Kiss My Asterisk
Less than two months ago the games pundits were suggesting that a major won during Tiger Woods recovery from knee surgery would need to be marked with an asterisk indicating that the worlds No. 1 golfer was not participating (and presumably that Tiger would have won the tournament if he had played). However, the path to such self-righteous sensationalism was obscured, twice, by a major champion who seems to possess a certain every man quality.
Padraig Harringtons rally at the PGA Championship, from being three shots down to Sergio Garcia at the turn, was a testament to his drive and determination. Lets face it: Harrington does not have one of those PGA TOUR-like swings that people marvel at. Harrington does it on pure guts. He literally outworks the competition. On the back nine on Sunday, Harrington shot a 32, the same number he posted on the back nine during the final round at Royal Birkdale, when he successfully defended his Open Championship title. The putts he made on the 16th at Oakland Hills (12 feet) for par, to catch Garcia and Ben Curtis; the 17th (10 feet) for birdie and the lead; and then the crescendo on the 18th (15 feet) for par and a two-shot margin, were nothing short of spectacular.
I think I was willing them into the hole at that stage, noted Harrington. Even more telling was this glimpse into a major champions mindset when he said, You have to get focused and give it a go.
If all of this sounds eerily similar to the mental armor of the last man to win the Open Championship and PGA Championship in succession, Tiger Woods (who did it twice, in 2000 and 2006), then such an observation was not lost on his fellow competitors who once again had to stand back and watch the Irishman kiss the trophy.
Thats Tiger-like, right there, observed Curtis.
But as to the now ridiculous presumption of employing an asterisk in Woods absence, as a starting point, it serves to ask why Tiger is given such deference. The answer is obvious: He wins 25% of the time he tees it up, and so defining him as the odds-on favorite is with merit. However, as good as his winning percentage is, he still does not win 75% of the time and it is that percentage that those vested with commercial interests in the game, like television executives or equipment manufacturers (and many members of the media), would rather be left quietly alone.
Such as it is, we live in a present day conceit. Consider how often Tiger is currently labeled as the greatest golfer of all time. Not to say that he cannot or will not catch Jack Nicklaus, he just has not done it yet. Until he does, Jack is still the greatest professional golfer of all time by virtue of having won more majors, the yardstick against which the greatest are measured.
Whats more, the idea of an asterisk flies in the face of the games history. Consider that in 1926 and 1927 Bobby Jones won two Open Championships in a row, and then did not play in 1928 or 1929. Those latter two Opens were won by 11-time major winner Walter Hagen. Sir Walter certainly wouldnt hear of an asterisk soiling his triumphs (Hagen did not play in the 1922 PGA Championship after winning it the year before, meaning that Gene Sarazens triumph is apparently tarnished).
Consider then that after Jones won the Grand Slam in 1930, he promptly retired, meaning that after such dominance, the 1931 U.S. Open champion, Billy Burke, and the 1931 Open champion, Tommy Armour, had best get in line for their portion of asterisk pie, right? Ben Hogan won the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship in 1948, then did not play the entire 1949 season due to his recovery from injuries caused by his car accident, so it would only seem appropriate that 1949 U.S. Open champion Cary Middlecoff and 1949 PGA champion Sam Snead should also expect a special marker as well? Hogan won the Open Championship in 1953, and then he never went back to the tournament again, meaning that Peter Thomsons three consecutive Open crowns the next three years should receive a similar blight in the record books?
The bottom line is that the golf takes care of golf quite well. Chirpings of asterisks nearly were drowned out by the cheers at this years Open Championship at Royal Birkdale when Greg Norman sparked three rounds of nostalgia-fueled fun and excitement, then Padraig Harrington charged up the leaderboard coming home to claim his second consecutive Open crown. How could anyone diminish his triumph when he won the very same tournament one year earlier with Tiger in the field? The fact that Harrington performed a similar back-nine charge to claim the PGA Championship, giving him two of this years four major trophies and three of the last six, could hardly be called simply stepping up while Tiger was hobbled.
Like most fans of the game, I am eager for Woods to recover and get back to tournament golf. But my excitement over such a prospect is now heightened not by a sense that Tiger will simply dominate, rather than by the anticipation that a fighter has emerged who has the intestinal fortitude to go toe-to-toe against Tiger, having done it successfully before and with the confidence that comes with performance.
Copyright 2008 Matthew E. Adams Fairways of Life
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Editor's Note: Matt Adams is a golf journalist, best-selling author (Chicken Soup for the Soul, Fairways of Life), golf course general manager and the host of the Fairways of Life Show on the PGA TOUR Network and does on course play by play for their live coverage of the PGA TOUR. To view Matt's books or sign up for his 'Golf Wisdom Newsletter,'go to www.FairwaysofLife.com.
Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener
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.''
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?''
The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros
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:
Once we give 'em a lesson, we are faced with:— Trackman Maestro (@TrackmanMaestro) January 16, 2018
A. Will they do what we asked them to do
B. Can they do what we asked them to do
C. Will they put in the practice time
D. The fact that golf is a hard game
We face multiple barriers as golf instructors.
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.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
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.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
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.”
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.