Inspired by Love, Woods co-leads the Wyndham

By Rex HoggardAugust 21, 2015, 11:05 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Let the record show that Tiger Woods began his historic assault on the history books with Davis Love III playing his reluctant wingman.

So it only seems apropos that the two would cross paths again as the former world No. 1 appears poised to launch a new chapter in his storied career.

The first time was at the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational, when Woods outdueled Love in a playoff for his first victory on the PGA Tour.

Seventy-eight Tour victories, 14 major titles, three swing changes and multiple injuries and ailments later, the two seem to be on a collision course at a hot and humid Sedgefield Country Club.

Woods ignited a record crowd with a second-round 65 at the Wyndham Championship to take a share of the lead alongside little-known rookie Tom Hoge, while a resurgent Love was just a shot back after a 66 on Friday.

It’s something of a throwback title chase that both veterans have embraced, although for vastly different reasons.

“These last couple of days have been nice. I’ve put the ball in the right spot but also I’ve got a few nice bounces and lies here and there and it’s very close,” said Woods, who moved into the lead at a Tour event for the first time since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. “You don’t realize how close it is from switching.”

Although Woods ventured to the Piedmont Triad because of his position on the FedEx Cup points list - he’s currently 187th and needs to win or possibly finish alone in second place to advance to the playoffs - it was likely Love who persuaded him to play the Wyndham Championship for the first time.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The two played multiple practice rounds together last week at the PGA Championship and again late Tuesday afternoon when they arrived at Sedgefield.

It’s become an expanding relationship born from necessity.

Late last year, in the aftermath of the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s loss at Gleneagles, Love and Woods were named to the Ryder Cup task force, and their friendship has grown from there one text message at a time.

“This whole task force, all of us, I’ve spent more time talking to Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods this year than I ever have,” Love said. “We asked, 'What is wrong with the Ryder Cup?' What we realized is that the guys didn’t talk. We’re all getting to know each other better.”

For Love, the practice round with Woods on Tuesday inspired the 51-year-old to stop worrying about making cuts and start focusing on winning tournaments again. As for Woods, well, he doesn’t seem to need much inspiration at this point.

After opening with his lowest Tour round in two years, a 64 on Thursday, Woods played a scrappy opening nine before turning back the clock on the inward loop, making back-to-back birdies at Nos. 12 and 13 and producing a familiar roar when he rolled in a 10-footer for eagle at the par-5 15th to grab a share of the lead.

Although Woods was in a similar playoff position in 2011, when he was 129th in points, he chose not to play the Wyndham Championship. With much longer odds this time, it’s not a stretch to consider Love’s influence on Woods decision to play the North Carolina event and give his season, not to mention his swing, one final chance.

In what could best be described as a symbiotic relationship, Love was inspired by Woods’ unwavering competitive outlook, while Woods may have discovered that classic doesn’t necessarily mean confining when it comes to golf courses.

“I learned a lot playing with Davis,” Woods said. “This golf course is speeding up. That’s where the practice round with Davis helped, because of some of the irons he told me he hits off tees. It definitely helped playing with him.”

If he continues to play the way he did on Friday, when he hit 8 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation, he may also credit next year’s Ryder Cup captain an assist late Sunday afternoon.
Just imagine what could have been if Woods hadn’t avoided the cozy confines of Sedgefield – or Harbour Town and Colonial, for that matter – for the better part of his Hall of Fame career?

The way he’s picked apart this classic Donald Ross design, Woods might not be chasing Sam Snead for the all-time Tour victories mark. He might be ahead of him.

In another twist of fate, Snead won his 80th Tour title in Greensboro 55 years ago. Woods, who trails Slammin’ Sammy by three titles, would win his 80th Tour event this week if he can hold off the likes of Hoge.

Following his round, Woods was asked if he knew anything about Hoge, a rookie who, as fate would once again have it, has played 79 Tour rounds?

“No, what is it, or him?” Woods replied.

In Woods’ defense, he was probably more interested in Love’s fortunes and a possible sequel to that Vegas bout 19 years ago, a precursor of what was to come and what could be again on Sunday at Sedgefield.

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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.