With a little help from Tiger, Day prevails at Bay Hill

By Nick MentaMarch 21, 2016, 12:46 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jason Day had watched Tiger Woods win eight times before at Bay Hill, and he wanted to do it, too.

After Day saved par from the greenside bunker on the 72nd hole Sunday, he finally had the chance to do something else he's watched Tiger do over and over again.

Day, with his son Dash by his side, walked up the hill left of the 18th green and found a familiar face sitting in a golf cart, waiting to greet him.

As Day later put it: “It’s great to shake the King’s hand.”

So what then, after all those years of thinking about it, did Day finally say standing face to face with Arnold Palmer?

“I just thanked him for what he's done for the game and what he's done for us as players,” said Day, who has risen from serious teenage troubles to late-20s stardom. “It's obviously very quick and brief but to be able to walk up there, and in the past be able to watch people walk up there, and have that special moment with the King, it's something that I've always wanted to do. Especially [after] watching Tiger in the past do it a lot, I've wanted to do that.

“It is one of those tournaments that, you know, the biggest guys usually win, and I was just very pleased to shake his hand,” he said.

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

With his par on the 72nd hole and a round of 2-under 70, Day won his eighth PGA Tour title and his first Arnold Palmer Invitational. One shot back with two holes to play, he ripped a 5-iron from 222 yards and poured in a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th. He then edged runner-up Kevin Chappell for the title when he, unlike Chappell, managed to make par from the rough right of the fairway on 18.

After clearing gallery members out of the way, Day, knowing he needed par to win, set his sights on the back-left bunker.

“[Chappell] bogeyed, obviously, and I was nervous standing over that tee shot,” Day said. “I missed it right, but the first thing that came into my mind was hit it long in the bunker, the back-left bunker. At least it's straight down the grain. I can give myself an opportunity for par at least.”

He splashed his 30-yard bunker shot to just 4 feet, then rolled in the putt for par and the win.

“That's why he's been the No. 1 player in the world, and why I'm the 150th player in the world,” Chappell said, rather bluntly.

Day might well be on his way back to No. 1 again. Sunday’s win was his seventh on Tour since the start of the 2013-14 season. It’s the most for any player over that span. Jordan Spieth has six, and Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson have five. Speaking of those names, Day just passed McIlroy to move back to No. 2 in the world. He’s close enough to start mounting a challenge to take back world No. 1 from Spieth.

Day has done all of this in the last two years – and especially in the last 12 months – with some help from a friend, another former No. 1 and his longtime idol. A guy who has gotten to shake Arnie’s hand an extra seven times.

Sitting with Dash on his lap and the API trophy to their right, Day said he’s been texting with Woods all week, soliciting his advice on how to win at Bay Hill. The two have been talking like this for a while now, and Day hasn’t been shy about crediting Woods for his breakthrough over the last year. The two were in contact right up to Day’s tee time on Sunday.

“Traded texts last night and this morning,” Day said. “It's the same thing ... He sends the same stuff to me, ‘Just be yourself and stay in your world,’ and for some reason it just means so much more.

“It gives me so much confidence that a person like that would believe in me. I was idolizing him ever since I was a kid and watching him in '97 win the Masters for the first time and all of a sudden I'm playing the Tour and I'm pretty close with him now.”

On top of the leaderboard after 18, 36 and 54 holes, Day is just the fourth player to win this event going to wire to wire with the outright lead, joining Mike Nicolette (1983), Paul Azinger (1988) and Fred Couples (1992).

Of course, Woods was the last player to win here wire to wire when he did it in 2002. But Tiger shared the lead after the first round. In the eight times he won this event, he never held the outright lead for all four rounds, like Day just did.

“I never knew that, and I will text him that tonight,” Day said with a smile. “You know, regardless if you win wire to wire or you win pretty or you win ugly, a win is a win. It's a great feeling and nothing beats winning.

“Like I said, he's been a big influence in my life ever since I was a kid," he said. "And to have his advice, to be able to go see him and practice with him and pick his brain about numerous things that I want to try and improve my game ... it’s been a big credit to him.”

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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.