Practice Finally Paying Off for Price

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 23, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 WGC Accenture Match PlayCARLSBAD, Calif. -- Nick Price is straight Old School. You can tell it when he reminisces about going head-to-head with Seve Ballesteros in the Lytham Open. You can tell it when he refers to the WGC-NEC Invitational by its old moniker, the 'World Series.' You can tell it by the way his gives well-thought-out answers, instead of standard two-sentence sound bytes.
 
And you can tell it most of all just by looking at his feet.
 
Nick Price still wears white shoes. Straight white. Nothing sporty, nothing designer ' with only black soles to provide a contrast.
 
In a time when players make the fairway their own personal runway, Price sticks out in his simplicity ' by being a solid among fancy and sometimes garish patterns.
 
The grounds at La Costa Resort and Spa arent conducive at the moment to keeping Prices mode of biped transportation in pristine condition. Its awfully wet and muddy, which is why officials decided to give the playing grounds and extra day to dry out before starting the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
When play finally commences Thursday, Price will meet another man who occasionally sports the Billy Johnsons, when he faces Tiger Woods.
 
The match-up will feature a pair of former world No. 1s ' players who have combined for 91 PGA Tour and international victories, and 11 major championship trophies.
 
Price, of course, is much further down the road in his professional career than Woods. Hes 48 now and is a good decade removed from when he challenged Fred Couples, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman for elite status.
 
Hes also ranked 64th in the world, which, thanks to the absence of Ernie Els, means he now has to take on the two-time defending champion. If he hadnt drawn Woods, however, it would have been reigning world No. 1 Vijay Singh. And had anyone else pulled out, it would have been Phil Mickelson or even Retief Goosen.
 
If you look at my predicament, he said, its jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, so it doesnt really matter.
 
So, he might as well go up against one of the best one-on-one players in golf history ' a man who has a 21-3 career record in this event to go along with three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur and three straight U.S. Amateur titles.
 
Im pretty excited about it, actually, he said. I dont have an awful lot to lose. I feel that if I play solidly and dont make any mistakes and make four or five birdies, I think well have a good match ' 18-hole match play is very unpredictable.
 
Just ask Woods. Though he has won this event each of the last two years, he was bounced from the opening round by Peter OMalley in 2002 and narrowly escaped a similar fate last year to John Rollins.
 
And he anticipates another difficult opener this time around. After all, O'Malley and Rollins aren't quite as credentialed as Price.
 
'I'm playing a three time major championship winner. It's going to be a good fight, and it's going to be a lot of fun,' said Woods, who first played alongside Price in the first round of the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock.
 
Logic would have it that one would rather meet Woods in the first round than in the later stages, before Woods can pocket momentum and start his steamroll. Price doesnt see it that way.
 
Tiger is Tiger. I dont care whether you play him in the first or last round; youve got your work cut out for you, Price said. For me, I would like to have two or three rounds under my belt and have a little more confidence.
 
Confidence is something Price was near empty on the last few years. He was putting the best in his life ' thanks to some technical assistance from Scotty Cameron, but his ball-striking ' the talent on which he made his name and his bank ' was frustratingly suspect.
 
The past few years, its been very frustrating, he said. I kept telling my caddie and my wife, if I putted like this when I was hitting the ball so well, I probably would have won 50, 60 tournaments.
 
Point blank: practice was not making perfect. If anything, practice was making the even-tempered Price ' a man who should wear a white hat to go along with his white shoes ' irritable and almost apathetic on the inside.
 
My game started going south a little bit in 2003. I started saying thats what is supposed to happen when you get to 46 or 47 ' your game is supposed to slide, its not supposed by be as sharp, he said. But I felt watching Jay Haas last year and the year before, that I could get it in myself to go to the practice tee more often and I could elevate my game. But, of course, when I did that, it didnt happen.'
 
My iron game wasnt quite as crisp. My driving wasnt quite as accurate. And what made it more frustrating was the more practice I did ' that didnt help, he added. It just sort of kept it at a certain level, instead of sort of getting better. It just seems that recently now when Ive been practicing, Ive seen a spike in the way Im playing.
 
Now my long game seems to be coming home, and if I continue to putt like I have done, hopefully this will be a year to look forward to.
 
With confidence having recharged his batteries, Price expects to compete more on tour than the 15 times he did a year ago. And he fully expects to be more competitive, as well.
 
I am looking forward to playing, honestly, I really am. Its the first time in probably three years that Ive actually got some desire to go out and practice and compete again, he said.
 
Unlike his Day 1 counterpart, Price is no longer motivated by ruling the golfing world or adding to his major collection, which stands at two PGA Championships and one British Open. Hes been there, done that. Hes a certified Hall of Fame member, and someone who wont hesitate to skip out on a mid-summer major to spend time vacationing with his family.
 
Golf has always meant a lot to me, but its never, ever been the absolute end of all ends, he said.
 
Price has always referred to himself as a realist. And he has but one real goal in mind for 2005.
 
Make the Presidents Cup team, he said. Thats a huge motivating force for me this year, to make it in the top 10. And if I dont accrue enough (points), to show (International team captain) Gary Player that Ive played well enough to warrant an invitation.
 
Not that hes abandoned the notion of earning his first title since the 2002 MasterCard Colonial.
 
If I start playing well ' if I continue to show the form in my game and it improves, then winning will be an option. If I putt well and keep doing what Im doing, I think I have a chance to win again this year.
 
And maybe, for a least one day, hell be able to open up a bottle of that old magic come Thursday.
 
I hope so, he said in as simple a fashion as his white shoes. I hope so.
 
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    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry