Punch Shot: Will less-is-more approach catch on?

By Randall MellOctober 24, 2013, 5:49 pm

Tiger Woods has cut down his schedule for years and Steve Stricker was competitive as ever while 'semi-retired' last season. Now, in light of Phil Mickelson's recent decision to follow suit in an effort to put more focus on the majors, GolfChannel.com writers debate whether the less-is-more attitude will catch on with other players.


If Phil Mickelson is going to play less to focus on the majors, and Tiger Woods decides to play less to avoid those “tired legs” he felt at the Tour Championship, that’s just more prize money left over for everyone else, more opportunities for victories and ranking points.

So if I’m another elite player, I’m tempted to send a thank-you card to Mickelson and Woods.

If Lefty and Tiger both trim their schedules, will other players follow suit? I don’t think so. The game’s best players know their own strengths and weaknesses. They know when they’re playing too much or too little, and they’re basing it on how their own minds and bodies react, not on what they know about Mickelson or Woods. Rory McIlroy acknowledges he played too little at year’s start. That isn’t based on his comparing his schedule to Mickelson or Woods. It’s Rory knowing Rory.

Now, if Mickelson wins two or three majors with a reduced schedule next year, yeah, it probably will make the game’s other top players look to see if there’s something to this less-is-more thinking. Winning tactics do influence players.


They’re not following Phil’s lead – he’s just the latest to join the less-is-more brigade.

After all, this is not a new concept. Jack Nicklaus was among the first to cut back his schedule, opting to spend more time at home and put more emphasis on the majors, and that’s largely been the driving force behind Tiger Woods’ schedule making for years.

In recent years Adam Scott has followed suit, trimming his schedule to put a premium on only the biggest events, and he’s practically been a factor in each since. Ditto for Steve Stricker, whose first year of “semi-retirement” was arguably one of his best as a pro: eight top 10s in 13 starts.

That scaled-back approach worked for these players, yes, but it might not for others, including Mickelson. Since 1993, he has played 20-plus events in all but three seasons. Lefty said he won’t “put as much importance” on the tournaments that are played well before a major, though he did not say which tournaments he would cut. His is a particularly interesting case, because he has long said he prefers to play the week before a major, meaning Houston, Firestone and maybe even Memphis are all still in the mix.

Point is, a playing schedule is a matter of personal preference. These players know their games, and how best to maximize their performance. Whether the less-is-more approach will work for Phil – like it has for many other top-tier talents – remains to be seen. 


Without a doubt, we’re going to see more guys in their 40s go the Steve Stricker route in coming years.

As much as the romantic notion of traveling week-in, week-out to compete for millions of dollars sounds enticing to those of us who are mere mortals with a club in our hands, do this for a quarter-century and even the coolest job in the world will feel old after a while. Throw in the fact that most golfers of this age have families at home and whopping bank accounts, and the motivation to grind away like Vijay Singh naturally wanes with time.

Perhaps players would be more reticent to give it a try if Stricker had fallen flat on his face in semi-retirement, but the argument can be made that more time spent away from the game actually helped him inside the ropes. And really, it’s nothing Tiger Woods hasn’t been doing for years, too. Sometimes less is more. Even though a player would have 10 more chances to win by competing in 30 tournaments rather than 20, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll win more often.

If you’re a player like Ernie Els or Lee Westwood or Jim Furyk or so many others, there’s more motivation at this point in your well-established career to be home resting up and preparing for the big tournaments than to put more miles on the private jet. Phil Mickelson will be the next one to go this route in 2014. Don’t be surprised when others continue the copycat process in the near future.


While Phil Mickelson appears ready to embrace a truncated schedule in 2014 – one from which Steve Stricker yielded unexpected levels of success this year – I don’t anticipate many of the world’s best going down a similar road.

A conservative baseline estimate would be 10 starts for an upper-echelon player: four majors, three of four FedEx Cup Playoff events, two of four WGC events and The Players Championship. Most will play in at least 11 of those tournaments, if not 12 or even all 13. From there, players are likely to add a handful of top-tier events, not to mention tournament starts tied to sponsor relationships. While not every top-ranked player will choose the schedule of Brandt Snedeker or Matt Kuchar, who both made 23 starts on the PGA Tour last season, most will find a way to make at least 16-17 starts per year, as Adam Scott and Justin Rose did in 2013.

Additionally, players like Stricker and Mickelson are in unique positions: the former clearly placing an emphasis on his life off the course, while the latter now has a singular focus around which to shape each year’s schedule: the U.S. Open. Both now have a certain degree of financial flexibility, having made more than $35 million in on-course earnings during their respective careers, and neither appears particularly concerned with his position in the world rankings. That’s their prerogative, but it’s hardly going to become the norm. For the vast majority of players, even the best in the world, a relatively full-time slate of at least 16-20 starts will still remain the most effective way to keep their golf games sharp – and keep up in the rankings at the same time.


Welcome to the era of less is more.

Phil Mickelson said this week he plans to tailor his schedule to peak at the majors. When pressed for exactly what that means, Lefty figured he’d trim about 25 percent from his historical lineup.

Over the last 10 years he’s played an average of 20.7 events, which means he would play five fewer events. End of the world, right?

Consider that’s more than one more event that Tiger Woods has averaged over his last eight seasons (13.75). Consider that’s two more events than prolific part-timer Steve Stricker played in 2013. Quality over quantity has worked out pretty well for those two.

When Mickelson says, “My whole purpose and focus will be ... participating in certain tournaments that will help me play well in those majors.” He means that another missed cut at The Greenbrier Classic – he is 0-for-3 making it to the weekend on the Old White Course – or another pedestrian effort at Bay Hill, where he hasn’t posted a top-10 finish since 2002, does little to prepare him to complete the final leg of the career Grand Slam (U.S. Open) and add to his major legacy.

From fewer starts comes greater focus; it’s a truth that Woods has spent more than a decade proving and a strategy that is likely to become a trend among the top players.

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Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.

1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

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Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.