Cut Line: Stricker says no to elk, yes to bucks

By Rex HoggardSeptember 13, 2013, 6:12 pm

There is no cut at this week’s BMW Championship and the LPGA might not get around to the 36-hole axe at the Evian Championship until October at this rate, but Cut Line will fill the void with the week’s winners and losers.

Made Cut

Always bet on Bethpage Black. The PGA of America has a press conference planned next Tuesday on Long Island for a “historic golf announcement,” and rumor has it the association will name Bethpage Black the site of the 2019 PGA Championship and 2024 Ryder Cup.

A couple of things: the weather at Bethpage has to be better for an August PGA and September Ryder Cup – let’s be honest, it can’t be any worse than it’s been for two U.S. Opens in June – and the ’24 Ryder Cup would be a perfect fit for a Phil Mickelson captaincy. Imagine the People’s Captain at the people’s course.

Give the PGA credit for moving in so decisively when the U.S. Golf Association balked at a possible return to the New York muni. Next up, Torrey Pines. We hear SoCal is beautiful in August.

A reluctant champion. Colorado’s elk population is safe for now, and they can thank the looming prospect of an $11 million windfall and Steve Stricker’s sensitivity to PGA Tour one-somes.

Stricker – whose part-time plan this season has resulted in six top 10s, more than half his starts, and a fighting chance at East Lake in the FedEx Cup race – announced this week he will play the Tour Championship, skipping a long-planned hunting trip to Colorado.

“It’s our marquee event. It's the Super Bowl of our year, and for me to just kind of say, you know what, I'm in the top 10 (in FedEx Cup points), I'm not coming, to walk away from that I think would have been foolish,” he said this week.

Good guy Stricker also said that because there are no alternates for the 30-man field at the finale he didn’t like the idea of a player having to go out by himself at East Lake. That’s Stricker, the game’s nicest “marker.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Vive la 72 holes. The Evian Championship’s first turn as a major has been anything but smooth this season.

Initially, the first-year major came under the microscope when Inbee Park’s quest for the single-season Grand Slam was pencil whipped by the notion that a win at St. Andrews, site of last month’s Women’s British Open, would not be considered a proper Grand Slam.

Now officials, beset by Thursday’s downpour in France and an equally unforgiving forecast this weekend, are faced with a Monday finish. The LPGA even considered cutting the field to the top 50 and ties to finish play and the conversation immediately turned to whether a major could be reduced to 54 holes.

Sometimes, major status comes complete with major headaches.

Compromise. The back end of the 2013-14 PGA Tour schedule was released this week with few, if any, surprises. One item of note, however, was covered at last month’s PGA Championship but deserves revisiting.

In what was described as quintessential game of give and take, the Tour agreed to move the playoff “bye” week after the Tour Championship next year. In exchange, the PGA of America gave up the tag line “Glory’s Last Shot” in reference to the PGA Championship.

“Our (Ryder Cup) captain (Tom Watson) felt like it was imperative that our players had a week off after the Tour Championship and the beginning of the Ryder Cup,” PGA president Ted Bishop said last month. “Obviously the week off prior to the Ryder Cup, hopefully, will be good for our players.”

What won’t be good for the players will be the sprint from the Monday finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship near Boston to the BMW Championship, which will begin Thursday in Colorado.

Without the bye week, expect players to cut some corners. You know what else starts with a “B” – Barclays, Boston and BMW?

Tweet of the week: @WestwoodLee “Well, shouldn’t play injured but everybody wants to play the Tour Championship. Give it a night to see if my neck and back settle down.”

Mad props to Westy, this week’s bubble boy at 30th on the FedEx Cup points list, for giving it a go at the BMW Championship and he’s hardly the first player to struggle (first-round 80) while injured. But given another solid season at the majors we’d much rather see the Englishman on the trainer’s table right now. No one has ever come back too late from an injury.

Missed Cut

Don’t call it a comeback? Henrik Stenson doesn’t likely have any interest in the politics or pomp of post-season awards, but in the spirit of competitive relevance to ignore the Swede’s climb out of the professional abyss is a disservice.

In 2010, the Tour effectively retired the Comeback Player of the Year Award – a reaction, some say, to Stricker being named the comeback player in consecutive years (2006 and ’07). Or maybe it was an over-reaction.

While it certainly makes sense not to dole out the comeback award if there are no viable candidates, but when a player like Stenson, who went from 111th on the FedEx Cup list in 2012 to first this season and also leads the European Tour’s Race for Dubai, battles back it’s worth dredging the award out of storage.

Or maybe Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., should have Stricker send one of his CPOY awards to Stenson. He has extras.

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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. 

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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.