Resurgent Pressel one back at Evian Championship

By Randall MellSeptember 11, 2015, 3:33 pm

Morgan Pressel moved into position at the Evian Championship to make a weekend run at winning her second major championship.

With a 6-under-par 65 Friday, Pressel set the pace in the morning wave at Evian Resort Golf Club in France, climbing within one shot of South Korea’s Mi Hyang Lee (67). Lee’s at 9 under overall. Denmark’s Nicole Broch Larsen (67) is two shots back and China’s Shanshan Feng (68) three back.

Lee, 22, broke through to win her first LPGA title late last year, taking the Mizuno Classic in Japan. Larsen, 22, is a Ladies European Tour member who won her first title on that tour last week at the Helsingborg Open in Sweden. Feng, 26, won the LPGA Championship three years ago, the first of her four LPGA titles.

In a resurgent year, Pressel, 27, has been knocking hard on the door to her third LPGA title, her first since taking the Kapalua Classic in 2008. She has finished fifth or better six times this season. She lost the Swinging Skirts Classic in a playoff with Lydia Ko in April.


Evian Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Pressel introduced herself to the golf world in a big way in major championships. She was 12 when she qualified to play in her first U.S. Women’s Open, turning 13 just before playing Pine Needles, making her the youngest player at that time to qualify for the championship. As a 17-year-old amateur, she tied for second at the U.S. Women’s Open at Cherry Hills, losing out when Birdie Kim holed out from a greenside bunker at the 72nd hole. Pressel won the Kraft Nabisco early in her second season as a professional, which still makes her the youngest winner of a women’s major. She was 18 years, 10 months and 9 days old winning at Mission Hills.

Pressel made eight birdies and two bogeys in Friday’s round. She left an eagle putt just short at her last hole of the day.

“You can be aggressive out here and get rewarded if you're hitting it well, and if you hit your target,” Pressel said. “I'm going to go out there and see what tomorrow and Sunday gives me. Hopefully, it gives me some birdies.”

Pressel built her reputation playing her best on the game’s toughest tests. She lost some of the fearlessness of her youth battling through injuries that led to swing troubles a few years ago. She hurt her left thumb hitting out of the deep rough at the Wegmans LPGA Championship in 2012. The injury worsened as she played on, creeping into her wrist and up through her neck. The injuries caused changes in her swing, leading to a swoon.

Pressel’s finding her swing and her confidence in a resurgent run this year. She’s showing that in the majors. She was third at the ANA Inspiration in April, finishing one shot out of a playoff. She tied for fifth at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June and tied for fifth at the U.S. Women’s Open in July. Her run of strong play is timely for American golf with the United States set to take on Europe in Germany in the Solheim Cup next week.

Evian Resort, built on the side of a mountain, is primarily defended by its difficult greens, with humps and swales requiring exacting iron play, and with deceptive reads making putting tricky, courtesy of a mountain effect. Pressel was able to separate herself with strong iron play, knocking a lot of shots close in the second round. She took just 25 putts.

“You've got to be on this week, especially with your ball-striking, and I think that's why you see such a discrepancy in the scores,” Pressel said.

Pressel has been reworking her swing all season after reuniting with her coach, Ron Stockton, back in February. They had split a year ago, with Pressel going it alone the second half of last season. She says their work together has made a difference again, but so has a different mindset.

“I feel like my attitude is just a little bit different, a little bit better, and sometimes that can make all the difference,” Pressel said. “I mean, you can hit the ball well, but if you come unglued when one thing goes wrong, especially out here on this golf course . . . so I've tried to stay very positive. When bad breaks happen, just take them.”

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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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.