Haas keeps U.S. on familiar path with Mickelson pick

By Rex HoggardSeptember 8, 2015, 11:46 pm

The final analysis is still four weeks away when the last putt drops and Nick Price learns whether his great gambit proves to be the difference between another soulless loss or something much more compelling.

On Tuesday, however, both Presidents Cup captains made a statement about their teams and the way they plan to lead them that says much about what we can expect next month in South Korea.

Both captains toed the line with their first picks, going chalk with the players’ ranked just outside of the automatic qualifiers at No. 11 on their respective point lists in Bill Haas and Steven Bowditch for the International side.

Some may consider Jay Haas’ decision to pick his son, Bill, somehow unseemly, but the truth is no one deserved a pick more than Bill.

Forget his last name and simply examine his last eight months. Haas won the Humana Challenge in January and posted four other top-10 finishes (including a tie for fourth place at The Players). He also has enough experience in these biennial affairs (he’s played the Presidents Cup twice and has a 2-1-1 record in four-ball play) to make him a bona fide “layup” as a pick.

“I’ll be honest, I would have probably picked the 11th person regardless of what his name was,” Jay Haas said.

The same could be said for Bowditch, a late bloomer by any measure who won the AT&T Byron Nelson in May and made a late charge with two top-15 finishes in his last four starts.

Presidents Cup: Full rosters for U.S., International teams

Where both front men colored outside the lines was with their second picks. Haas went with Phil Mickelson, a team staple since the beginning of time . . . or something like that, and Price, taking his second turn as the International captain, picked Sangmoon Bae, a solid player with a surreal cloud hanging over his future.

Bae is scheduled to report for mandatory military service in South Korea “after this season.” According to his manager, that means sometime in mid- to late-October and his status on the International team should not be impacted.

“As far as I understand they will speak to the government and I am pretty sure he will be cleared to play,” Price said when asked about Bae’s status.

Although Bae’s selection would appear to be a political gamble of sorts for Price, who did concede he has a contingency plan in place if the two-time Tour winner is unable to play at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, it seems unlikely the powers that be in Seoul would make such a high-profile statement and not let Bae play.

“It’s important to have someone on the team that the Korean fans and the media could pull for,” Price said.

Haas’ selection of Mickelson, however, doesn’t enjoy the same Teflon firewall. As the American captain pointed out, Lefty has been a member of every Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup team for the last 20 years and that his leadership will be invaluable.

What Haas didn’t mention is that Mickelson is also the only pick for either team without a victory in the two-year selection cycle and that at 30th on the U.S. point list, the American skipper had to bypass a litany of players who have enjoyed much better seasons.

Charley Hoffman (No. 13) has a victory and two runner-up finishes this season, Brandt Snedeker (No. 15) has a win and eight top-10 showings and Brooks Koepka (No. 20) has a victory and 13 top 25s.

Haas talked about the importance of experience and backed that sentiment up with his selection of Mickelson, who has never been a captain’s pick in his Hall of Fame career. But the American captain already fields a team that includes Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar who have a combined 31 Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup starts.

“If anyone deserves a pick, it's Phil Mickelson,” Haas said. “He is without question the leader of our team in the team room, on the golf course. The guys on the team were adamant that Phil is the guy.”

Perhaps, but it’s hard to fight the sense that Mickelson’s selection is more of the status quo, and while there is nothing in the history of the Presidents Cup that suggests the U.S. needs to change after having won eight of the 10 matches that have been played, there is a bigger picture.

When the PGA of America uprooted its selection system earlier this year, it was aimed at creating a legacy of winning, a blueprint for future teams and captains. Part of that legacy, by design, is focused on future players and captains.

Haas had an opportunity to build on that legacy and select a young player with an eye toward next year’s Ryder Cup matches and beyond. He could have tabbed Mickelson, a consensus future captain for both teams, to assist this year, alongside Davis Love III.

Instead, Haas went with something comfortable, something familiar in Mickelson. Lefty’s selection likely won’t have an impact on the outcome of this year’s Presidents Cup, that possibility seems destined to hinge on Price’s push to overhaul the event’s format, but it certainly seems like a lost opportunity.

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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.