Love and happiness helping Creamer, McIlroy to successes

By Randall MellMarch 2, 2014, 6:35 pm

The heart is golf’s great X factor.

Sometimes, winning and losing isn’t so much about getting a golf club in the right positions as it is getting the heart in the right place.

Just ask Paula Creamer.

Even before she won the HSBC Women's Champions Sunday with that dramatic eagle at the second playoff hole, Creamer spoke about how she was in such a happy new place in life, how her engagement to Derek Heath this past offseason was giving her a fresh perspective on her life and what’s important.

“I’m in such a great place,” Creamer said way back at the season opener, after the first round of the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. “I’m so happy. Derek just makes me want to be better, makes me want to be a better person. It’s always hard, life out on tour, but now, being able to share things other than with my parents and my caddie, Colin (Cann), it’s been very exciting.”

Creamer, 27, reiterated how important that is to her after she beat Azahara Munoz in that playoff Sunday at Singapore for her 10th LPGA title, her first in almost four years.

“There are a lot of up and downs, but Derek just makes me so happy,” Creamer said. “He just motivates me.”

Social snapshots of the happy couple: Paula and Derek

Photos: More couples in golf

There’s a familiar ring to this theme in golf of late.

Halfway around the planet from Creamer, Rory McIlroy was saying almost exactly the same thing after the first round of the Honda Classic. He said the nature of his life outside the ropes was making his life better inside the ropes, too.

“I'm in a great place,” McIlroy said. “I couldn't be happier. We've got a home here in Palm Beach. Personal life is great. Looking forward to getting married at some point in the future. If everything's settled off the course, then it helps me perform better on it. I couldn't be in a better place right now.”

Roll back the tape to the end of last year, and you’ll hear Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park talking about how changes in her personal life led to one of the greatest years the LPGA has ever seen, to her run of three major championship titles.

In her acceptance speech after being presented the Rolex Player of the Year award late last year, Park didn’t focus on swing changes, or swing thoughts, or new equipment. She talked about contentment off the course, about how happy she was with her fiancé, who doubles as her swing coach.

“I am someone who believes in finding happiness,” Park said. “My goal at the beginning of the year was simple: Let’s be happier than last year. Unexpectedly, as soon as happiness became my goal, I achieved more than ever.”

Of course, contentment in one's personal life doesn’t guarantee success in golf. A lot of well-adjusted players with terrific personal lives miss cuts. Still, personal woes don’t help. Turmoil, strife and emotional upheaval aren’t typically helpful in shooting low scores.

After she won Sunday, Creamer was asked how much her personal life helped her break her frustrating drought of 79 starts without a win.

Photos: Creamer sinks 75-footer for eagle, goes wild

“It has everything to do with it,” Creamer said.

Her first phone calls after winning were to loved ones. First, she called her mother, Karen, and her father, Paul. Then she called her fiancé.

“Derek was the second one,” Creamer said. “We’re not married yet, so my dad would have been upset if I called Derek first. It’s pretty neat when you can share this with everybody.”

Heath is a 33-year-old pilot from Newport Beach, Calif. Paula met him at the Kia Classic last year through her parents. Paula's father and Derek's father flew together in the Navy and both became commercial airline pilots. They remain close friends.

Right from year's start, Creamer has been sharp. She tied for third in the season opener in the Bahamas. She also tied for third in her second start at the Women’s Australian Open.

Through four events this season, Creamer leads the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year race, leads the Race to the CME Globe and leads the LPGA money list.

With the win, Creamer will move back inside the top 10 in the Rolex world rankings, moving over Lexi Thompson as the second highest ranked American behind Stacy Lewis.

Creamer is in a “great place” on multiple levels early into the 2014 season. She will tell you the X factor is working for her. 

Getty Images

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?''

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

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.