Getting Into the Swing of Things

By Rex HoggardDecember 1, 2010, 11:17 pm
Chevron World ChallengeTHOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – As Sean Foley stepped to the back of Sherwood Country Club’s second tee box early Wednesday he offered a telling assessment in hushed tones of his newest pupil: “He’s hitting it so long right now. (Dustin Johnson) long.”

On cue, the student launched a drive high into the cool California sky and almost through the dogleg on the 531-yard par 5. If wistful best describes Tiger Woods’ ongoing comeback in the eyes of fans and potential sponsors, Foley’s muted commentary on the state of his swing could only be interpreted as optimistic.

On the trending side of the ledger, Woods is fresh off his best competitive finish of the season, a fourth-place showing at the Australian Masters, was solid on Sunday in China at the WGC-HSBC Champions (68) and is the leader in the clubhouse for best 15-hole round of the year following his Monday singles thumping of one of the Molinari brothers.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods ranked outside the top 160 on Tour in accuracy and G.I.R. this season. (Getty Images)
Still, when Jack Nicklaus’ major haul tops your “to do” list, trending means little and the competitive cup is half full at best for Woods in 2010. For the first time as a pro he failed to win an official event, he was a non-factor at the majors, failed to qualify for the Tour Championship and posted his worst statistical year by any measure. He’s also gone eight majors without a victory.

Although Woods avoids finger pointing almost as deftly as he ducks pointed questions, one couldn’t help but feel a passing of the buck on Tuesday when the world No. 2 was asked why he felt he needed to tackle a fourth swing change.

“Throughout the summer I kept trying to do the things that I was working on with (swing coach Hank Haney) over the years, and it just wasn't working anymore, and it got to a point where I just couldn't do it,” Woods said. “It's kind of hard to try and play tournament level golf, major championship golf especially, when at the time I was struggling with which way the ball was going to go.”

Officially, Haney stepped down as the “swing coach of record” just after The Players Championship and he has confirmed in interviews that he hadn’t worked with Woods since the Masters in April.

Woods turned to Foley at the PGA Championship, but it was a marriage at a measured pace. The two spoke every night at Whistling Straits, addressing concepts and terminology more so than mechanics and movement.

“He was trying to explain his methodology, and it was certainly eye opening because there were a lot of terms I didn't know, just about coming to grips and understanding the terminology, and then how can I even implement it,” Woods said.

In the week between the PGA and the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs Woods committed to Foley and the results, at least compared to previous overhauls, came quickly.

In early 1994 and again in mid-1997, Woods underwent swing changes with Butch Harmon. In March 2003, he and Haney started anew. In ’97 and ’03 – Woods characterized the ’94 change as a “shortening up” of his swing – the learning curve was at least six months.

Although he’s yet to win with Foley, both agree the progress has been quicker than in previous makeovers, and much of that, Foley says, has to do with the basic concepts of the current change.

“All we're trying to do is peel the onion because personally I believe he swung this way when he was a kid,” Foley said. “I remember watching him in the (American Junior Golf Association) and the U.S. Amateur and all that, Tiger would hit the ball off line just like everyone else, but he always flushed it, he always hit it solid.

“Even in junior golf, it used to have a sound at impact I'd never heard to that point.  Well, I just felt that was what was missing.”

On Tuesday at Sherwood, Woods echoed Foley’s assessment, and addressed the specific concepts of Foley’s philosophy with more depth than he has all season.

“We're always taught to move off and drive ourselves back onto the golf ball. Well, I used to drive myself onto the golf ball in the same position I'm in now when I was much younger, but I'm just doing it a different way now,” Woods said. “I'm getting to the same impact position a different way, and that is very different. I've been here before. So that's not that new.”

The frat brothers have also seen subtle improvement, even if the aura that used to be worth a stroke an event is missing.

“My caddie (Ken Comboy) played with him on Saturday in 2000 at Pebble Beach (U.S. Open). So he’s seen him at his best and he liked what he sees,” said Graeme McDowell, who was paired with Woods on Thursday and Friday at the HSBC Champions. “He looks like he’s swinging the club better and he looked quite mentally sharp in China.”

Winning his Chevron World Challenge would do little for Woods’ competitive mojo, although a victory this week could lift him back atop the Official World Golf Ranking if current No. 1 Lee Westwood doesn’t finish first or alone in second place at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.

It could, however, help fuel Woods and Foley’s optimism. And after 2010, that’s a start.
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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.