F-words being used in Canada
Instead, the Open goes on this week at Glen Abbey and the issue of those brutal dates right behind the British Open has been done to death, even though nothing will change immediately.
Thats not to say the RCGA and RBC are accepting status quo for a tournament that just last year had no title sponsor and apparently no future. How times have changed.
RBC has the resources and clout to get the PGA TOUR to at least listen to complaints about those disastrous dates and that, in itself, is a step forward. Dont count on the Open falling around Canada Day, but at least more separation from a major is possible.
For now, the focus is on what can be done immediately to draw more players and fans to the Open and, ultimately, elevate its status before the TOUR rethinks its schedule down the road.
The hospitality shown to players and their families is being elevated in order to get a better field and fans havent been forgotten either. Tournament organizers now grasp the concept that professional sports are as much about entertainment as they are about competition.
This year, the Open will feature evening concerts by Blue Rodeo, 54-40 and Tom Cochrane behind the third green, a plan that surely would have been nixed by the RCGA in the past and will seem strange, assuming it continues, on the stately grounds of St. Georges in two years.
Such tactics are not exclusive to Canada. Justin Timberlake has his name on the Las Vegas TOUR stop, which is mired in the Fall Series. The four-time Grammy winner will play in a pro-am and headline a concert during the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Theres also the party of all golf parties that takes place in Arizona in early February each year.
The FBR Open has carved its own special niche with boisterous crowds and special features such as the Birds Nest, an off-site festival with bands and bars that welcomes revelers when the last putt drops each day at TPC Scottsdale. Take it from someone whos been there, golf fans should experience it.
The RCGA seems to be backing off any comparison to the FBR Open. That could be because it wants to cook up its own unique Canadian flavor, or because the Phoenix-area event is sometimes over the top.
However, there is no denying the success of the FBR Open, which has set unofficial tour records for attendance and raised millions for charities through the Thunderbirds, the local group that organizes the tournament. Its at least a good blueprint to follow in Canada.
I have fun. Some people think the (FBR Open) is too loud, its too big, but at the same time, boy does it draw the crowds and that was something I did mention to the RCGA, said Ames, who has been a regular at the FBR Open over the years. I think we need to go in that direction.
Leggatt, the winner of the 2002 Touchstone Energy Tucson Open and now playing on the Nationwide Tour, agrees. I think they promote it as the greatest party on grass. Thats what they do. Its the place to go. Its the place to be seen, said Leggatt, who received an exemption into the Canadian Open.
(The FBR Open) is about bringing in as many people as they can, raising as much money as they can for charity because people come through the gates and they drink and they eat and have a great time, he added. I think thats an avenue they should explore for this event.
Both Leggatt and Ames agree that the RCGA should look at another aspect of the FBR Open, where the par-3 16th hole is known as the rowdiest in golf. Fans will sing a players college fight song as he approaches the tee, cheer him heartily if he hits the green, but boo him loudly if he misses.
There are a lot of people there and theyre right on top of you. Once you have done it a couple of times and you come to expect whats about to happen, youre used to it. There are players who dont like it, but for the most part, a good percentage of players think its good fun, said Leggatt.
Both Leggatt and Ames are in agreement that Canadas version of the 16th could come at a par three at the end of the Abbeys valley holes. I think 15 would be a perfect opportunity to just surround that entire hole with grandstands and try to mimic that whole thing, said Leggatt.
It may not be an original idea, but just the fact that players and organizers are using F-words -- as in fun, fans and FBR Open -- is a refreshing sign as the Canadian Open enters a future it didnt seem to have a year ago.
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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.
McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54
Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.
McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.
McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.
McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.
Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.
“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”
Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener
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.''
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?''
The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros
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:
Once we give 'em a lesson, we are faced with:— Trackman Maestro (@TrackmanMaestro) January 16, 2018
A. Will they do what we asked them to do
B. Can they do what we asked them to do
C. Will they put in the practice time
D. The fact that golf is a hard game
We face multiple barriers as golf instructors.
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.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
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.