Jerry Foltz - February 7, 2012

By Morning Drive TeamFebruary 7, 2012, 1:12 pm

He was shocked to see Kyle Stanley win so soon after what had happened at Torrey Pines. You never know how such a loss will affect someone and it is always possible that the negative effect will be permanent. The fact that he won the very next week shows a lot of toughness on Stanley’s part but also acknowledged how damaging it could have been if did not win when he was in a position to do so.

When it comes to Spencer Levin, if asked Jerry would advise Spencer to listen to his father who is a very good man but also take the good things away from Scottsdale because although he lost in the final round, he did a lot of things right last week. His choice of 5 iron for his 3rd at 15 in the final round cost him the tournament and if he had played a little differently the result might have been different as well.

You can sense when someone is hanging on with their swing in pressure moments and he did not see that in Spencer Levin but he added that he had never been so emotionally invested in someone as he was on Sunday with Spencer. He did not sense any kind of panic on Spencer’s part and feels that his caddie Mike Hicks would have intervened had that been the case. Levin looked good early but after a couple of mistakes and bad breaks, things changed and he finished third.

He can understand the pressure involved with having a big lead versus having to mount a large comeback. No player ever wants to be known for blowing a big lead in the final round and there is a certain amount of pressure involved with that. He talked to Steve Stricker about that exact subject during the Hyundai Tournament of Champions last month and Stricker went on to win the season-opening event on the PGA TOUR at Kapalua.

The LPGA Tour is making its 2012 debut this week in Australia and when he looks ahead, he thinks that the biggest storylines include whether or not Yani Tseng can continue her dominance from 2011. She had an amazing year and it will be a tall order to follow up that year. He also wonders about what Lexi Thompson will do. She has so much potential and he feels that she is as grounded and as level-headed as any teenager he has ever seen. Foltz also thinks that any success Lexi has will inspire success in Michelle Wie. Once Wie graduates from college, he thinks that we will see some of her best golf because she will be free to focus on golf only. Between Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer, he expects Kerr to have a better year but Creamer could have a strong year as well. Melissa Reid and Caroline Hedwall are two Europeans who Foltz feels will make a large impact on the LPGA Tour when they play more in the United States.

Tiger Woods is making his 2012 PGA TOUR debut this week in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Foltz feels that it is surprising whenever Tiger is not on the leaderboard on Sunday no matter what he has gone through over the years and expects Tiger to be in contention this week at Pebble Beach. He likes the swing changes that Tiger has made under Sean Foley and also feels that some are being a little premature in saying that he is “back.” He is confident that Tiger will have a good year but he is not ready to say that Tiger is 100% there yet.

When it comes to the question of distractions during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am due to celebrities, shuttles, small practice facilities, and slow play, they certainly exist as rounds are very, very long and the greens can be very, very slow. Tiger has won that event once but does not think that Tiger will be as impacted by the distractions as others might be.

Johnson Wagner has gotten off to a great start in 2012 and he was someone who Foltz had said would play well at Kapalua. He thinks that Wagner seems to playing like he is freer than he has been in the past and he felt that way back in 2011 when he won the Mayakoba Golf Classic. When he won the Sony Open, he seemed to be very comfortable on the course and was joking around with people including Foltz. He understands that the mustache is something to joke about and he is more than willing to play along.

There are a number of possible changes for the way you can earn PGA TOUR cards starting as early as 2013 including making the Nationwide Tour the only way to get to the PGA TOUR. Foltz feels that there are very few losers in this proposal because it strengthens the Fall Series events and the Nationwide Tour as well as making it easier for PGA TOUR veterans to earn their cards back. He is also supportive of the idea of applying would-be earnings for amateurs and non-PGA TOUR members to possibly earn PGA TOUR cards for the next year. There are many players who earn their PGA TOUR cards through Q-School who would be over the moon if they earned full status on the Nationwide Tour. When you look at the players who earned their 2012 PGA TOUR cards in Q-School, a large number of them had already played on the Nationwide Tour. The fact that a young player out of college can play his way into the 3-event series makes this proposal much more palatable but there is also value to having at least a few cards available via the Q-School route.

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”