Bubba Watson's back in the Big Easy

By Randall MellApril 24, 2012, 1:59 pm

Bubba Watson’s back in action, and that ought to heat things up after a couple lukewarm weeks on the PGA Tour. That’s the way we like it for the Hot Seat as we attempt to gauge who is facing the most pressure to perform in professional tournament golf.

With the PGA Tour moving to the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, our special heat index honors what sizzles in the Big Easy:

Cajun spice – Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson looks as if he were born to win in New Orleans.

He ought to own the Crescent City in his return there as defending champion in his first start since winning the Masters.

As Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespie and Charlie Parker did, Watson captures our imagination with a creative bravado that is let loose more than it’s tamed.

If Watson’s chosen instrument was a trumpet or saxophone instead of a golf club, you imagine his improvisational flair would have rocked the music halls in the Big Easy as raucously as Watson rocked the patrons at Augusta National with his great escape in his final full shot winning the Masters.

OK, putting Watson in the creative class of Armstrong, Gillespie and Parker is over the top this early in his career, but there’s something about Watson’s quirky, unpredictable nature that leaves us wanting more of his wonderful jazz.

That’s why Watson’s on our Hot Seat this week. We’re like the devoted audience at the French Quarter’s Preservation Hall craving an encore.

Watson’s title defense feels like the start of a new chapter in his career, and we’re all curious how he will handle all that comes in the aftermath of a major breakthrough. He was brilliant in his talk-show rounds in the wake of the victory, but you know he’ll have to learn to pace himself. That’s the big question in what’s ahead. How will Bubba Golf hold up to a new set of expectations? How will he handle the relentless requests that come with newfound fame? It’s a new world for him.

Creole seasoning – Luke Donald

Donald has a chance to make the world No. 1 ranking look like a hot potato again this week. He can take back the top spot from Rory McIlroy at the Zurich Classic.

Donald held the top spot for a run of 40 consecutive weeks beginning in late May of last year. McIlroy seized it for two weeks in March, then Donald got it back for a month. Though he was idle, McIlroy gained it back again two weeks ago.

Exactly what Donald needs to do to become No. 1 again will be clear when the Official World Golf Ranking projection is out later this week. It shouldn’t be much with Donald a mere tenth-and-a-half points behind McIlroy.

If Donald moves up again, it will mark the eighth time the No. 1 ranking has changed hands in exactly the last two years. The last time the top spot felt like such a hot potato was in the late ‘90s, when the No. 1 ranking changed hands 14 times in a little more than a two-year period from 1997 to ’99. Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and David Duval took turns with the hot potato back then.

Crawfish boil – Nick Watney

Nick Watney tees it up at the Zurich Classic looking for his first top-10 finish of the season.

Watney, who won twice last year, is playing his ninth PGA Tour stroke-play event of 2012. Back last summer, Watney cracked the top 10 in the world rankings, but he has slipped to No. 22 now. He is also No. 37 in the U.S. Ryder Cup points standings in his bid to make his first American Ryder Cup team.

Watney will be looking to get his putter heated up in New Orleans. He’s 126th in strokes gained putting, the largest reason he’s 108th in scoring (71.34). He was 12th in strokes gained putting a year ago.

Jambalaya sizzle – The entire Mobile Bay LPGA Classic field

For the first time this season, Yani Tseng isn’t teeing it up in an LPGA event.

She’s taking the week off with the LPGA playing the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic at The Crossings Course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Magnolia Grove Club.

Tseng reminded us in her last two starts that she can’t win them all, and she certainly can’t win when she isn’t playing, opening the door for a tour trying to narrow the giant gap that Tseng is building in the women’s game with three victories already this season. Tseng isn’t the only big name skipping the event this week. Ai Miyazato, winner of last week’s Lotte Championship, is taking off. So are Jiyai Shin, I.K. Kim and Michelle Wie.

The field will include Na Yeon Choi, Suzann Pettersen Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb, Paula Creamer, Stacy Lewis, Brittany Linicicome, Sandra Gal, Angela Stanford, Morgan Pressel, Azahara Munoz, Hee Kyung Seo and Se Ri Pak

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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.