LPGA never runs out of optimism

By Jason SobelSeptember 16, 2012, 10:22 pm

I've got this friend – let's call him Chipper, since the name fits – who has an uncanny ability to remain eternally optimistic even though nothing ever happens in his life that should warrant actual optimism.

It's always either, 'Yeah, I got dumped, but there are plenty of other fish in the sea!' or 'I was passed over for that promotion, but I don't think I'm management material anyway!' or even 'I couldn't afford my apartment anymore, but moving back in with Mom and Dad should be fun!'

Admit it: You know someone like Chipper, too. Everyone does. Poor guy has never had a glass half-empty. It’s not even half-full. Instead, it’s half-open to all the great opportunities this world has to offer!!! And yes, he’s always a three-exclamation point kind of guy.

Chipper should be sponsored by Timex. Just like the watch company’s old slogan, he takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.

What does this have to do with golf? Simple. The LPGA is golf's version of Chipper.

Just look at the last two weeks as perfect examples.

At the Kingsmill Championship, the tour had an opportunity to capitalize on a rabid golf fan base that was jonesing for more drama after witnessing Rory McIlroy’s triumph over a BMW Championship leaderboard that included Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood.

When those fans collectively flipped over to the apparent conclusion of the ladies’ event, they were treated to a playoff duel between two of the game’s best players in Jiyai Shin and Paula Creamer. What they received was a live rendition of Groundhog Day, with the competitors playing the same hole with the same hole location eight different times.

It’s difficult to fault the LPGA for the format. Playoffs aren’t supposed to last that long. It’s easier to fault the tour for the dramedy that occurred at day’s end, with Creamer trying to make a decision, Shin interminably noncommittal and nary an official to make a final ruling.

When they came back the next day, rather than bemoan an untraditional finish the LPGA did its best Chipper impersonation, declaring it a great thing that two of their best had the Monday morning stage all to themselves before Shin prevailed on the ninth extra hole.

This week’s Women’s British Open continued the trend, playing out like an old blues tune. ”If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all…”

The spotlight squarely affixed to the year’s final major with the PGA Tour on a bye week, instead the tournament was marred by poor weather and intriguing rulings.

After much of the early wave had already teed off in what was subsequently deemed unplayable conditions on Friday morning, little-known Rule 33-2d was invoked by the Ladies’ Golf Union – though it’s an LPGA co-sanctioned event, it is not run by the tour – which rendered those scores . The rest of the day was washed out, with players returning for the second round on Saturday, then only 50 making the 36-hole cut, with the final 36 holes all contested on Sunday.

It’s almost hard to believe a player named Murphy has been lighting up the leaderboards, considering the LPGA lives at the pedestal of Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Maybe that’s just par for the course in the world’s only sport where the no-doubt-about-it best player in the world retired right in the middle of her prime, giving way to the next no-doubt-about-it best player in the world – only to have her do the exact same thing.

And yet, at Royal Liverpool once again optimism prevailed – and once again, so did Shin, by a whopping nine strokes.

It may not have been the perfect payoff for the women’s game, but domination can win fans and influence people just as much as – if not more so than – a packed leaderboard. (Exhibit 1A and 1B: Tiger Woods at the 1997 Masters and 2000 U.S. Open; Exhibit 2A and 2B: Rory McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship.) In rainy, blustery and by the end, increasingly dark conditions, Shin finished the marathon week as the lone player under par with nobody else within a smashed 3-wood of her on the scoreboard.

Consider it just another sign that perseverance pays. Not just for Shin, whose two victories in seven days were her first in two years. But for the women’s game as a whole.

Too often left holding a glass half-full and hoping to add to it, that optimism was rewarded when the week was completed. It may not have been according to the blueprint, but going off script is becoming the new normal.

Hey, I know one person who was watching this week and never gave up hope that the conclusion would pay dividends. That’s right – Chipper was watching the entire event unfold with usual optimism. And why not? It was pretty cool of his Mom and Dad to let him have control of the TV.

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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.