Fowler in position to again win on Mother's Day

By Rex HoggardMay 7, 2016, 11:17 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rickie Fowler is making Mother’s Day increasingly hard for sons everywhere.

Last year on Mother’s Day, the golden child rallied from five-shots down with six holes to play to win The Players in an overtime for the ages; and on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Championship he moved into the lead with a similar charge to set the stage for a second consecutive unforgettable Mother’s Day for Lynn Fowler.

There aren’t enough roses in Charlotte to compete with that kind of largesse.

Fowler did the lion’s share of his work in a pair of three-hole sprints, playing Nos. 8-10 in 3 under par and claiming his spot in Sunday’s final group with a second birdie trifecta at Nos. 14-16 to move to 9 under par.

The favorite son moved into the lead and a shot clear of Roberto Castro and Andrew Loupe with a 4-under 68, salvaging an event that was in danger of being transformed into a pre-Players afterthought bereft of superstars.

“The meat of our schedule is from now until September,” Fowler said. “If you could pick a time to play well, I guess you would pick this time of year to go. This time of year has been good to me.”

For the week, Fowler is first in strokes gained-tee to green, fourth in fairways hit, third in greens in regulation and he picked up 2.634 strokes on the greens on Saturday thanks to his birdie barrages.

The 2012 champion at Quail Hollow rolled in birdie putts of 5 feet (No. 8), 16 feet (No. 9) and 8 feet (No. 10) to make his move. After dropping shots at the 11th and 13th holes, both the byproduct of missed greens, he added birdies at Nos. 14 (4 feet after driving the green), 15 (2 feet) and 16 (27 feet).

Wells Fargo Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Perhaps the most telling part of Fowler’s play this week is the state of his game. Following a first-round 80 and missed cut at the Masters and a tie for 20th last week at the weather-delayed Zurich Classic, he conceded that he’s struggling to turn the ball from right-to-left with his driver, which most players will tell you is a prerequisite for many holes at Quail Hollow.

“I haven't had my best tee to green,” Fowler admitted. “I've definitely missed some short putts as well so I'm looking forward to cleaning it up even more tomorrow.”

But that’s the difference with Rickie 2.0. Before he teamed with Butch Harmon in late 2013 that type of inability to move the ball in the proper direction would have kept him from contending, but as his results have improved so has his ability to improvise.

His maiden PGA Tour victory here in 2012 against Rory McIlroy in extra holes may have been his breakthrough, but it was the steady progression he’s made toward consistency since he started working with Harmon that has given him the confidence needed to score well even if the swing isn’t perfect.

“From about a year ago to two years ago to where I'm at right now, whether it's being in the final group or having a chance to win, being in contention, it's completely different,” Fowler said. “Now it's fun to go out there and go take care of business.”

It seems like a lifetime ago that Fowler made an impressive statement with his Players victory just days after an anonymous player poll named him the Tour’s most overrated.

In the 12 months since that slight Fowler has added another Tour win (Deutsche Bank Championship) and two European Tour titles (Scottish Open and Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship).

He’s also solidified himself as a bona fide star capable of carrying a leaderboard with his play as well as his panache and millennial appeal, which is fortunate because many of the game’s other standard-bearers seemed to take the week off.

McIlroy shot his second 73 of the week on Saturday and appears to be a clean 18 holes away from finding his winning form. He was tied with Adam Scott a touchdown shy of Fowler; while Phil Mickelson has been, well Phil Mickelson, posting a 4-over 76 on Day 3 that included the same number of birdies and bogeys (three) and a closing quadruple bogey-8 that assured the left-hander will not win the Wells Fargo Championship, again.

Fowler’s current confidence aside, Sunday will be a new scenario for him. In his three Tour victories the 27-year-old has come from behind in each and Quail Hollow, which is playing more than a stroke over par this week, is not exactly the kind of place that favors a defensive touch.

But if Fowler was concerned with this different perspective he wasn’t letting on, explaining the difference between his game now and in 2012, “The belief in the game and knowing what I'm capable of now,” he said.

At last year’s Players Lynn Fowler had to scramble back to TPC Sawgrass from a local airport to watch her son’s victory, but considering the ease her son is dismantling an increasingly difficult Quail Hollow there will be no early exit on Sunday.

“She’s flying with me to The Players, so she’s good,” Fowler smiled.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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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.