Day, Dubuisson scale the heights at Dove Mountain

By Rex HoggardFebruary 24, 2014, 2:34 am

MARANA, Ariz. – If this is the final PGA Tour chapter for Done Mountain, eh ... Dove Mountain, give the isolated enclave style points for going out on a high note.

Situated squarely between the middle of nowhere and lost, the rugged layout has endured the slings and arrows of Mother Nature (it was the lone snow delay on the PGA Tour last year) and players (the track ranked 51st out of 52 courses on Tour in a 2013 player poll).

But on swan-song Sunday, gorgeous vistas combined with a global give and take between Australia’s Jason Day and aloof Frenchman Victor Dubuisson to send Dove Mountain into a fitting sunset.

As afternoon turned to dusk, Day and Dubuisson (pronounced dew-BWEE-shon) produced arguably the event’s most dramatic and entertaining finish, rounding 18 holes all square and lapsing into the longest final playoff in event history that ended on the 23rd hole with Day hoisting his second PGA Tour title.

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Leading by three holes with six to play, Day closed his round in even par and Dubuisson forced overtime with a scrambling par at the last.

That’s when things got interesting.

Over the next two holes Dubuisson spent more time in the desert than General de Gaulle, punching out from under a jumping cholla - the official plant of the Match Play since the tournament moved to the Tucson area in 2007 - at the first extra frame to save par and then again on the second playoff hole when his approach settled into a patch of rocks and weeds.


“I was thinking, Why won’t this guy just go away?” said Day, who made it to the final four at the Match Play last year and went one better on Sunday when he beat Rickie Fowler, 3 and 2, in the semifinals. “I was doing everything to win the tournament and he just wouldn’t go away.”

The Frenchman matched Day shot for shot through the next two holes before his drive at the short par-4 15th hole sailed right and his chip failed to hold the green. Day converted his birdie putt from 4 feet to end the marathon.

Every bit the unknown commodity to American audiences, Dubuisson – who grew up in Cannes and now lives in Andorra, a tax haven between France and Spain – proved himself all at once relentless and ready for bigger and better things with his Match Play performance.

“They were both very, not unplayable, but I was thinking I had to play it hard,” Dubuisson said of his two desert adventures. “I just battled, especially on the back nine, and this week I learned a lot.”

As a consolation, Dubuisson – who defeated Ernie Els, 1 up, in the morning’s matinee and likely locked up his spot on this year’s European Ryder Cup team – earned a healthy amount of name recognition and a few more options.

His runner-up finish assured him of special temporary Tour status, and with more than $1 million in earnings already this year he’s virtually guaranteed full status for the 2014-15 season.

But it was great escapes under pressure, more so than his promising future, that impressed his peers and the press alike.

“Those may be the two best escape shots I've ever seen. Allez Victor,” tweeted Graeme McDowell, who did his own share of larceny at the Match Play.

Considering G-Mac’s Houdini-like run through the Match Play bracket, the Northern Irishman’s opinion was high praise.

McDowell allowed earlier in the week that “next Thursday (at the Honda Classic) starts my season proper.” Gary Woodland, Hideki Matsuyama and Hunter Mahan – who all lost to McDowell – would have preferred he start his literal campaign as well next week at PGA National.

As McDowell put it, “I'm not embarrassed, but I just feel like I'm robbing these guys.” Until he won the second hole in Round 4 against Dubuisson with an eagle, McDowell had not hit a tee shot with a lead all week, and he found himself 2 down through two holes in each of his first three matches, yet advanced to the quarterfinals.

But if McDowell’s magic ran out on Saturday when he lost to Dubuisson, Sergio Garcia seemed to make an investment in future karma a day earlier.

El Nino caused a stir on the seventh hole during his Sweet 16 match against Fowler when he invoked the “good, good?” clause with the American 18 feet away for par.

“My drop on No. 6 took too much time and I would not want to be in his position. I thought it was the best thing to do for the game and for me,” said Garcia, who lost the match by one hole.

For the last few years, Day hasn’t particularly enjoyed his position. The shine had slowly weathered away from his “world beater” status as he failed to follow up on his lone Tour tilt at the 2010 Byron Nelson Championship.

His emotional victory in November at the World Cup back home in Australia helped quiet the critics, if not the internal dialogue.

“The best thing that’s happened to him was winning (the World Cup),” said Day’s caddie/swing coach Colin Swatton. “He was getting to the point where he was thinking, ‘When am I going to win again?’ It was good for him to get that.”

That confidence boost combined with his near-miss at last year’s Masters, fueled a much more intense offseason and a desire to stop being simply a good player who struggled to close out the big events.

“I’m going to be honest here,” said Day, who will vault to fourth in the world golf ranking, his highest position. “I came from a very poor family. It wasn’t winning I wanted. I wanted to make money to take care of my family, but it’s not about the money anymore. I want to win trophies.”

Even without three of the world’s top four players – Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson – a title sponsor or a future home, the last edition of the cactus Match Play was a show by any measure.

For eight years Dove Mountain has underwhelmed. But with one final mountain mea culpa the isolated layout delivered a memorable exit.

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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.”

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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.

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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.