Spieth of '15 eerily similar to Woods of '97

By Rex HoggardApril 10, 2015, 8:48 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – We’ve seen this before.

The “it” player laying haymakers on a Masters field and leaving Augusta National officials pondering new tee boxes on the far side of Washington Road and hole locations cut into the side of Rae’s Creek.

Let the comparisons commence.

Jordan Spieth, like Tiger Woods in 1997, has spent two days dismantling the course and demoralizing the field. Both began the week 21 years old, both gained control early in their respective quests for their first green jacket and both carry an intense aversion to playing defense on a golf course that favors the bold.

Woods’ week at the 1997 Masters began with slightly less ado following opening rounds of 70-66 for a meager, relatively speaking, three-stroke advantage. He would go on to win by a dozen.

So what do we make of Spieth’s 36-hole barrage of 64-66 that left him five strokes clear of Charley Hoffman?

Like Woods, Spieth spoke of maintaining his focus and the virtues of competitive blinders following his second round.

“I still need to not be focused on anybody else, no scoreboard watching, set a goal and understand that the course is going to be harder, and then just try to strike the ball the same way I have,” said Spieth, who has recorded 15 birdies and just a single bogey.

If two PGA Tour victories - most recently at last month’s Valspar Championship - haven’t exactly moved the public needle for Spieth, a record-setting performance at Augusta National has a tendency of focusing the spotlight.

But even after two historic days for Spieth, comparisons to Woods’ ’97 victory likely won’t sit well with golf fans, who have become weary of the media’s decade's-long search for the next American hope.

In a convoluted way, the Tiger Woods era has conditioned us to have lower expectations. The “next Tiger Woods” has come and gone with regularity, from Charles Howell III to Anthony Kim. Even Rory McIlroy, poised this week to complete the career Grand Slam with a trip to Butler Cabin on Sunday following a brilliant 2014, hasn’t matched Woods’ sustained greatness.

In fairness to those would-be major champions, comparisons to Woods circa 1997-2008 were always going to be wildly misguided, but in two starts at Augusta National Spieth appears to be something of a kindred spirit.

Even Woods acknowledged what Spieth has accomplished through two turns this week.

“The difference is that he's separated himself,” Woods said. “I didn't have that separation after two rounds. I believe I only had a three-shot lead at the time. So there's a big difference. He's put out a big enough gap between the rest of the pack.”

While Spieth’s game is fundamentally sound and widely considered without weakness, he doesn’t launch the golf ball like Bubba Watson. He doesn’t possess Phil Mickelson’s short game majesty. He doesn’t bury putts like Brad Faxon.

Yet the sum of his parts is an impressively complete package and he seems to distance himself from the crowd with an innate desire - call it an addiction - to win.

“He's got competitive fire. You can see it,” said Ben Crenshaw, who played a practice round with Spieth on Wednesday and has become something of a mentor to the fellow Texan.

“When I first met him, I tell you, I'll never forget it. I looked right at him and he looked at me and I thought I was looking at Wyatt Earp. He just had that look about him, just wonderful.”

Spieth is no robot.

In the age of the detached golfer, Spieth is not above the occasional flash of fury. While largely soft-spoken, his emotions are etched into his expressive face after each shot.

“Get lucky,” he commanded his tee shot at the 13th hole on Friday before adding, “don’t get unlucky, I guess.”

Other than an apparent habit of sending his golf ball mixed messages, his poise – if not his power – is eerily Tiger-like, at least this week.

And through 36 holes Spieth’s script is looking impressively familiar to what Woods accomplished in 1997 when he won by 12 strokes.

Spieth’s 14-under total is one stroke better than the opening 36-hole record set by Raymond Floyd in 1976 at the Masters, and those who were relegated to the “B” flight back in ’97 could sense the similarities on Friday afternoon.

“Well, he's obviously playing great golf,” said Ernie Els, who was tied for 10th after two rounds in ’97. “It's similar [to Woods’ romp in ’97]. I don't remember what the lead was, but it's similar.”

Make what you will of Spieth’s inexperience, but know that he has ranked among the top 5 after each of his six tournament rounds at Augusta National, which – like dog years – makes him something just shy of salty when it comes to local knowledge.

He’s also been here before, taking a share of the lead into last year’s final round before stumbling to a closing 72 and into a tie for second place - a painful lesson, but a lesson nonetheless.

“I learned the weekend of a major, those rounds can often seem like two rounds in kind of the mental stuff that's running through your head; the stress levels, and sometimes they are higher,” Spieth said. “The hardest thing to do is put aside wanting to win so bad.”

Comparisons to Woods have historically come up a club short, but following two days at Augusta National it’s impossible to shake the feeling that we’ve all seen this before.

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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.