Swing coach Cowen is Euros' go-to guy

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2017, 11:47 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Pete Cowen is leaning on his umbrella at the back of the driving range Wednesday at the Honda Classic, a sturdy oak in the storm of preparation around him.

He always looks deeply rooted, no matter what panic may be swirling around him, with Tour pros often desperate for fixes.

As a swing coach, there’s always some mystery for Cowen to solve on the eve of a tournament, but you wouldn’t know it looking at him. He is Philip Marlowe without the fedora.

“Pete is just this strong, calming influence with a vast amount of knowledge,” Graeme McDowell says.

It’s no different this week, with eight players in Cowen’s stable teeing it up at PGA National.

Cowen is used to this juggling routine, although there was this one morning at the Scottish Open back in 2003, when Cowen’s cool equanimity was as tested as it’s ever been.

“I walked out on the range, and 17 of my players were out there at the same time,” Cowen said. “There was no working that out.”

Cowen was that popular among European Tour players back then, though the world outside that tour didn’t know as much about him.

At 66, Cowen is even more popular today. He is a coach in full bloom.

Cowen didn’t begin making his mark in Europe until he was in his 40s, and in the United States until he was in his 50s.

McDowell will tell you Cowen helped take him to another level winning the U.S. Open in 2010, but Cowen will tell you it worked the other way, too. McDowell took Cowen to another level with the victory at Pebble Beach.

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Cowen’s players have won 230 titles on major tours around the world, but McDowell gave Cowen his first major. There was a blast of new worldwide appreciation for Cowen in that, though he still doesn’t get the recognition Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter and other coaches get.

“It doesn’t matter,” Cowen said. “I just want to do my job well. If I get appreciated, great; if not, tough. I try to do my job well, and that’s it. I’ll let the players do my talking for me.”

Cowen is working with McDowell, Danny Willett, Louis Oosthuizen, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Thomas Pieters and Matthew Fitzpatrick this week. Henrik Stenson, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood are also his pupils.

McDowell is the guy, though, who opened the floodgates for Cowen’s boys.

A month after McDowell’s Pebble Beach triumph, Louis Oosthuizen won The Open with Cowen guiding him. Cowen’s pupils finished 1-2-3 at St. Andrews with Westwood finishing second and Stenson tied for third.

With Clarke, Stenson and Willett going on to win majors, that’s five now for Cowen’s guys.

“The journey, for me, is more satisfying than the recognition,” Cowen said.

The Honda Classic has become a home away from home for the Europeans, with another strong Euro cast teeing it up this week. Nobody will be surprised if one of Cowen’s players wins here.

“You trust everything he says,” McDowell said.

McDowell remembers his first lesson with Cowen. McDowell’s caddie, Ken Comboy, set it up.

“It was like getting a lesson from the principal of your school,” McDowell said. “He had this aura about him. You were kind of scared of hitting a bad shot in front of him.”

McDowell said Cowen is at his best when the pressure’s the greatest, in the shadow of a major championship.

“You can get a little PMS as a player, pre major stress, where you are questioning everything,” McDowell said. “Pete’s got a very physiological method he teaches that’s very hard to question, and he’s going stick to his guns.

“Pete’s been around. He’s seen it all, and he’s very confident in what he does. He’s not a guy who’s going to change his tune when you’re under pressure.”

McDowell said Cowen’s belief in what he teaches is infectious.

“When I gained my confidence with Pete, he brought a lot of consistency to what I was doing,” McDowell said.

Cowen, an Englishman, is a former European Tour winner. He said he developed a sounder understanding of how swing fundamentals should work by studying the physiology of the swing with the late Ramsey McMaster, the Scottish-born physiotherapist based in Australia. Cowen’s challenge became translating what he learned into a feel his players could understand.

Cowen is devout to the principles they developed.

“Players like Thomas Pieters, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Danny Willett, they don’t get stage fright because they understand their mechanics are so good, they can withstand the extra pressure they’re going to get when they hit the big stage,” Cowen said.

Cowen said his struggles as a tour pro were integral to lessons he shares today. They helped him steer Stenson and Westwood back from the terrible slumps they both spiraled into. Stenson came all the way back to win The Open, and Westwood came back to claim the world No. 1 ranking.

“I know about the ups and downs in golf, because I’ve been there,” Cowen said. “I became a better coach trying to understand why I failed. That helps me with these guys today.”

McDowell said Cowen uses Stenson as an example of what can be overcome getting back to basics.

“To actually take a player who can’t keep it on the range to winning a major, that’s fairly satisfying,” Cowen said.

It’s a work as deeply rooted as any sturdy oak.

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “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. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)