Awards Season: Handing out the 2015 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 15, 2015, 7:10 pm

Not surprisingly, Jordan Spieth highlights this year’s Rexys, and it’s equally predictable given the young champion’s penchant for inclusiveness that he will take over the award ceremony and thank everyone in the Dallas phonebook for his success in 2015.

Word Association Award. Earlier this week Merriam-Webster announced its word of the year which isn’t even a word, it’s a suffix – "ism" – which recognizes a narrative that ranged from socialism to racism to capitalism to terrorism.

Given this nod to the inclusive, and Spieth’s historic 2015 campaign, Spieth-isms are the new standard in golf.

In 2015, the 22-year-old wunderkind made humble look good with regular reminders that it takes a village to deliver a season that included five Tour titles, two major championships and a chance to become just the second player to ever win the first three legs of the single-season Grand Slam.

“I’m very pleased with the way we battled,” he said at St. Andrews, where he finished one stroke outside of a playoff.

“I’m really proud of the way that we fought,” Spieth said at the PGA Championship, where he finished second.

“It was amazing that we competed,” he said on Sunday at the Tour Championship, which he won.

And finally, earlier this month at the Hero World Challenge, when he was asked how he could duplicate what he did in 2015 in 2016, Spieth answered: “We’re going to try and do the same thing.”

You know the deal, there is no “I” in Jordan.

Activation Fees. Normally, your scribe uses this space to dole out hardware of various sizes, but after another lost season, it’s more appropriate to ship Tiger Woods an invoice.

He started the year with a career-worst 82 to miss the cut in his first start at TPC Scottsdale, bolted Torrey Pines on Day 1 with deactivated “glutes,” set a new career-worst round with an 85 at Muirfield, and closed the season with two back surgeries in less then two months.

The highlight of 2015 was a tie for 10th at the Wyndham Championship during an 11th-hour push to make the FedEx Cup playoff. The lowlights saw Woods post the same number of rounds in the 80s through the U.S. Open as he had in the 60s, with three each.

At his World Challenge earlier this month, Woods said he was looking forward to playing again, before adding a foreboding qualifier that “everything beyond this ... will be gravy.”

Even if Woods were to get a trophy of some sort, we’re not sure if it would be half full or half empty at this juncture.

Golden Gloves. Miguel Angel Jimenez, the most interesting man in golf, is so savvy he makes three-putts look good. Of course, that didn’t stop Keegan Bradley from going nose to nose with the Spaniard during this year’s WGC-Cadillac Match Play. During the duo’s Day 3 match at Harding Park, Bradley hit his drive left of the 18th fairway and was in the process of getting a ruling, a complicated ordeal that required two separate drops, when Jimenez injected himself and insisted Bradley was taking improper relief.

The exchange became heated, with Jimenez telling Bradley’s caddie Steve “Pepsi” Hale to “shut up.”

“I felt like he was being disrespectful not only to me but my caddie,” Bradley said. “I was kind of standing up for my boy here.”

The situation became even more tense in the locker room after the match. That said, the real rub was that neither player had any chance of advancing to the weekend rounds because of the new round-robin format. Call it the most contentious consolation match in the history of the game.

Golden Boot. He once shot a 63 at St. Andrews and would have rolled into the Auld Grey Toon the preemptive favorite to end Spieth’s historic run.

He would have added a level of intrigue to the jostling atop the Officia; World Golf Ranking that would have been unparalleled in the modern era.

He would have been, after early victories at the WGC-Match Play and Wells Fargo Championship, a legitimate challenger for the FedEx Cup and maybe even the Player of the Year Award.

All of those scenarios, however, ended in July, when Rory McIlroy ruptured a ligament in his ankle during a “kickabout” with friends.

The injury forced him to miss the Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and hampered his efforts at the PGA Championship.

That said, McIlroy did rebound to win the European Tour’s finale, and offered a welcome commitment regarding his future extracurricular activities.

“If I do go for a kickabout, I will play goalie. I will stick to the net,” he said last month in Dubai.

Song Swansong. After perhaps only the claret jug, it’s been Ivor Robson and his distinctive voice that has defined the Open Championship for more than four decades.

Robson, who began his tenure as the first tee announcer at the game’s oldest championship in 1975 at Carnoustie, retired after this year’s Open, saying, “I feel you can’t go on forever, and if you’re going to step off, there’s no better place to do it than here (St. Andrews). It’s time to go.”

Robson said he planned to spend his golden years speanding time with his family and playing golf, so in honor of his final announcement: “On the tee, from Scotland, Ivor, the retired.”

Dope-ing. To be clear, Scott Stallings ran through one too many stop signs on his way to becoming just the third player suspended under the Tour’s anti-doping program, but this dubious award goes to those at the circuit’s headquarters for ignoring common sense.

At the urging of his doctor, Stallings took an over-the-counter supplement called DHEA, a precursor to testosterone production and a substance that is banned by the Tour.

When the 30-year-old realized he’d violated the anti-doping policy, he turned himself. “Whether I intended to or not, I took something that wasn’t allowed. I called a penalty on myself, that’s the best way to look at it,” he said.

Lost in the dogmatic doping code, however, is the fact that Stallings never failed a drug test, and many experts contend there is no performance benefit to taking DHEA, which is why the inaugural award – a sterile sample cup – goes to those in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., who refuse to distinguish between honest mistakes and malicious intent.

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.

Getty Images

Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.