleby and Allenby dont look like theyll ever have such a luxury.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: David Dixon fired a 5-under 66 to win the Saint-Omer Open in France to earn his first career victory on the European Tour; The PGA TOUR announced last week that the AT&T Classic will not return to Atlanta in the 2009 season.
Backspin Dixon, an Englishman, began the day a full nine shots off the lead and went bogey-free for the day; All is not lost for golf fans in Atlanta as a Champions Tour event will likely replace the PGA TOUR stop.

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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

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    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.

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    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.