Plenty of Upside

By Randall MellApril 2, 2009, 4:00 pm
2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ' This was Lorena Ochoas first close-up inspection of the greatest threat to her No. 1 world ranking.
 
Thursdays first round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship marked the first time Ochoa got to play with South Koreas Jiyai Shin.
 
Apologies to world No. 2 Yani Tseng, but Shin, whos No. 3, appears most equipped to make a serious run at Ochoa.
 
With 27 professional titles around the world at the age of 20, four of them LPGA events, one of them a major championship, Shin has already fashioned a reputation as a fierce closer. Shes known in Asia as Final Round Queen.
 
Shin outplayed the Kraft Nabiscos defending champion on Day 1, shooting an even-par 72 to Ochoas 73.
 
What did Ochoa think of her?
 
She liked her, of course.
 
The two of them looked like dear old friends walking side by side up the 18th fairway, engrossed in a conversation that made you think it was a practice round instead of the start of the years first major.
 
Yes, Ochoa may be the most cordial star in sports today, but Shins a special personality, too.
 
Thats what tour pros and fans are quickly discovering about this unusual LPGA rookie.
 
At 5-foot-1, with her powerful, compact build, Shin may not be cut in the statuesque mold that Madison Avenue craves, but she is packed full of promise that goes beyond shot-making skills.
 
Shin just might be the kind of player the tours been waiting for, a player who can connect American fans in meaningful ways with Asias growing influence on the tour.
 
Though Shins English is a work in progress, her command grows by the day. She and Ochoa conversed in English.
 
Jiyais very charismatic, a very happy person, Ochoa said. I think shes going to be very good for the tour.
 
With so many South Koreans flooding LPGA Tour leaderboards, with the language barrier a sensitive issue that caused such a furor last year when the tour briefly proposed enforcing English speaking requirements, the tour faces a fundamental challenge.
 
How do you market South Koreas growing dominance to American fans?
 
Among players tied for sixth or better after Thursdays first round, five are Asian.
 
Dean Herden, Shins caddie, believes Shin could be an important personality who helps bridge the gap on tour. Shes always working on her English, engaging even strangers in banter to improve her command.
 
When people get to know her, theyre going to love her, Herden said.
 
Shin gained her first meaningful worldwide fame when she won the Ricoh Womens British Open last summer as a non-member of the LPGA. She also won the Mizuno Classic and the ADT Championship, which boasted the richest first-place check in womens golf ($1 million). She became the first non-member to win three LPGA events. Shin took up LPGA membership this season and won the HSBC Womens Championship in her third start. She finished second to Karrie Webb in last weeks J Golf Phoenix LPGA International.
 
Fans are coming to appreciate Shins expressive demeanor as much as her shot making. Shes able to communicate charm without words.
 
When she won the Womens British Open, commentators noted how her mannerisms won over even the crustiest British golf fans.
 
At the finishing hole Thursday, Shin showed how she did that.
 
After hitting her approach to 10 feet at the final hole, the gallery let loose a whoop. She smiled and bowed and the gallery cheered again.
 
People like her mannerisms, the way she looks them in the eye and connects, Herden said. After a bad shot, she giggles and moves on. I think you see a lot of Koreans under enormous pressure to perform when they come over here, and you see the effect that can have, but Jiyais very open, very relaxed. I think it has a lot to do with what shes gone through in life.
 
When Shin was 14, her mother, Song Suk Na, was killed in South Korea when a garbage truck broadsided her car. Her mother was on her way to a birthday party with Jiyais younger brother and sister. Her brother, Ji Hon Hon, 7 at the time, fractured his neck. Her sister, Ji Won, 13 at the time, suffered fractures of her left shoulder and right leg.
 
Jiyai got the bad news while working on her game at a driving range. Her father, Je Seop, was working.
 
Shin moved into the hospital, staying almost a year while her brother and sister recuperated.
 
I think about my mother a lot, Shin said. I believe she looks after me. I look after my brother and sister now.
 
Herden says the accident shaped Shins outlook on life.
 
Im sure she hit rock bottom when all that happened, Herden said. Today, shes so grateful for everything life brings her. I think its because of that experience. Even on the golf course, she never gets flustered.
 
Ochoa saw it first hand Thursday, and she thinks American galleries will warm to what she saw.

 
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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.