Cut Line: Nicklaus impressed by McIlroy's letter

By Rex HoggardMay 15, 2015, 10:32 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Winning this year’s U.S. Open will likely take an Olympic effort, both before and during the championship; while at least one player challenges golf’s efforts to become an Olympic sport again.

Made Cut

Rory’s “Dear Jack” moment. It’s tough to impress Jack Nicklaus either on or off the golf course, but Rory McIlroy has become adept on both fronts.

McIlroy, who is in the middle of a five-event stretch this week at the Wells Fargo Championship (where he is just three shots off the lead after 36 holes), had to alter his schedule this year to make room for the Irish Open, which he will be hosting in two weeks. As a result he chose to skip the Memorial for the first time since joining the Tour in 2010

In signature Rory style, the world No. 1 penned a letter to Memorial host Nicklaus explaining why he was skipping the Ohio stop. The two recently crossed paths in south Florida at The Bear’s Club.

“The first thing he said to me was that he’d received my letter and I said to him I wanted to write rather than phone or just advise the Tour,” McIlroy said. “He seemed pretty taken back to get my letter and that made me feel good.”

Consider it reason No. 658 to marvel at how well the 26-year-old wears fame.

Tweet of the week

@IanJamesPoulter (Ian Poulter): “Totally overrated finish from [Rickie Fowler]. Nice playing mate. Impressive.”

Poulter was referring to Fowler’s victory at The Players on Sunday after the two were voted the game’s most overrated players in a recent Golf.com player poll.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Olympic observations. Other top players likely have similar opinions, but give Adam Scott credit for having the conviction to publicly state the obvious.

While golf’s return to the Olympics in 2016 has the potential to expand interest in the game in largely untapped markets, at the highest levels a gold medal is always going to rank well behind a major championship in the sphere of influence.

“Whether I win an Olympic medal or not is not going to define my career or change whether I’ve fulfilled my career,” Scott told Reuters this week. “It’s nothing I’ve ever aspired to do and I don’t think I ever will. It’s all about the four majors and I think that’s the way it should stay for golf.”

Put another way, a gold medal would be nice but Scott is not trading it for another green jacket.

Mechanic-al problems. Miguel Angel Jimenez took to the microphone this week at the Spanish Open to address his run-in with Keegan Bradley at last month’s WGC-Match Play.

Bradley and Jimenez had a heated confrontation over a drop on Day 3 at Harding Park that spilled into the locker room after the Spaniard had won the match.

“He tell me in my face, ‘You never tell my caddie to shut up.’ Of course, I don't have to tell that, you have to tell that," Jimenez said. “I think that we need to have respect to everyone. If I go there and demand that information, just give me the information. Simple. If you don't want to give me it, then let the referee give me it. My thing is we need to be honest with each other, and be professional as we are. It's not about a rule anymore. It's about the attitude.”

What “The Mechanic” seemed to gloss over in his answer is that he did tell Bradley’s caddie, Steve “Pepsi” Hale, to shut up. Everyone involved in the incident likely could have handled the situation better, including Jimenez.


Missed Cut

Lemonade from lemons. Give Wells Fargo Championship executive director Kym Hougham credit for making the most of the tournament’s spot on this year’s schedule, but it wasn’t easy.

A late commitment from McIlroy, as well as Phil Mickelson’s presence, helped boost a field that took a hit when the Tour repositioned, at least temporarily, the Charlotte-area stop on the schedule a week after The Players and just before the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.

Next year things should be easier for Hougham and Co. when the event moves back to the week just prior to The Players, but given the domino effect on next year’s schedule because of the Olympics and the move of the WGC-Match Play to just before the Masters it will likely continue to be a “bear market” for the likes of Hougham in the foreseeable future.

Open discussion. With already busy schedules and extended travel being the ultimate arbiter, it was no surprise that USGA executive director Mike Davis caused a few double takes last month when he was asked about Chambers Bay, the puzzle that is this year’s U.S. Open venue.

“The idea of coming in and playing two practice rounds and having your caddie just walk it and using your yardage book, that person’s done,” Davis said of Chambers Bay. “Will not win the U.S. Open.”

Yet while some players have balked at the idea that this Open will require an elevated level of due diligence, there does seem to be a begrudging acceptance of the fact that Chambers Bay is an exam that must be prepared for.

McIlroy said this week he plans to arrive at the new venue the weekend before the championship (June 13-14), and Adam Scott will make a scouting trip to the Pacific Northwest on the Monday after the Memorial Tournament.

“From all reports it looks like something quite unique and even hearing Mike Davis' comments of a person without good knowledge of the course won't have a chance there just shows me that certainly you're going to have to get a few rounds in and hopefully a few different conditions to be able to play,” Scott said.

The frat brothers may not like the required extra effort, but an Open is no place to skimp on preparation.

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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.

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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 Web.com 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.