Tiger: Emotional Sunday coming at W. Challenge

By Jason SobelDecember 5, 2013, 1:46 am

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – In his opening statement to a Wednesday news conference, Tiger Woods waxed poetic about his World Challenge, now in its 15th year here in this wealthy enclave on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

“This is going to be an incredible week … we've got an amazing field over here … we've got the golf course in probably the best shape it's ever been in … it's been just an amazing, amazing 15 years … it means a lot to us …”

The buried lede, of course, is that these words were less a love song than a polite break-up. One of those “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of break-ups.

At this time next year, the world’s elite players will instead converge on the posh estate of Isleworth, former home to Woods, former home to the Tavistock Cup and new home to this tournament.

If Woods and his old stomping grounds sound like strange bedfellows after the infamous incident on Thanksgiving night of 2009 and the resulting shrapnel – metaphorically speaking – there’s good reason. But there’s even better reason to move it there.

That reason is what makes the world go ‘round, what doesn’t grow on trees, what can’t buy me love and what is the root of all evil, depending on your preferred cliché.

That’s right, it’s money – and for a tournament which has seen its total purse decrease from $5 million in 2011 to $4 million a year ago to $3.5 this week, and which had its host underwrite the entire sum last year, and continues a mission to raise charity funding, it’s a very real concern.

Northwestern Mutual World Challenge: Articles, videos and photos

“It's harder to get good players to play, quite frankly,” Woods explained of an increasingly busy late-season schedule. “And sponsorship dollars are certainly not exactly easy to come by in these economic times.”

Northwestern Mutual has attached its name to the tournament this year as part of a one-year title sponsorship. Last year, there was no title sponsor. In the past, that role has been filled by Chevron, Target and Williams.

All of which feels like a major head-scratcher.

The event not only features the game’s golden goose every year; it banks on him as a willing and amiable host. That would figure to be enough to get corporations to throw large sums of money at the tournament. Throw in the fact that, despite Woods’ claim that it’s getting harder to get good players, there are 18 of the world’s top 30 in the field this week, and the promise of a guaranteed star-studded Sunday leaderboard should serve as plenty of bait.

“It was just a lot of factors, but certainly title sponsorship is a key part of it,” explained Greg McLaughlin, president and CEO of the Tiger Woods Foundation. “So definitively, if we had someone who said, ‘You have to stay here,’ then we’d stay here. But that wasn’t the case.”

The truth is, this move was a long time in the making.

“Had there not been a partnership with Tavistock, we were considering a separate parallel path in the area where he lives,”McLaughlin continued. “Not Medalist or anything like that, but in that region. We’ve been talking about this since last year. So the Tavistock thing just evolved from a bunch of conversations.”

“It was certainly not an easy decision,” Woods said. “Certainly wasn't an easy decision, but there are a lot of players that are based there in Florida. It will be a little easier for the guys to make a trek out instead of coming all the way out here, to stay right there in Florida.”

That will actually be a major selling point in keeping the field as high-profile as it is this year. McLaughlin pointed to the likes of Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, each of whom have homes in Florida and each of whom have played in this event in the past then skipped it before returning this week, as his target audience for this move.

“Now you make it really easy for them,” explained McLaughlin, who also serves as tournament director. “Now they can sleep in their own bed, drive over, have their own car and family and friends. I think that’s what we’re hoping to be able to do.”

He’s also hoping to avoid conventional wisdom.

There’s an old adage that states, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but McLaughlin believes the opposite actually applies in this situation.

“You never want to rebuild it when you have to. You want to rebuild when it’s going well. And then you can look at how to make it better versus reacting and doing something,” he said. “In order to stay competitive long-term, that was the view we needed to take.”

In other words: It’s not you, California. It’s us.

The tournament will say goodbye to its longtime home this week before parting ways. In the most polite way possible, of course.

“For us to have a 15‑year run is a very long run as you know,” Woods said. “Most golf tournaments don't stay at one golf course for that long. For us to be here for 15 great years, I foresee certainly an emotional Sunday for sure.”

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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.