History Major

By Mercer BaggsJuly 19, 2000, 4:00 pm
He won by 12 at Augusta. He won by 15 at Pebble Beach. Now Tiger Woods is on golf's most sacred ground. And the question persists, will he assault the Old Course in the same manner in which he has other reverent venues?
Woods is a 2-to-1 favorite to capture the career Grand Slam this week in St. Andrews, Scotland, site of this week's 129th Open Championship. It's the lowest odds ever posted in the tournament's history, and it's warranted. Woods has won 14 of his last 26 PGA TOUR starts. He's won two of the last three majors. We won't go into detail what he did at this year's U.S. Open.
Aside from his length, short game, mentality and resume, Woods has something else on his side - history. Every time he tees it up, you know there's a chance you're going to witness something you've never seen before. And wouldn't it be fitting that at just 24 years of age he would become the youngest player to win all four majors on golf's oldest course. Maybe it's not history. Maybe it's destiny.
'If there's any two tournaments you want to win, and have them on specific golf courses, you're going to want to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and win the British Open at St. Andrews,' said Woods.
'It's just ironic it happened to be in the same year, and ironic the fact I get to have the chance to complete the Grand Slam on the most historic golf course ever designed,' he said. 'It's just a wonderful opportunity.'
But, there is hope for the field. The last time Tiger was this prohibitive a favorite was the Masters. He finished 5th. There are also the elements. Woods may have an advantage over his peers in terms of ability and mentality, but in Scotland, Mother Nature reigns supreme. And she's fickle at best.
Then, there's putting. Tiger never three-putted at the 2000 U.S. Open or the 1997 Masters (see opening paragraph). In his last start, Woods took 123 putts through four rounds of the Advil Western Open. He tied for 23rd, his worst finish of the season.
And lest we forget the 155 others in the field. They're not half bad.
At 14 to 1, Ernie Els is the odds-on favorite to finish runner-up to Tiger. He's already accomplished that feat three times this season. He's also finished second in both of the year's first two majors. However, this week there's a new Ernie Els in town. Or, actually, it's an old Ernie Els. One of confidence. One on form. One who's just won. Last week, Els captured the Standard Life Loch Lomond, in what proved to be a dramatic primer to this week's Open. It was his first victory anywhere in nearly 17 months.
Americans have won four of the last five Open Championships, dating back to John Daly's win a St. Andrews in 1995. Last year, Paul Lawrie came from 10 strokes down on Sunday to defeat Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard in a playoff. Of course, he did have a little help along the way.
This week, Lawrie is 125-to-1 long-shot to defend in his homeland. The Scot hasn't won since his triumph in Carnoustie. In recent months, he's suffered through a groin injury, which forced him to skip the U.S. Open. Then, on Tuesday, he was struck in the wrist by a child's backswing while conducting a youth clinic. It forced him to skip a scheduled practice round on Tuesday, but the defending champion says he'll be ready come Thursday.
'I normally only have one practice round, so it's not going to do me any damage,' said Lawrie.
As with any major there are a myriad of storylines. There's the ERC driver controversy. How many players will use the club that's legal in Europe, but illegal in the states? Can Nick Faldo continue his reemergence at the site of his second Open championship? How will Sergio Garcia fare a year removed from his 89-83 performance at Carnoustie?
Will Jack Nicklaus make the cut in what could be his final Open appearance? Will David Duval be a factor? Will Duval, Colin Montgomerie or Phil Mickelson earn their first major? Will Lee Westwood make it 3-in-a-row in Europe? What in the world will Daly do? And of course, we can't forget about Van de Velde.
By day's end Sunday, a new chapter in golf history will be completed. As to who writes it, well, we'll have to wait and see. Then again, British bookies will give you 2 to 1 odds it will be Tiger Woods.

  • This week's purse is $4,330,000 (approx.). The winner will collect $787,400 (approx.).
  • Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen are the only four players who have won each of the four current major events.
  • This is the 26th British Open contested on the Old Course at St. Andrews. The first occurred in 1873, when Tom Kidd shot 91-88 to win. John Daly won the last time it was played here in 1995.
  • The British Open didn't become an official PGA TOUR event until 1995.
  • The last player to successfully defend was Tom Watson in 1983.
  • David Gossett, Philip Rowe, Luke Donald and Mikko Ilonen are the only amateurs in the 156-man field.
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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.