Dynamic Duo

By Rex HoggardApril 29, 2010, 1:03 am
Quail Hollow ChampionshipCHARLOTTE, N.C. – Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods passed within 10 feet of each other just past noon on Wednesday here in the heart of southern hospitality without saying a word.

No need.

Not with the type of “War and Peace” body language alpha and omega had going on a cold, windy day at Quail Hollow. One was fresh from a third green jacket, the other a metaphorical triumph that has become easier to swallow with Magnolia Lane now a fortnight in the rearview.

“I wasn't very happy I lost,” Woods said. “But given a little time to reflect on it, it was an incredible week. I think it went as well as it could have possibly gone.”

Golf is at its best when Tiger and Phil are at their best, and by all accounts Nos. 1 and 2 have finished dancing around one another.

Since Tiger time began, Mickelson has been the hands down “best supporting actor.” But the show was always Tiger’s. Yet that reality, in a subtle way, has started to shift slightly and it began long before the fire hydrant.

In the last three events both have played (Tour Championship, WGC-HSBC Champions and Masters) Mickelson is 3-0. Lefty is 2.46 world ranking points behind Woods and victories this week and next week at TPC Sawgrass would propel Lefty into the top spot.

Mickelson has been closer, at least statistically. After his victory last year at the WGC-CA Championship he moved within a half point of Woods in the World Ranking. But even then one didn’t feel an impending tectonic shift atop the golf world.

Now, however, the vibe is different. The gulf that always existed between the two hasn’t closed, but there is a distinct feeling that it has narrowed.

It’s telling how each player spent the last two weeks.

Mickelson said he felt “isolated” as he spent time with his family and didn’t hide his confidence, “I have high expectations,” he said. And why wouldn’t he? His Masters three-peat was the perfect combination of performance and blind self-belief.

Asked if he’d watched any highlights of his victory Mickelson’s mind immediately went to his bold approach shot from the pine straw at the 13th hole on Sunday.

“I kind of looked back and saw some of the pictures, I was like . . . what was I doing? But it worked out,” Mickelson smiled.

While Woods still seemed to be searching for normalcy, both on and off the golf course. Even with the Augusta National storm in the books it’s clear it is not business as usual in Camp Tiger.

“There's paparazzi everywhere, at home, helicopters here and there, people driving by, paparazzi camping out in front of the gates. That hasn't changed,” Woods said.

But then it’s not as though karma has much interest in staying on script. Tiger vs. Phil Sunday showdowns are special because they are rare. As gifted as both players are the odds of them simultaneously answering the call are not in the game’s favor.

On Wednesday Woods looked “scratchy” in his pro-am round. He was experimenting with a new golf ball around the greens and an old one off the tee box that had an affinity for the trees right of fairways.

Hours later Mickelson walked off Quail Hollow after just six pro-am holes suffering from dehydration. In a statement released by tournament officials, Mickelson said he felt ill on Tuesday evening but expects to tee off for the first round on Thursday afternoon.

Simply put, neither top card looked Sunday ready. But from humble beginnings come great things.

Flash back to Wednesday at Augusta National. Woods was justifiably distracted by an uncomfortable return to the spotlight without a tune-up round outside the gates of Isleworth, while Mickelson had just a single top-10 finish in 2010 and appeared rightfully distracted by his wife’s ongoing health issues.

Both exceeded expectations, which has become the norm rather than the exception.

Quail Hollow is a major championship venue that both players enjoy. Ditto for TPC Sawgrass and Pebble Beach (U.S. Open), to say nothing of Muirfield Village (Memorial). The showdown may not be coming this week, but it is coming.

It was etched into both players’ body language even as the two headed silently in opposite directions on Wednesday afternoon. A collision of the game’s dynamic duo seemed imminent.

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.