Woods needs one thing at this time: Butch Harmon

By John FeinsteinJune 9, 2015, 11:10 am

During the 1992 presidential campaign, James Carville, who managed the message for Bill Clinton, kept a sign on his desk that has since become the rallying cry for almost anyone and everyone who has run for President: “The economy, stupid.”

Carville’s point was both simple and direct: When you cut through all the rhetoric of a campaign, it is the state of the economy – and what a candidate proposes to do about it – that decides elections. 

Perhaps Tiger Woods should consider hiring Carville.

When you cut to the heart of the train wreck that Woods’ golf game is right now, it isn’t about a two-way miss, taking an inch off his driver, looking at old video, whether his back hurts, his knees are bothering him or whether he needs yet another new teacher. 

It’s about what’s between his ears, stupid. 

There’s no doubting that Woods is as physically gifted as anyone who has ever played. But what made him so unbelievably dominant from that first Masters win in 1997 to his last major victory at the 2008 U.S. Open was his mind.

Woods was smarter, tougher, meaner and more confident than anyone. What’s more, the guys who were trying to compete with him KNEW he was smarter, tougher and meaner. He made every putt that mattered, found ways to get up and down that weren’t possible and, on days when his golf swing wasn’t what he wanted, still figured out how to score. 

Remember Rocco Mediate’s reaction when Woods made the 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole on Sunday to create the playoff at Torrey Pines in 2008?

“I knew he was going to make it,” Rocco stated.

Everyone knew he was going to make it because that’s who Tiger Woods was in those days. 

Of all the remarkable rounds Woods has played in his career, those who witnessed it will tell you that his second round at the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills might have been as impressive as anything they’ve ever seen. Woods was in his Hank Haney swing transition and was having trouble finding the planet off the tee. If it were possible to have a three-way miss going, he would have had it. No one had any idea where the ball might be going when he took the club back. 

Woods shot 1-under 69 that day. He finished T-17 that week but the argument can be made that any other player hitting the ball that poorly wouldn’t have sniffed the cut. Or, if they had somehow made the weekend, an 85 might very well have shown up on Saturday. 

That would never happen to Woods back then. On the final day of that Open, when the USGA lost the greens, (stroke average was 78.7 and no one broke par) the still-struggling Woods shot 76. In those conditions, the Woods of today might not have broken 90. 

One of the most underrated parts of Woods’ greatness has always been his ability to grind. That’s part of the reason why he once made 142 straight cuts and why he always appeared to be a threat even when he was way behind. He’s still grinding. He DID make the cut at both The Players and the Memorial – both times making putts on his final hole on Friday to make the weekend on the number. 

There’s no give up in him, just as there has never been give up in the game’s greatest players. It’s why Jack Nicklaus not only won that Masters at 46 but had a chance on Sunday at Augusta when he was 58. It’s why Tom Watson came within 2 inches of winning the British Open at 59. 

Woods isn’t going to give up, but he needs more than a great work ethic to become a good or very good or even great player again. Right now he’d be fighting for his life on the Web.com Tour. 

What he needs is Butch Harmon. He needs to go to Harmon – fly to Las Vegas to see him – and say: “Butch, I know hindsight is 20-20, but I never should have fired you in 2002. I had won seven of the previous 11 majors when I fired you at Muirfield that summer. I’d won a Tiger Slam and I was halfway to a calendar slam when I fired you. 

“I played some great golf with Hank Haney teaching me but I lost two-and-half-years (10 majors) making the change and even when I got it, I wasn’t the player I’d been with you. I won six more majors because I was still the best player out there, but I wasn’t miles ahead of everyone. 

“I know you aren’t going to stop working with Phil Mickelson and I know how busy you are with all your pupils during majors. So how about this: Once or twice a month, I’ll fly to Vegas. We’ll spend a day together. We’ll work on the range some, on the golf course some, on the putting green some. Then we’ll just talk over lunch, over dinner, you name it. 

“You tell me how to become Tiger Woods again. Or at least some semblance of him. I’m not yet 40. Guys win majors in their 40s. 

“Here’s a blank check. Fill in the number and let’s get to work.”

Remember, Harmon cracked open the door a few months back when he said he’d be willing to talk to Woods. What exactly does Woods have to lose by asking Harmon for a meeting? His pride? Could it be any worse than shooting 82 at Phoenix or 85 at Muirfield Village? Could it be worse than being the object of sympathy among golf circles? 

Even if Harmon said “no” it couldn’t possibly be worse. And it could give Woods a chance to find himself one more time before it’s too late. Woods was transcendent when he worked with Harmon; he was great when he worked with Haney; he had some (non-major) moments with Sean Foley and he’s been lost with Chris Como. There’s a trend. 

Woods doesn’t need to look at video or break down his swing technique. He needs someone to tell him he can be great again, someone he will believe when he hears it. 

Harmon’s a lot like Carville: a no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase kind of guy. The only reason he wouldn’t say, “it’s between your ears, stupid,” is because he’d likely say it in a much more profane way. 

Which is exactly what Woods needs right now. 

Getty Images

Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

Getty Images

Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

Getty Images

Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

Getty Images

Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.