Pettersen energized by new swing coach Harmon

By Randall MellJanuary 27, 2015, 10:56 pm

OCALA, Fla. – Suzann Pettersen is officially under Butch Harmon’s wing.

When Pettersen left her long-time coach, David Leadbetter, late last year, she said she wasn’t sure what direction to go, but she knew she needed something Harmon could give her.

“I had some good years with David, but I felt like I needed a little kick in the butt and some fresh energy,” Pettersen said.

Pettersen tees it up Wednesday at the LPGA’s season-opening Coates Golf Championship looking to regain the form that moved her to the doorstep of the world No. 1 ranking early last year. She’s looking for some of Harmon’s magic to help fuel a return to leaderboards, trophy presentations and a berth in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year.

The Olympics have been an important goal for Pettersen ever since golf won a return to the games. With Pettersen turning 34 this spring, the opportunities for Olympic gold will be limited in an event that is only staged every four years.

“I felt like if I was going to do something like this, it was now or never,” Pettersen said.

Harmon taking on Pettersen says a lot about his belief in the player’s ability. He keeps his stable of world-class players small, with Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Brandt Snedeker and Rickie Fowler the only PGA Tour pros he currently teaches. Natalie Gulbis is the only other woman among his clients.

“I think Suzann Pettersen should be the No. 1 player in the world,” Harmon told “She has all the characteristics you need. She’s talented, she works hard, and she’s a fierce competitor.”

Pettersen has 20 professional victories around the world, 14 of them LPGA titles, two of them majors, but she has never held the No. 1 ranking. She has been so close, though. She has been No. 2 behind four different players. She has been in the rear-view mirrors of Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Yani Tseng and Inbee Park.

Coates Golf Championship: Articles, videos and photos

With five victories worldwide in 2013, including a major, Pettersen moved within hundredths of a decimal point of overtaking Park late in the year with momentum rolling, but she hurt her back early in ’14. She withdrew from the Kraft Nabisco last spring with the injury and never got the momentum back.

“Last year was awful, getting as close as I was to nailing one of my biggest dreams,” Pettersen said. “Health issues got in my way, and I kind of played through it. It was frustrating, but I kept myself in the game.”

Pettersen was frustrated she couldn’t close a pair of chances in majors last year. She was in the final Sunday pairing chasing Park at the Ricoh Women’s British Open but watched Mo Martin win. She was in the final pairing just a shot behind Brittany Lincicome at the LPGA Championship a month later and struggled to a 76, with Park taking the title.

“She got a little bit lost last year, and she wasn’t as consistent as she needed to be,” Harmon said.

Pettersen said she huddled with Greg Norman and Darren Clarke at the World Celebrity Pro-Am in China in October of last year to get their take on Harmon.

“I’ve always been very curious about Butch,” Pettersen said.

A few weeks later, Pettersen was on her way to Las Vegas to work with Harmon. Pettersen said she immediately liked the way her game responded.

“Butch doesn’t sugarcoat anything,” Pettersen said.

They made a quick connection.

“I have a sailor’s mouth, and Butch has a sailor’s mouth, too,” Pettersen cracked.

In simplified terms, Pettersen said Harmon has been widening her swing while also making it more shallow. She also said he has helped her dial in her short irons and sharpen her short game.

“I felt very energized when I went to him the first time, and I picked up his changes very quickly,” Pettersen said. “Even from the first lesson, I was hitting it great.

“I’m very glad he wanted to take me on. He’s pretty tough who he takes on, and who he doesn’t. Obviously, he requires you to do quite a lot of work, but that’s never against my nature. It’s been a very good fit for me, and I’m very happy.”

While Harmon isn’t overhauling Pettersen’s swing, the changes aren’t inconsequential. There are new habits being formed.

“Old habits can creep in, but she’s incorporated the changes very well,” Harmon said. “The big thing will be having confidence in them under the heat of battle. You have to trust the work you’ve done.”

Harmon sparked quick improvements in Jimmy Walker’s game, when he took him on a couple years ago, and in Rickie Fowler’s last year. Pettersen is hoping for the same, though she says she has cautioned herself to be patient.

“Every now and again, the old habits are going to sneak in, but I know the corrections,” Pettersen said. “I know the way to get out of it. I wouldn’t expect this to be something where I have to wait until May before it kicks in and I start playing well. I’m very excited to get started. I feel like I’m prepared and ready to play.”

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry