Weekly 18 Seve Back and Forward

By Jason SobelMay 9, 2011, 4:55 pm

New home. Same ol’ Weekly 18.

As you’ve no doubt already noticed, the W18 is now available right here on GolfChannel.com, but the mission remains the same, taking you through this week’s most important issues in the world of golf.

Obviously, that means some somber news this time around, as Seve Ballesteros’ death continues to reverberate around the globe. How could it affect one current top player? The W18 begins with the notion that Seve’s passing could serve as inspiration for a fellow Spaniard.

1. Motivated by Seve?

Gary Player has a way of seeing things with a more worldly view than most people, which only makes sense for golf’s all-time leader in frequent flyer miles.

And so it shouldn’t come a surprise that in the wake of Seve Ballesteros’ death, with most of his peers speaking about the on-course exploits of the game’s ultimate magician, Player focused instead on the bigger legacy that he left behind.

“Everybody is talking about the golf,” Player told 'Golf Central' on Saturday. “Let’s talk about something a little bit more important, because here was a man who was probably the most well known Spaniard – as well known as a Spaniard ever. Here is a man who traveled the globe continuously, he was an international player. He was handsome, he was like a matador, he was a charismatic man; he was Arnold Palmer of the rest of the world.”

There will never be another Seve, but perhaps such strong words will serve as inspiration for someone else from Spain. Someone like Sergio Garcia.

Once thought to be next in a line of great Spanish players following Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, it’s no secret that Garcia has lacked for motivation in recent years. Late last season, he took a much-publicized sabbatical from the game, of which he later told me, “It was great. It was awesome. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.”

On the eve of the third anniversary of his last U.S. victory – an unexpected playoff win at the 2008 Players Championship – it’s within reason to question whether Garcia, 31, will ever become the world-class player he seemed destined to be during his teenage years. He remains stuck on seven career PGA Tour titles and 11 more worldwide (his last also coming in 2008, at the Castello Masters), numbers that would have most pros giddy with pride, but have left him as the poster boy for underachievement.

Garcia is an easy target for satire, from his close calls at major championships to his criticisms of the golf gods to his childish on-course antics. He is hardly without talent and promise, though, as those who write off his chances of becoming a multiple major champion should peruse the results tables this season. Though he has yet to seriously contend, the appropriately nicknamed El Nino has yet to finish outside the top-35 in eight PGA and European tour appearances so far.

If fortunes are ever going to be reversed for Sergio, the time is now. Not only should he own good vibes returning to TPC-Sawgrass, but maybe all of this discussion about Seve’s career as a grand champion and entertainer will spur him to greater heights.

Think about it: How fitting would it be for Garcia to claim his long-awaited first career major title soon after Ballesteros’ death? Throw in a final-hole scramble for par to clinch the victory and we’d easily have the story of the year.

Check that. It would be the story of any year.

Garcia surely has the talent to make it happen. Let’s hope this latest somber news gives him the determination, too.

Three Up… 

Tom Lehman

2. Tom Lehman

If he had enough reps, Lehman would be leading the PGA Tour in greens in regulation. On the Champions Tour, he’s “only” second in that category. In both instances, he’s reaching the putting surface at least 80 percent of the time.

It should come as no surprise then that Lehman continued his ball-striking prowess at this week’s Regions Tradition, finishing second in the field en route to winning the year’s first major.

In fact, he’s striping it so well that I’m willing to go out on a limb.

There have only been a half-dozen winners aged 50 or older in the history of the PGA Tour, the most recent being Fred Funk at the 2007 Mayakoba Golf Classic, but I’ll pick Lehman to become the seventh. He already owns three senior circuit wins. Get him on a tight course against the flatbellies and he can still prevail out there, too.

3. Lucas Glover

The PGA Tour couldn’t have planned it any better. On the week it debuted the new “Strokes Gained – Putting” statistic, Glover smoked the field in this category, dropping putts from everywhere to clinch his first win since the 2009 U.S. Open.

Or maybe we could just rely on the good ol’ putting category standards instead.

For the week, Glover ranked first in putting average and third in putts per round. However you slice it, the guy was a first-class rock-roller at Quail Hollow.

What a difference a hot putter makes.

In his last 18 starts dating back to last May, Glover had missed seven cuts and owned just one top-10 finish. Thanks to a big-time par-saving putt on the final hole of regulation and another par in the first playoff hole, he was able to defeat Jonathan Byrd for a third career victory.

4. Thomas Aiken

Drive for show, putt for dough.

This old axiom always rears its head when a big bomber is outdone by a short-knocker who simply knows how to get the ball in the hole. It doesn’t always hold true, though.

Consider the curious case of Aiken, who two years ago pulled off the obscure double statistical title, leading the European Tour in both putting average and putts per round.

And for his efforts, he owned exactly zero career wins.

More like: Drive for show, putt for … d’oh!

Until Sunday.

Aiken won his first-ever Euro Tour title at the Open de Espana, then dedicated the victory to another short-game wizard, Seve Ballesteros.

'It's been a sad week with Seve passing away,' said Aiken, who also owns six titles in his home country of South Africa. 'I definitely want to dedicate this win to him with it being his home Open and what he gave to his home fans and to golf.'

Not surprisingly, Aiken won this event because of his flatstick. His 28 putts per round was under his average when he led the tour two years ago, and his 1.75 putting average was just below the 2009 number.

The only difference? This time those numbers led to a victory.

Putt for dough, indeed.

Three Down… 

Chris DiMarco

'Get in my belly!'

5. Chris DiMarco

Maybe he was kidding. Let’s hope he was kidding. I mean, really. He had to be kidding… right?

How else to digest this tweet – emphasis on “digest” – from DiMarco following last week’s Zurich Classic?

Good finish in New Orleans. Tough to swing around the gut. Finally talley +14 pounds. That is eating good.

No way. As Ralph Wiggum once famously stated, “That’s unpossible.” Isn’t it?

DiMarco is listed in his PGA Tour bio at 6-foot, 180 pounds. While those numbers are often inflated and deflated, respectively – come on, Tim Herron; the only time you’ve seen 210 recently, it was your 54-hole total – even if it was dead-on accurate for DiMarco, it would mean he ballooned to 194 pounds during his seven days in the Big Easy.

Sounds more like the Big Queasy, doesn’t it?

A little math shows that if these totals are indeed correct, then DiMarco endured a 9.3 percent weight increase during a week in which he finished T-26.

That’s nothing compared with the 80 he added on Thursday at Quail Hollow. No, not 80 pounds – an 80 on the scorecard that included two doubles and six bogeys en route to missing the cut.

Hopefully he’ll get back on track soon. After all, DiMarco has a mouth to feed.

6. Post-round violation inquisitions

The women of Salem, Mass., in the 17th century would feel for today’s professional golfers. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

We had another witch hunt on Sunday, this time with Padraig Harrington, playing partner Phil Mickelson and tournament rules officials comically attempting to pick out the Irishman’s divot from dozens of others on the 13th teebox.

If it sounds ridiculous, well, it was. The reason for it was because a marshal believed he witnessed Harrington tee off from in front of the tee markers, which was proven inconclusive afterward.

'For once,” said Harrington, who was disqualified from the Abu Dhabi Championship when a television viewer phoned in a violation, “I'm not going to be the martyr and take it.'

Good for him.

We all understand the need for players to police themselves, but being open to the suggestions of observers has the left the ripe for folly. There’s no easy solution to this problem – getting it right is always of utmost importance – but leaving players and officials crawling around on the ground, inspecting divots should be the lasting image for exactly what’s wrong with the current process.

7. Elliot Saltman

The best thing we can say about Saltman’s return to the European Tour is that, well, at least no one can accuse him of cheating.

In his first start after a three-month ban, Saltman opened with scores of 72-80 to miss the cut at the Open de Espana. He had previously been suspended for repeatedly giving himself an advantage while marking his ball during last year’s Russian Open.

It may not have been a successful return in golf terms, but Saltman did report that he received a surprising welcome from his fellow competitors.

'A lot of the guys have come up to me and wished me luck and quite a few of them were unexpected,” the Scotsman said. 'I thought it might have been a wee bit difficult, but it's like nothing happened.'

8. Stat of the Week

Jason Day

This week’s statistic isn’t a specific number, but an actual category itself, as the PGA Tour rolled out its brand new “Strokes Gained – Putting” stat prior to the Wells Fargo.

What does it mean? Here’s the Tour’s official explanation: “The number of putts a player takes from a specific distance is measured against a statistical baseline to determine the player's strokes gained or lost on a hole. The sum of the values for all holes played in a round minus the field average strokes gained/lost for the round is the player's strokes gained/lost for that round. The sum of strokes gained for each round are divided by total rounds played.”

In layman’s terms? “It’s, um, a measure of, you know, how well a guy, like, putts from different, er, distances and, uhh…”

I sat with two colleagues recently as we read and reread different material explaining the new stat. Granted, none of us have a Ph. D in advanced mathematics, but we do know golf – and we had little idea of what these numbers meant or how they could be relevant in determining putting prowess.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not averse to change. I understand how statistics can help a player determine what he needs to work on and help the rest of us determine which players are better in certain areas.

That said, the next time we hear a player contend, “I’ve really been working hard on my Strokes Gained – Putting,” it will be the first time. Besides, how effective is it? John Merrick debuted at No. 1 on the list – and 134th on the money list. Meanwhile, Luke Donald would have led this category in each of the last two years – and he’s now having his best season while lower on the list.

For the geeks – and I use that term admiringly – who get revved up over WAR, OPS, VORP and other acronyms in baseball, this new statistic will serve as hours of endless entertainment. The rest of us will simply live in confusion.

9. Video of the Week

If the search terms “Charles Barkley” and “stanky leg” don’t get you to click, then nothing ever will. Enjoy this clip – and keep Hank Haney in your thoughts and prayers.

10. Tweet of the Week

@ IanJamesPoulter Read very closely @McIlroyRory this will definitely help. #TwitPict http://twitpic.com/4tuf6g

You may call it trashtalk. Poulter and McIlroy simply call it banter. Whatever the case, it’s a hilarious inside look into some big-time chop-busting.

11. Quote of the Week

“I had a good chat with Greg Norman the week after when I was in Malaysia, and he sort of just said to me, ‘From now on, don't read golf magazines, don't pick up papers, don't watch the Golf Channel.’”

Blasphemy! Before you listen to Rory – and the Shark – though, know that he followed the above statement with these words: “But it's hard not to.” Whew. Thanks for watching.

12. From the Inbox

Our first Twitter question of the week comes from a familiar name. I just can’t seem to place where I know him from, though…

@garywilliamsGC if seve was in his 'young' prime how would America and American media digest him? Forget best American,who's the best Euro?

Great questions. You should think of interviewing people for a living someday.

I think Seve, who could be bitterly combative and ultra private but was as talented early in his career as any player ever, would have been at once awed and antagonized by the media. When he wanted to, Seve could be a great quote; when he didn’t, though, he could be downright hostile. Either way, he was a polarizing figure – and still would have been if he was in his prime today.

As for best European player, I always have a difficult time with that word. “Best.” If the best plumber in the world has trouble unclogging sinks for a month straight, is he no longer the best plumber in the world? Or is he still the best plumber and just struggling with his game? You can take Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and maybe even Rory McIlroy, pick any name out of a hat, and you may find the “best.” Westwood has been best for a long time; Kaymer has been best the past two years; McDowell is best under pressure; Donald has been best recently; and McIlroy will be best over the long haul. So there’s your answer.

@jmolesworth1 Now that he's finally won, will Thomas Aiken get a trim, or will he go all the way for a Stewart Cink?

Aiken was growing out his hair until he won, which happened on Sunday. He could – as you suggested – simply get a trim, but that’s not in the spirit of the personal quest. Here’s hoping he shaves it all the way off – and grows it all back until he wins again.

@CoachOtsuji Is parity in golf a good thing for the game in terms of mass public appeal?

I’ve said for years that this is a superstar-driven sport which needs one-named superstars like Tiger and Phil to succeed in order to draw the fringe fans. Then again, it can’t survive on the same players forever. What we’re seeing now is a game that is cultivating more stars, from Charl Schwartzel to Jhonattan Vegas to Gary Woodland. No, they’re not on the same level as Tiger and Phil, but not a day goes by when I don’t hear from fans who are excited about the new breed of players who are winning tournaments these days. That’s a good sign.

I’ll be posting your best questions every week, so find me at @JasonSobelGC to submit ‘em.

Three Wishes

13. I wish Seve Ballesteros’ spirit will live on with today’s generation of players.

The seemingly immortal golfer was mournfully proven mortal on Saturday, reaching his untimely demise due to complications from brain cancer at the age of 54.

His death will be grieved over globally, the golf world dabbing its collective tears as memories of his brilliant career flow effortlessly. Those images will forever endure. His initial major championship victory at the 1979 Open Championship, when he was just 22; his breakthrough Masters title one year later, the first ever by a European; and of course, his fiery demeanor at the Ryder Cup, during which he won 20 career matches.

Equal parts mercurial and magnanimous, competitive and cunning, Ballesteros wasn’t just a golfer. He was an artist, painting abstract masterpieces on the course. A magician, escaping peril from the most disadvantageous situations. A hunter, preying on competitors with the keen eye of a marksman.

He is gone, yes. But he will never be forgotten.

Read my column on Seve here 

14. I wish the European Tour would change its logo to a silhouette of Seve Ballesteros.

Even before Seve’s passing, Padraig Harrington was quick to offer up a way to pay homage to the man who has meant more to the European Tour than any other player.

“I’m not sure who is on our logo for the European Tour, but I’d certainly back putting Seve on it,” he said. “For us, he really is, to be honest with you, there have been a lot of great people who have done the work behind the scenes, but there’s nobody who has as much of a connection to the European Tour as Seve Ballesteros. So maybe I should start a campaign.”

First things first: The current logo silhouette is that of Harry Vardon – certainly a great champion, but not on Seve’s level.

As for the idea? Yes, yes, yes. It’s one that gained traction on Twitter throughout the weekend, with many fans calling for this to happen and many pros echoing those sentiments.

It should be this easy: During a meeting of officials, the European Tour should propose the idea, then – much like at a wedding – ask those who are opposed to stand up and make their feelings known. Tough to imagine there would be any contrarians.

As with anything, there will be red tape and bureaucracy in making such a change. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen.

15. I wish every great idea in golf was implemented as perfectly as Sunday’s moment of silence.

At exactly 3:08 p.m. ET, the PGA, Champions and Nationwide tours each observed a moment of silence for Ballesteros – a touching tribute to the man one day after his death.

Reports from Quail Hollow were that not only the players observed the moment, but seemingly every spectator, too.

Not much else to say, other than it was a classy move by all involved and nice to see it executed to perfection.

16. Punch Shots

In light of the penalty Webb Simpson incurred during the final round of the Zurich Classic, should the U.S. Golf Association change Rule 18-2b?

Read my Punch Shots here

17. Fact or Fiction

Rory Sabbatini

The PGA Tour should change its policy about not announcing suspensions and fines.

More than a week ago, Rory Sabbatini and Sean O’Hair may or may not have gotten into an altercation that may or may not have resulted in a suspension for Sabbatini that may or may not currently be under appeal.

Details are sketchy because neither player is discussing the alleged incident. And they certainly aren’t being encouraged to talk by the PGA Tour, which keeps all disciplinary matters internal.

The result is that rather than action swiftly being taken, made public and dealt with, the story continues to linger long after it took place.

On “Morning Drive” last week, host Gary Williams convinced me that fines should remain a personal matter between players and the Tour. I’ll compromise as long as suspensions can be made public – just as they are in virtually every other sport. There’s a difference between keeping things internal and completely withholding information.

Consider the above statement to be FACT – even if we lose the final two words.

18. Photo of the Week

Enjoy this special edition Top Photos of the Week with Seve Ballesteros ... in photos

Top Photos of the Week

Getty Images

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?''

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

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.