Logjam at the Top at Players

By Mercer BaggsMarch 27, 2003, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Rocco Mediate will never have his gallery confused with Tiger Woods following. But Thursday morning, while many were in tow with Tiger, about 15 or so people watched Mediate earn a share of the early first-round lead.
 
I had to pay most of them to come, but its no big deal, Mediate joked.
 
Actually, those on hand were friends and family. Mediate, like Vijay Singh and David Duval, is a resident in the Ponte Vedra Beach area who plays this course about 15 times a year.
 
We definitely have a slight advantage as far as visuals, but that doesnt equate in unless you can perform, Mediate said about having local knowledge.
 
Whatever the edge, Mediate used it to his favor Thursday, shooting a bogey-free 68. He is tied with Skip Kendall, Bob Tway and Jay Haas for the clubhouse lead at 4-under par.
 
Rain, which caused a 30-minute delay to the start of the round, finally delivered on its day-long threat to return, bringing a halt to play at 5:00 PM ET, with 68 players on the course. They will resume the first round at 7:30 AM Friday, with the second round starting at 8:30.
 
Kevin Sutherland is also at 4-under through 16 holes. Fred Couples, the 1984 and '96 champion, was in sole possession of the lead at 5-under before bogeying two straight holes to fall to 3-under. He has four holes to remaining in his round.
 
'Tomorrow is a big day,' said Couples, who has suffered with a bad back throughout his career.
 
'To come in, sit for an hour and a half and go play four more holes could kill me, so this is good,' he said of the suspension. 'Once I get in the groove tomorrow -- to play 22 holes is nothing physically.'
 
This tournament has been plagued by inclement weather over the last three years.
 
Rain suspended the first round a year ago, pushing it into Friday. It also forced a Monday finish in 2000 and 2001.
 
Kendall, Tway and Haas are each hoping this week will carry them into the Masters Tournament. The top 50 on the Official World Ranking and the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list following this week will quailfy for the season's first major.
 
Kendall, who is 51st in earnings, needs to win in order to go to Augusta. Tway can do slightly worse than that, being 31st on the money list. Haas is in the best shape at 15th in earnings and ranked 56th in the world.
 
'I'm going in with the attitude that if I play well that could happen. I don't think it would ruin my year if I don't,' said the 49-year-old, who last played the event in 2000. 'One of my goals at the start of the year was to someday again play the Masters.'
 
Two-time reigning Masters champion Woods is four back after birdieing two of his final three holes for an even-par 72.
 
The way the conditions are, even par or better today is a good solid round, said the 2001 winner.
 
Woods is fresh off his third victory of the season. He won last weeks Bay Hill Invitational by 11 shots, despite playing the final round under a constant downpour and with food poisoning.
 
Woods was healthy Thursday ' though he said he is still in search of six pounds he lost because of the virus ' but his game was a bit pale.
 
I wasnt hitting the ball as clean as I had been, hit a couple of blocks, couple of pulls, just never really got it on track. But I made some good putts just to keep myself in it, he said.
 
He started by making back-to-back bogeys at 4 and 5, missing the green at both.
 
He was in danger of falling to 3-over when he escaped with a par at 10. He flew a 7-iron from 176 yards, into the wind, over the green. He then pitched eight feet past the hole, but made the comebacker.
 
Ten was big, he said. I knew I needed to bury that putt because if I could get that putt in and then bury the next, all of a sudden Ive gotten back to even par.
 
He wasnt quite able to do that. He missed his 18-foot eagle attempt at the par-5 11th, but still tapped in for his first birdie of the day to get to 1-over.
 
He gave it back, however, with a bogey at 14. After driving into the rough, his approach shot fell short of the green, 40 yards from the hole, from where he was unable to get up and down.
 
At the par-5 16th, Woods pulled his second shot left of the green. Faced with an uneven stance, he pitched to 10 feet and made the birdie.
 
He did the same at the par-3 17th, but in much easier fashion. Woods simply knocked his 142-yard tee shot to three feet.
 
Looking to complete the closing trifecta, he misplayed his approach shot to the wrong side of the putting surface at the par-4 18th.
 
I missed it on the steepest part of the slope, he said. I had that putt in the practice round and I wasnt able to keep it on the green.'
 
He still two-putted from 40 feet.
 
I didnt want to play that well coming in, get it back to even par, make a three-putt and end up over par, he said.
 
Mediate played well from start to finish. In fact, he combined with Tway and Kendall to record 13 birdies to just one bogey.
 
Tway, on the other hand, made only eight pars along the dangerous layout, recording seven birdies and three bogeys.
 
It played pretty difficult today with the wind blowing, Tway said. I think the only thing that kind of saved us is the fairways are soft and pretty receptive.
 
Thats because of the penal four-inch rough.
 
The guy whos going to win is going to drive his ball in these fairways, said Mediate, who didnt put much credence in leading early.
 
The beauty of our game is youve got to do it for four days and if you dont, this day is worthless, he said.
 
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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

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    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.