Busting some Presidents Cup myths

By Jason SobelOctober 7, 2013, 2:40 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Let’s face it: Until the final hour, the most dramatic part of the Presidents Cup occurred on the first day and didn’t even have anything to do with the matches. It was waiting to see whether that baby squirrel was going to gnaw off one of Davis Love III’s fingertips.

That would have been the only nail biter of the week before things started tightening up down the stretch. It never quite got to Defcon 2 levels – hey, it’s the Presidents Cup; does it ever? – but there were at least a few clenched fists before Tiger Woods clinched and everyone else unclenched late Sunday afternoon.

A relatively close final score of 18½ to 15½ should help lessen the idea that this competition needs a complete overhaul, but certainly won’t alleviate it altogether. Depending on individual personality and fandom, your emotions likely ranged somewhere on the spectrum between slightly perturbed and Iowa State football coach.

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The list of cries from those outside the gallery ropes about how to “fix” this event is easier said – or maybe screamed – than done, despite PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem’s claim that, “By every measure, this was the strongest Presidents Cup we've had.”

That qualifies as a Hyperbole of the Year candidate from a master of such lingo. But it doesn’t erase the fact that many of the complaints in regard to this event don’t come armed with a solution.

In fact, most of 'em don’t.

Let’s bust five of the myths that afflicted the Presidents Cup this week:

“They should have made the singles matches more entertaining!”

Put yourself in the captains’ softspikes for a minute. You’ve been serving in this role for two years now, charged with the sole responsibility of winning the cup. Nowhere in the mission statement does it claim you’re also responsible for TV ratings, too.

When a Tiger Woods-Adam Scott or Phil Mickelson-Ernie Els match failed to materialize after the captains played their daily game of Battleship, many were quick to criticize them for not producing on-course excitement. Let’s look at it from the other side, though: If the captains had paired players based solely on whom the fans wanted to see, wouldn’t that devalue this as more exhibition than completion? Absolutely.

As Nick Price said when questioned afterward about why he didn’t save Scott for Woods: “I did my pairings this morning to try and win the cup, not to put 1 and 2 together.”

One thing is for certain: It’s impossible to question that motive.

“They should change the points structure to give the Internationals a fighting chance!”

OK, there may be something to this one. Traditionally, the back end of the International lineup is much weaker than that of the U.S. side. Fewer matches per session, logic says, will mean fewer bottom-of-the-roster guys competing.

Should it happen? Well, depends on whom you ask.

“Oh, yes, there's lots of changes I would like to see,” Price said, “but I don't think we should discuss those now.”

“I like this format and I like the Ryder Cup format,” said U.S. assistant Love, who captained last year’s Ryder Cup team. “I think it works out well to leave both of them like they are.”

Will it happen? The PGA Tour will certainly look into the possibility, but despite Price’s pleas, there’s hardly any guarantee that fewer matches will lead to a closer result.

“They shouldn’t play in a city where it rains all the time!”

Yes, Muirfield Village is perennially soggy whenever the Memorial Tournament is played. That’s the rainy season. The townsfolk know it, the players know it and anyone who’s snoozed on the couch waiting for frequent delays to end knows it.

Even Price tried to apologize to host Jack Nicklaus. “I'm sorry it rains here like it does,” he said, shaking his head. “I don't know what to say. I wish one day we would be able to control the weather.”

Mother Nature didn’t cooperate this week, but here’s a neat little fact that has gone mostly overlooked: The average annual rainfall in Dublin during the month of October is 2.61 inches, making it the second-driest month in this town. The amount of rainfall from Thursday-Saturday? Exactly 1.60 inches. That’s about two-and-a-half week’s worth of the average rainfall in a three-day span.

That said, it wouldn’t be terrible to hold this thing in a desert four years from now. You know, just in case.

“They should combine the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup!”

So you’re really going to sacrifice one terrific competition to maybe sort of kind of improve another one? Or just dilute the first one?

Forget for a minute the fact that the PGA of America and European Tour own the Ryder Cup, but the PGA Tour owns the Presidents Cup. Even if all parties agreed to somehow split the monumental profits of the two events, any type of winner-stays-on suggestion clearly isn’t fully thought out.

The potential of Europe playing against the International team? Blah. Call me an ugly American, but that matchup would have little appeal, even outside of U.S. borders.

The Ryder Cup is steeped in tradition. The Presidents Cup isn’t there yet. Maybe it never will be, but there’s no reason to play Robin Hood here and steal from the rich to give to the poor.

“They should just scrap this thing altogether!”

That’s not exactly the most progressive thought right there. If they stopped playing competitions just because one team won more often, the Harlem Globetrotters would have been out of business a half-century ago.

OK, bad comparison – the Internationals deserve better than Washington Generals status.

But things change pretty quickly in the elite level of professional golf. It wasn’t so long ago that the U.S. could barely scrape together a dozen capable players for one of these competitions. (Or have you forgotten the days of Vaughn Taylor and Brett Wetterich?) By the same token, international players are going to keep improving.

Countries like China, Japan and even India could quickly become golf hotbeds – and they certainly have bigger populations from which to choose. According to the latest census numbers, there are 6,061,900,000 people living outside of the U.S. and Europe, but “only” 313,900,000 stateside.

Hmm … based on that, it sounds like the guys in red, white and blue pulled off another upset on Sunday.

OK, maybe not.

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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

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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.