BMW finale could be a lot like epic Palmer U.S. Open

By Randall MellSeptember 7, 2014, 12:05 am

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – Who is ready to channel their inner Arnie?

Billy Horschel takes a three-shot lead into the final round of the BMW Championship, but this is Cherry Hills. This is where Arnold Palmer famously drove the first green coming from seven shots back in the final round to win the 1960 U.S. Open. This mile-high venue is still so suited to epic charges.

That’s the hope this course offers for players back in the pack looking to win or crack the top 30 in FedEx Cup points to get to the Tour Championship and the final leg of these playoffs.

A week after watching his chance to win the Deutsche Bank Championship disappear into a hazard with his final approach, the resilient Horschel is back in position to try again. He blitzed the field Saturday, posting a 7-under-par 63. That would have been a course record had Morgann Hoffmann not posted a 62 an hour or so before him.

This high-altitude venue carries enough risk and reward to make Sunday unpredictable, with soaring and crashing both possible.

While Horschel was going low, second-round leader Sergio Garcia was struggling to a 72.

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy started Saturday in third place but also struggled to a 72 and fell nine shots off the lead. McIlroy batted around a four-putt at the 12th hole. He played out of a hazard at the 15th. It was just his second round over par in his last 23 rounds.

“This is obviously a really challenging golf course, even with it playing a little bit softer than it did Thursday,” Horschel said. “So you’ve got to be smart out there. You can easily make bogeys if you get out of position.”

This week began with Cherry Hills daring pros to go for it.

It began with club officials laying a persimmon wood and balata ball out on the first tee in a practice round so the pros could try to duplicate Arnie’s feat driving the first green.

BMW Championship: Articles, videos and photos

There will be no protecting a lead on Sunday, not with good ball striking bountifully rewarded here.

Horschel’s ball striking Saturday was brilliant, and his resurgent putter continues to deliver. He birdied four of the final five holes. He hit 16 greens in regulation. He rammed home a 30-foot birdie at the last and leads the field in strokes gained putting.

“You’ve got to take your hat off to Billy,” said Ryan Palmer, whose 67 left him as Horschel’s closest pursuer, three shots back. “That was awesome. I’m just proud of the way I fought and hung in there.”

Palmer is playing with some good momentum. He tied for fifth at the PGA Championship and is getting himself on to leaderboards regularly.

Horschel likes his own momentum.

“I’m a momentum player,” Horschel said. “If you look back at last year, when I got on a roll, I kept it going for a long time.”

Even last week’s failure isn’t slowing Horschel. He needed birdie at the last to force a playoff at the Deutsche Bank Championship and hit an awful approach, chunking an iron fat and into the brush and water.

Horschel was asked how he processed that disappointment to get himself right back in the hunt this week.

“I didn't process anything,” Horschel said. “It was a bad swing at the wrong time. I'm a guy who doesn't dwell on a lot of stuff. I sort of let things roll off my shoulders.

“I’ve got some really thick skin, so nothing really bothers me too much. And listen, I'm a better player than what I showed with that golf shot. I wasn't nervous over it. I was telling my caddie, when I saw [Chris] Kirk miss the putt, I said `I'm going to hit this on the green, and I'm going to make eagle, and we're going to win this tournament.’ And that's just the way I think. There's nothing that I should be down about.”

Horschel, 27, broke through to win the Zurich Classic a year ago, but he hasn’t followed up on that victory the way he would have liked this season. His victory was among his eight top-10 finishes a year ago. He has three top 10s this year.

If Horschel has anything going for him, it’s his bold belief in himself. That’s the inner Arnie he will be looking to channel on Sunday.

“I've learned enough in the last year and a half to deal with what's going to come tomorrow,” Horschel said. “I'm not going to change anything I've done the last two weeks. I'm just going to go out there, be focused. I'm going to do my thing and not let anything affect me. And have fun.”

Getty Images

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?''

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

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.