What we learned: Valero Texas Open

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 22, 2012, 10:33 pm

Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent events and news developments. This week . . .

I learned that the PGA Tour needs to allow tournaments to offer appearance fees. I've never been on either side of the fence with this issue but this week's event pushed me to the greener side. The Texas Open is in an unenviable slot between the Masters and The Players. If it needs, or sponsor Valero wants to pay top players to entice them to compete, they should be allowed to do so. It's ridiculous that an event on the PGA Tour should battle the Indonesian Masters for attention because the latter is allowed to buy Lee Westwood's services for a week. The PGA Tour needs to embrace a capitalist mindset and allow tournaments all avenues to compete against one another. This isn't Russia. Is this Russia? No, because the Russian Open allows appearance fees. – Mercer Baggs

I learned that Branden Grace is much more than a two-week flash in the pan. After he won the Joburg Open and Volvo Golf Champions in back-to-back weeks in January, some contended that the 23-year-old from South Africa simply got really hot at a really good time. His victory at the Volvo China Open this week, though, proved the youngster is no two-hit wonder. He now owns as many worldwide titles this year as the top three players on the OWGR combined – or one more than Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Much like countrymen Trevor Immelman, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, Grace is a major up-and-coming talent. Speaking of major, those three all own major championships – and it may not be too long before Grace joins 'em in that exclusive club. – Jason Sobel

I learned very successful men sometimes do too much talking. Tiger Woods' current teacher, Sean Foley, wants the media to lay off a 'good dude,' but has never been at a loss for words to critique Woods' work with past instructors to provide chum for a good piece.

Butch Harmon thinks Foley should be shown the door and Hank Haney might used have the golf equivalent of the Nixon Tapes to write his 'The Big Miss.' Harmon said he would never write the book Haney did, but did not mind disclosing some of Tiger's gamesmanship tactics to Phil Mickelson and the press.

Harmon and Haney seem to agree Woods should go find the secrets in the dirt instead of in the digital camera of his current teacher. Then again, Woods completely revamped his swing with both of them at a point in his life when his knee was somewhat healthier and his personal life was less complicated. All three men were or will likely be successful with Woods. The side-show love quadrangle played out in the press will not decide who has been the best of them. Soap operas are dying and this one should, too. – Ryan Ballengee

I learned the LPGA should schedule every event Wednesday-Saturday. Every event. Even majors. This guarantees the tour more coverage on Wednesday (it's opposite nothing) and Saturday (crowing a champion when no other tour does) and is precisely the type of outside-the-box thinking that can only provide dividends. I covered the LPGA for six years in the early 2000s and the idea never occurred to me. Of course Annika Sorenstam was doing her thing and created tons of headlines for the tour. Sadly, that's not the case any longer. Time to mix it up. – Jay Coffin

I learned that maybe it’s a good thing Bubba Watson doesn’t have a swing coach for reasons that go beyond his swing.

Swing instructors are so much more than coaches these days, and that’s not always a good thing for the player. Swing coaches can be muses. They can be confidants. They can be sports psychologists. They can be TV tour analysts, or host their own TV shows. They can be kiss-and-tell authors and defense attorneys.

We’ve seen it all in the past month with Hank Haney, Butch Harmon and Sean Foley making larger headlines than any player not named Tiger or Bubba. Of course, the common denominator in the intensity of interest in the news they are generating is that they’re all connected to Tiger Woods, through past association or present.

Haney created a furor writing his book about Tiger Woods, “The Big Miss.” Harmon stirred sentiments saying he believes Woods’ swing has become “very robotic” and that he has “lost his nerve putting.” Foley made headlines defending Woods, telling radio show host Matt Adams on the PGA Tour Network that the “tearing down” of Woods is “out of hand” and Woods deserves better. All three coaches are fascinating personalities with unique gifts and insights into the biggest star the game has ever seen. That makes them bigger stars than most players today. – Randall Mell

I learned that Mark Twain was spot on; there are lies, damn lies and ShotLink statistics, or something like that. Exhibit A is Ben Curtis’ pedestrian strokes-gained putting standing before the Texas Open (183rd) and where he ended up after his first victory since 2006 (second). And you thought the world golf ranking was skewed. – Rex Hoggard

John Hancock Pivotal Moments

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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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.