Henderson, 17, eyes history at Swinging Skirts

By Randall MellApril 26, 2015, 2:27 am

DALY CITY, Calif. – Brooke Henderson is chasing history.

The thing is ... history’s chasing her, too.

The 17-year-old Henderson will tee it up Sunday at the Swinging Skirts Classic looking to become just the third player to win an LPGA event before her 18th birthday. To join that exclusive club, however, she will have to hold off a couple players who know all about setting records at a young age.

Henderson kept herself atop the leaderboard going into Sunday’s final round after shooting an even-par 72 Saturday despite closing her round with back-to-back bogeys at Lake Merced Golf Club. She’s looking to join Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson as the only players to win an LPGA title before their 18th birthdays.

At 9-under 207, Henderson is one shot ahead of Morgan Pressel (67), who holds the record as the youngest woman to win a major championship. Ko (71) is just three back. Ko has set all kinds of records as a teenager in the professional ranks. She was the youngest winner of an LPGA event, claiming the CN Canadian Women’s Open as a 15-year-old. She won six times before turning 18 on Friday, including this event a year ago. Ko is the youngest Rolex world No. 1 in the history of men’s or women’s professional golf.

Henderson was the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world when she turned pro last December. She is playing this week on a sponsor’s exemption and looking to try to earn LPGA membership without attending Q-School in the fall. She could do just that winning on Sunday. If Henderson wins, she can claim membership for the remainder of the year or defer it to next year. However, to do so she would need the LPGA to waive its restriction requiring tour members to be at least 18. 

Henderson’s shaky finish Saturday, coming after rules officials put her group on the clock for slow play, brought a lot of players back into the mix. Min Seo Kwak, yet another strong South Korean rookie, is one back after shooting 69. Rolex world No. 3 Stacy Lewis (71) and No. 5 Shanshan Feng (71) are four back.

“This golf course, five or six shots is really not that much,” Lewis said. “This golf course is too hard for someone to just kind of run away with it.”

The LPGA’s making a habit of delivering compelling Sunday storylines, and the tour’s delivering yet another this week.

Henderson says she grew up admiring Pressel, who first made headlines qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open when she was 12 and playing in it when she was 13. Pressel won the Kraft Nabisco when she was 18 years, 10 months and 9 days old. She’s still the youngest woman to win a major.

Now Henderson’s faced with having to beat a player she admires so much in a head-to-head final round pairing. Henderson, Pressel and Kwak will play in the final group.

“Growing up she was my biggest role model, other than my sister,” Henderson said of Pressel. “I always looked up to her.”

Henderson first met Pressel when she was an 8-year-old attending the CN Canadian Women’s Open. At 15, she ended up being paired with Pressel in the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open. There was a kinship.

“Ever since then, she's been very kind to me,” Henderson said.

Henderson made a strong impression.

“It was incredibly impressive,” Pressel said. “I knew she would be something special out on our tour as well. I've been following her career and it's been very, very impressive so far.”

Being paired with Pressel heightens the challenge for Henderson.

“I've still always been a little nervous around her, because I've looked up to her my whole life,” Henderson said. “But I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.”

While Henderson is going for her first LPGA title, Pressel is seeking her third, her first in seven seasons, since she won the Kapalua Classic.

Playing in a final pairing Saturday for the first time leading an LPGA event, Henderson looked so solid in the early going. She hit a hybrid 3-iron to 18 inches at the first hole to make birdie.

She doubled her lead to four shots on the front nine. A long hitter, she was superb off the tee, hitting the first 10 fairways she looked at, but her rhythm seemed to be thrown off after her group was put on the clock.

With Sakura Yokomine and Na Yeon Choi struggling, the group was told to speed up play by a rules official when they were coming off the ninth tee. At the 16th, they were put on the clock.

Henderson made bogey at the 17th after a poor chip that she appeared to hurry.

“I think being on the clock did have a little bit to do with it,” Henderson said. “I was a little bit quicker than I would've been otherwise.”

At the 18th, she hit her approach shot long and once again failed to get up and down.

“Overall it was a great day, and I'm really happy to be where I am. If someone told me at the beginning of the week I would be leading going into the final round, I would've taken it.”

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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.