Zingers the Ringer for US
Former Masters and U.S. Open champ Fuzzy Zoeller, who hails from nearby southern Indiana, will do whatever the mayor tells me to do, as festival chair. The Ryder Cup is a tremendous, tremendous golf tournament, said Zoeller.
Where else are you going to find 24 of the greatest players in the world in the prime of their lives? he said, adding the Ryder Cup wont lose any of that prestige due to weird placement between the FedExCup playoffs and the grand finale at the Tour Championship.
The Ryder Cup is still that special thing, said Zoeller. The FedExCup is fine, but Ryder Cup has the stars and stripes on your back. Now, thats big time.
It definitely is big time and will be even more so this year as the guys with the stars and stripes attempt to reverse the disturbing trend that has seen them lose the last three, including identical, lopsided scores of 18 to 9 in 2004 and 2006, and five of the last six in a premier event they once dominated.
The Americans fall from grace has been analyzed and scrutinized and Zoeller, who helped the stars and stripes to a 2-1 record in the 1979, 83 and 85 Ryder Cups, says its impossible to be diplomatic about this turn of events.
Its a fact, said the 10-time PGA TOUR winner, who isnt such a warm Fuzzy when discussing his countrys recent record. He believes that, in a state renowned for the Kentucky Derby, the Americans need their thoroughbreds at full speed throughout the entire 2008 Ryder Cup.
My theory is, I think, weve got our top players, some of them dont want to be there. You know what you ought to do? Its like basketball ' you put them on the bench for awhile, he said in January, adding those players should take a lesson from this years captain Paul Azinger.
Hes a good motivator. I know it means a lot to him. Of course, Nick (Faldo) is going to be a good coach for (the Europeans), but I believe Pauly can do a little boot in the old butt and get these guys to play like theyre supposed to, said Zoeller.
Azinger has already begun making his moves, even before Ryder Cup hype swings into full gear. Using his home field advantage, he has decided that the competition will begin with alternate shot instead of better ball, which has been the case in the last three Ryder Cups.
Its a move that Azinger feels will favor the home side and prevent the Europeans from getting off to a fast start. He is also expected to have a say in how Valhalla is set up in the hopes of favoring the Americans big bombers.
In addition, the Americans will be working off a new points system based on money earnings that will determine eight automatic selections to the team. In the past, 10 players were named automatically and Azinger now has four captains picks instead of the two he would have had in previous years.
The new system opens up the possibility of new blood on the American team. If its the same guys, then I think they are the right guys because I just really think it would be difficult to make this team and not have a really good year, said Azinger at the recent PODS Championship.
If its the same guys, Im more than happy. Im not looking for different faces, but if different faces show up, then thats going to be great, added Azinger, a four-time participant himself.
I think the big question really is going to be after the eight guys are established, who am I going to pick? Am I going to pick the same guys, or am I going to pick other guys? Thats going to really be the question. Im going to pick guys that are hot.
Its those four captains picks that may lead to some familiar names sitting down as Zoeller suggested. Azinger hints he may even raise a few eyebrows in his search for hot players.
I think if some guy wins three tournaments in a row on the Nationwide Tour and his last tournament is the week before the week I pick, I probably will pick him because Im pretty sure that dude is hot said Azinger. Plus, he has his (PGA TOUR) card because if he wins three in a row, he gets his card.
Im looking for anybody that I think is blazing hot.
While the team that will eventually don the stars and stripes is still up in the air, so is the style used by their captain to motivate his players. Will Azinger be hard-nosed or lighthearted?
They might see both. I have no idea, he said. I have no experience being a captain like that. Heck, I have no idea what my personality is going to be like at those matches. I may cellophane everybodys toilet seats before the matches start. I dont know.
Im just going to be myself. I think my emotions, or style, or whatever it is, is just going to be depending on the makeup of the team and the situation.
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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.
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.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
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.”
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.