Ames Aims for Swing Changes

By Ian HutchinsonMarch 11, 2008, 4:00 pm
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- They sizzle up a delicious ribeye at Packards, but Stephen Ames was being a little different, choosing the grouper instead, which wasnt a bad choice considering the weather at the PODS Championship early last week.
 
Ames could have cast a line out the door of this memorable steakhouse and hooked the catch of the day with all of the rain that began falling at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club just as he finished nine holes of his practice round, an extremely important time for Ames these days.
 
More time on the range would go a long way in the progress of the swing changes instituted by coach Sean Foley over a year ago, but the torrential downpour dampened that plan and became another roadblock to moving forward.
 
Scheduling ' and in this case, a storm that caused tournament officials to clear the course ' has limited the time that Ames and Foley have spent together in the early going of the PGA TOUR season. Their most productive meeting came during three days in Orlando about a month ago.
 
We were working on the same things, just to get it better and better ' understanding it more, said Ames, adding thats his main focus as the season progresses.
 
The backswings gotten better. It seems to fall into place day in, day out and now, were working on the downswing -- for me to understand it better more than anything else, he added.
 
The new changes were introduced to limit injuries to Ames, who began to suffer from back pain in 2006. It isnt so much that Ames doesnt understand the mechanics or the reasoning behind the changes, its just a matter of getting mind and body working together and accepting something new.
 
The easiest way to explain it is if youre learning to drive for the first time, you dont jump in the car and drive 100 miles an hour, said Ames.
 
You drive at 30 miles an hour, so were swinging the club now at a slower pace, hitting 30 per cent shots and 40 per cent shots and every now and again, well throw one (swing) in thats normal and that way, it solidifies the feeling better.
 
Foley adds that a reconstructed swing takes time and that a few more sessions like the one in Orlando might hasten the progress.
 
That was excellent. If I could get that kind of time once a month, we would progress quickly, but he spends enough time away from his family, said Foley, adding that he respects Ames renowned devotion to family.
 
We just spent a lot of time getting him to understand why (the changes) work, After three days of hitting 500 balls a day, he really got the feeling and progressed really well, but you take three weeks off and its kind of back to where it was, so it takes time.
 
Swing changes are a work in progress, added Foley. I figure two-and-a-half years from the day that we started until everything is more natural.
 
That leaves about another year before Ames is completely comfortable, but he has had some finishes that may have left fans with the impression that everything had kicked in, including his win at Disney last November.
 
He didnt seem to have lost anything at the beginning of this season with a couple of top-10s in Hawaii, including a third place finish at the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
 
Obviously, he played really good in Hawaii, almost won at Mercedes and then, he played good at Sony and the thing with Sony was he didnt hit it that great, but he really grinded it and got it up and down, so thats a big thing because weve worked a lot on short game, said Foley.
 
His performance in Hawaii illustrated how far he had come with the changes, according to Ames. Hawaii just kind of solidified that I can take a couple of months off, which it was, get back into it and it was still going to be there, which was nice, he said.
 
Ames fast start in Hawaii was balanced by a missed cut at the Buick Invitational and a tie for 33rd at the Accenture Match Play Championship. Yesterday, he finished T-52 at the PODS, which began his preparations for next months Masters.
 
Ames will play the Arnold Palmer Invitational next week and follow that up with a trip to Doral, before taking the two weeks before the Masters off for a visit to his home country of Trinidad.
 
There isnt a golf course that we play on tour that can actually warm you up for the Masters, said Ames. Its a completely different animal altogether, the greens and everything.
 
Im going to be (at Augusta National) the Saturday, so Ive got the Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to prepare, which is enough. I think, for that event, you have to be mentally relaxed more than anything else.
 

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Toronto Sun Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
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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.