Offseason wait is 'finally' over at Open

By Rex HoggardOctober 9, 2013, 3:54 pm

The long wait is over. Golf is finally back.

It’s been over a fortnight since the PGA Tour held a stroke-play event, and the better part of three days since the best and brightest dueled in the mud at Muirfield Village.

If that’s a tad too snarky for you we’ve come by it honestly. It’s not that the Big Leagues are off and racing again some 18 days after Henrik Stenson hoisted FedEx Cup glory at East Lake. That’s always been the case since the playoff era began in 2007.

Professional golf’s offseason has always lasted about as long as a half-time show at the Super Bowl. The error message this time around is that this week’s Open is being billed as an “Opening Day.

Woodland, Blixt, Horschel headline featured groups Open: Articles, videos and photos

If the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the traditional season opener since 1986, had a soft-opening feel to it, this week’s stop at CordeValle is more like a split-squad spring training bout.

If the field at the Open wore jerseys, there would be a lot of 58s and 97s on the tee sheet, fine players all of them but you really shouldn’t expect to see many of them when the Tour hits prime time again next spring.

This isn’t a knock on the Open, a quality event with a big purse ($5 million) on a hard and fast golf course, or the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open or McGladrey Classic or OHL Classic at Mayakoba, which will follow the “season opener” into the fall.

By every measure these events are improvements over what they were last season, post-Tour Championship afterthoughts adrift in the fall abyss. Each of the fall events now carry full FedEx Cup points and an invitation to the Masters, upgrades by any measure.

But the competitive reality of the Tour’s new split-calendar schedule will leave these freshly emboldened fall stops with fields that look a lot like the fields they had when they were entrenched in the Tour’s no-man’s land.

This week’s tee sheet in California, for example, doesn’t include a single player from the top 25 in the world ranking and just three – Hideki Matsuyama (No. 30), Jonas Blixt (34) and Billy Horschel (35) – from the top 50.

Officials in Las Vegas, Sea Island, Ga., and Mexico should expect a similar turnout despite the added cachet of full points and dramatically increased purses. Although the Open purse remained unchanged, moving under the FedEx Cup umbrella meant the Las Vegas stop (from $4.5 million to $6 million), Sea Island ($4 million to $5.5 million) and Mexico ($3.7 million to $6 million) all had to write bigger checks this time around.

And for what? In the case of the Open, three of the top 50 players? By comparison, last year’s field at CordeValle had a similar feel with just two – (Ernie Els (No. 22) and Nicholas Colsaerts (35) – of the world’s top 50 players.

Along with the upgrade of the four fall events – the Sanderson Farms Championship, normally played opposite the Open Championship, will join the fall line-up and kick off the 2014-15 season – the CIMB Classic and WGC-HSBC Champions in Asia also joined the FedEx Cup fold, a move that at least partially explains the weaker fall fields particularly at The McGladrey Classic which will be played the week after the World Golf Championship event in China.

The European Tour’s lucrative four-event Finals Series also begins this month with the BMW Masters in China, which virtually assures the top players from the Continent will not play the Tour’s domestic fall schedule.

But then the move to the split-calendar schedule was never billed as a boom for the fall events. Whatever improvement the fall fields enjoy it is little more than a byproduct of a more profound restructuring that included a new qualifying system and the addition of the Asian events to the circuit’s official portfolio.

From the Tour’s perspective, this year’s sweeping changes had a cascading impact on the overall product if not the fall fields.

“The important thing was the ability to restructure the entire calendar. Once you start going down that road , then you look at utilizing this part of the year to really get the FedEx Cup moving,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem recently told “Starting with the (Open) getting point distribution so when you get to the holidays you’re already getting sports fans early in the winter into what the FedEx Cup is about.

“Now we will have pretty good history getting to the holidays. The holidays are a pretty good promotion platform. We think that will enhance the FedEx Cup.

Whether that equates to better fields for the fall events in future years remains to be seen. But in the short term, this week’s event still feels more like spring training than opening day.

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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.