Lewis remains positive after year full of close calls

By Randall MellNovember 6, 2015, 12:38 am

So what do you do if you’re Stacy Lewis after all these close calls this season? 

While Lewis hasn’t won yet this year, she has racked up six second-place finishes and three third-place finishes. 

She will tee it up at the Toto Japan Classic Friday knowing she’s playing some good golf, with two of those second-place finishes on this fall Asian swing, but with some frustration coming up short in bids for that first win of 2015.

So if you are Lewis, do you focus on what you’re doing right in giving yourself so many chances? Or do you focus on what’s going wrong in failing to take home the ultimate prize? Yes, you can do both, but it’s human nature to lean harder one way than the other.

“I look at it as I’m playing a lot of good golf,” said Lewis, 30, an 11-time LPGA winner. “You can’t necessarily look at it as a bad thing, because you’re obviously doing a lot of things right. You just have to keep working on things and do better the next week.”

Lewis tees it up as the favorite in Japan. At No. 3 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, she’s the highest-ranked player in the field. She’s also a past champion at Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club. She won there in 2012 when she clinched the first of her two Rolex Player of the Year awards.

There aren’t many players more analytical than Lewis, and she took a hard look at her stats after finishing second to Sei Young Kim at the Blue Bay LPGA in China last week, Lewis’ eighth second-place finish since she last won at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship 16 months ago.

“I realized my scoring average, the ball striking, the putting numbers, they’re really close to what they have been the last few years,” Lewis said. “What I’m doing isn’t really that much different. I don’t look at it like I’m doing a whole lot wrong. You just need things to go your way at the end, and I haven’t quite got there.” 

Last year, Lewis swept the LPGA’s important season-long awards. She won the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and the money-winning title.

“To win those big awards, you have to win tournaments,” Lewis said. “You take two of my seconds this year and turn them into wins, and I’m in a completely different boat. That’s just how fine a line there is out here.”

Lewis’ stats are lagging behind her stellar season a year ago, but only slightly.

“What she did last year, that’s not going to happen two years in a row very often,” said Joe Hallet, Lewis’ swing coach. “She’ll tell you she knows she hasn’t won this year, but she feels good about the way she’s been putting herself in position.”

Lewis is third on tour this year with a 69.83 scoring average. She led the tour with a 69.53 average last year. Her scoring average this year is actually better than it was when she was Player of the Year in ’12. 

Lewis seventh on tour in hitting greens in regulation this year at 73.6 percent. She was fifth last year at 75.8 percent. 

She’s first in putting per greens in regulation at 1.74 putts per GIR. She was second last year at 1.75.

The only real notable difference in Lewis’ stats from last year? She’s down to 86th in driving distance at 246.5 yards per drive. She was 15th last year at 258.8 yards per drive.

Hallet says that power differential is coming from a combination of factors, nothing Lewis is overly concerned about.

Equipment’s part of it, and slight tweaks in her swing may have been part of it. She played the 2009 version of the Titleist ProV1x ever since it came out, but Titleist took that ball off the conforming list before the start of this year. It was a big deal in Lewis’ iron play and short game, too, with different spin rates affecting release. She has been trying different versions of the Bridgestone 330 through the year and believes she’s got the right ball for her game now. There were driver-ball combination issues at year’s start, and there were more 3-woods off tees.

“I’m just trying to focus on playing good golf right now,” Lewis said.

She believes the victories will come if she keeps playing good golf and keeps putting herself in position.

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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.