Magic is gone with no more Disney Tour stop

By Rex HoggardOctober 16, 2013, 6:08 pm

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The sprawling sign with the double-edged meaning still welcomes the hordes into Walt Disney World – “Where dreams come true.”

Each fall for the better part of a half century it was an ominous subtext to what almost always turned out to be an eventful week. Down-on-their-luck PGA Tour types would arrive at the house that Walt built perched precariously on the circuit’s money precipice.

Some, like lemmings, would tumble over the edge. Others, like Jimmy Walker in 2009, would pull off the last-minute money grab and keep their Tour cards.

But that theater ended last fall. Depending on who you ask, the Tour’s annual Disney stop – a staple since 1971 – was either a victim of the FedEx Cup era or a change of heart by the resort’s keepers.

Wherever the truth lies this much is certain, the Tour’s move to a split-calendar schedule was the final straw for Mickey & Co. Full FedEx Cup points and a Masters invitation come with a cost and for the fall events that meant bigger purses for only slighter better fields.

When Charlie Beljan putted out for an emotional victory last year at Disney it marked the end of an era for the event that had the same number of title sponsors (five) as it had decades on the Tour lineup.

Although the Disney stop was played at various times on the Tour’s fall schedule, this week marks as good a date as any to eulogize the event’s demise. Twenty-three out of the 42 Disney events ended on the third week of October, and 12 of the last 17. Not that one would have noticed the sentimental passing on Wednesday.

Instead of courtesy cars and spectator shuttles, the parking lot adjacent the pro shop that serves the Palm and Magnolia courses was filled with mini-vans and dusty SUVs from across Americana, from Wisconsin to North Dakota.

Instead of Tour pros looking to take one final swing at the fences, tourists filled Wednesday’s tee sheet.

“Not bad,” said the golf bag attendant named Arnie when asked if they were busy.

That is not the same Arnie, by the way, who recently reworked the Palm course. That would be Palmer, and the little-sister of the two layouts is scheduled to reopen by early December with a fresh new look and Oakmont-like bunkering.

In fact, the only sign that the property had ever been such a recognizable part of the Tour landscape is a scoreboard that still looms over the practice putting green that reads “Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic,” the tournament’s final calling card.

“We were fortunate not to worry about keeping our Tour card each time, and I would fly my brother in with his family and he would caddie for me and for them to have the run of the park was a dream,” said Kevin Streelman, who won the $1 million Kodak Challenge in 2009 at Disney and missed the event just once since joining the Tour in 2008. “That tournament meant a lot to the families.”

Luke Donald never had to endure the season-ending money grind at Disney to keep his card, but he did need a walk-off victory in 2011 to claim the money title, becoming the first player to win the cash crowns on both the PGA Tour and European circuit.

“It is a special place,” Donald said. “But you can’t take too much away from (Tour commissioner) Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour with the amount of events we get to play, but unfortunately (Disney) went away.”

In this, the Disney stop enjoyed an embarrassment of riches. Each year the event provided equal doses of heroics and heartbreak, from Beljan’s dramatic victory last year following a surreal trip to the hospital in an ambulance on Friday with a mysterious heart condition to Walker’s closing 69 in ’09 to tie for 15th place and finish 125th in earnings by $2,997.

But on Wednesday there was none of the quiet tension that characterized Disney week. No mind games by desperate Tour pros who would say the Disney stop was, “just another week,” but knew that was a lie.

Instead, a foursome from England set out just before lunch without a care in the world. No grandstands, no volunteers, no drama. As they headed down the Magnolia’s first fairway, a train whistle from one of the park’s rides echoed through the oaks and palm trees.

It was a familiar sound for any Tour pro who ever came down the stretch at the Disney stop in search of answers and maybe even a little occupation salvation. It was always as clear as if Johnny Cash himself was belting out the classic line from “Folsom Prison Blues.”

I hear the train a comin'

It's rolling round the bend

And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when

Time marches on at Walt Disney World, just without the Tour and all that theater.

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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.