Presidents Cup still lacks parity

By Rex HoggardOctober 6, 2013, 12:20 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – For an event that has spent the better part of two decades searching for relevance in a dysfunctional comparison to the Ryder Cup, Saturday at the Lift, Clean & Place Cup delivered a measure of similarity between the biennial brothers.

First came the weather. And then more weather. Weather like players endured at the Ryder Cup in Wales in 2010 and The K Club in 2006. Weather that has kept players in shelter, three delays totaling more than eight hours, almost as much as they’ve been on muddy Muirfield Village. Weather that will stretch Saturday’s foursome session into Sunday morning and Sunday’s singles bout into ... well, that’s to be determined.

“Don’t suppose they ever have droughts in Columbus,” one International caddie shrugged during a drenching downpour on Saturday.

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It has rained so much the last two days, assistant captain Davis Love III’s decision to release “Sammy” the squirrel back into the wild on Friday seemed cruel.

Then came the contentiousness. Just as Adam Scott was setting out in a steady rain late Saturday with this week’s darling Hideki Matsuyama by his side a fan yelled, “Tiger’s better.” And as Angel Cabrera attempted to putt during his foursomes match late Friday another wayward sod got even nastier.

Luckily, Cabrera was immune to the hack and his heckles. “No entiendo Ingles,” the big man smiled.

The only thing missing was competitive parity. Well that, and Ian Poulter, but it doesn’t seem as if those two are mutually exclusive.

The Americans pulled away in the deluge that was the final four-ball session, taking four of five games to grab a 10 ½ to 6 ½ advantage and turn the Internationals' mood as gloomy as this week’s forecast.

When darkness and a damp course finally ended Saturday’s action, some 11 ½ hours after the day had begun, the good news for Nick Price’s crew was that they were leading in two of the remaining four foursome matches (Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner had already shut out Richard Sterne and Marc Leishman, 4 and 3, to extend the American point total to 11 ½). The bad news – the Internationals haven’t won a foursomes session since Day 1 in 2003.

“Obviously, this morning was a little disappointing,” International captain Price said. “We lost some ground and then this afternoon we got off to a great start, think we were up in all five matches, and then the U.S. started making some putts. Honestly, I don’t know how these guys are still on their feet.”

Another halved session, like the Rest of the World eked out in Friday’s delayed foursome bout, isn’t going to be enough. Not with the Americans just six points shy of an outright victory and 12 singles matches looming.

If the Presidents Cup is in search of Ryder Cup-like parity, may we humbly suggest the powers that be play it like the Ryder Cup with just four team matches per session.

Otherwise the identity crisis seems certain to continue. Otherwise the Internationals' only hope is that America’s aging heroes will succumb to the marathon that these matches have become.

On a soggy and exhausting Saturday, consider that 46-year-old semi-pensioner Steve Stricker played 31 holes, while Tiger Woods, the 37-year-old core of the U.S. team who just two weeks ago at the Tour Championship talked of being tired after a long season, also went 31 holes on Day 3.

Luckily Phil Mickelson, the 43-year-old who suggested at East Lake he would consider cutting his schedule by 25 percent in future seasons to conserve his energy and took himself out of a team frame at last year’s Ryder Cup, didn’t have to finish his second round early Saturday and needed only 17 holes to close out Ernie Els and Brendon De Jonge in the third session. Still, Lefty went 30 in the monsoon and the grind was starting to show on all three veterans' faces, if not their games.

“Phil tells me when he wants to go and he’s going to go first. He’s ready to play five matches,” U.S. captain Fred Couples said. “I looked at (Mickelson) and Tiger and said, ‘Look, you know, just tell me what you’d like to do?’ And both of them said, ‘Oh, there’s no question, we are playing every match.’

“Tiger is honestly beat up. Phil is very energetic, and it shows.”

If Price & Co. can’t outplay the Americans, maybe they can wear them down. It’s not a bad plan, not for a team that hasn’t won since 1998 and is mired in a 1-7-1 slide. Not when Sunday’s forecast is even worse than Saturday’s.

Another storm is scheduled to arrive overnight and then again in the early afternoon on Sunday, which prompted officials to restart Round 4 at 7:35 a.m. ET and send the singles out starting at 9:10 a.m.

“It’s not over,” Price declared, sounding a lot like Ben Crenshaw circa 1999. “We still have a lot of golf to play.”

Maybe the Internationals have a Medinah-like rally in them. Maybe the weather will conspire against the weary Americans and turn this apparent rout into a road race. Or is it an off-road race?

Until that happens, however, the comparisons between the Presidents and Ryder cups begin and end at over-served fans and an overstimulated weather radar.

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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.''

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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.”

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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.