Pursuit of perfection unites Nicklaus, Woods

By Rex HoggardJune 3, 2015, 7:19 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – By virtue of the duo’s unique place in the competitive cosmos, Jack Nicklaus is Tiger Woods’ only equal.

With apologies to the game’s assorted greats, it was never Sam Snead’s 82 PGA Tour victories or Byron Nelson’s 18 single-season triumphs in 1945 that provided a litmus test for young Tiger.

It was always Jack and those 18 major championships.

They were on the wall of Woods’ childhood home in Cypress, Calif., and have provided a benchmark for a career that was otherwise inimitable. It’s also why it’s only Nicklaus who can provide meaningful insights into Woods’ future.

Whether Woods ever reaches that gold standard of 18 majors is very much in the balance considering that Tiger needed a dozen seasons to collect 14 Grand Slam bottle caps but has failed to add to that total in his last seven.

On Wednesday at the Memorial, however, it was clear the two remain cut from the same mold when Nicklaus – whose annual meet and greet with the media at Muirfield Village is can’t-miss sports journalism – offered a telling glimpse into the mind of a champion.

“I think I underachieved all my life,” the Golden Bear allowed. “That’s why I got better. I think if you feel you’re overachieving or getting more out of what you should get then you stop working.”

For all the slings and arrows Woods has endured in recent years, it is always curious when armchair analysts begin to pick apart his frequent, and often substantial, swing changes.

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It happened when he bolted Butch Harmon, with whom he’d enjoyed an embarrassment of riches, winning eight majors and 26.8 percent of his Tour starts, for Hank Haney in 2004.

The same cries could be heard when he traded Haney, with whom he won six majors, for Sean Foley in 2010, and now the chorus of concern has started to build that Chris Como, who began working with Woods last November as a “swing consultant,” is again the wrong guy.

Why change?

Because that’s what once-in-a-generation types do.

“I always wanted to climb a mountain. I always wanted to get better,” Nicklaus said. “I always felt like I never really achieved what I should have achieved. I still don’t think I achieved what I could have achieved in my career.”

To be historically accurate, Nicklaus never changed swing coaches or embarked on what technical types would consider a major overhaul. In fact, he never even allowed his coach, Jack Grout, onto the practice range with him at Tour events.

“He went to a lot of golf tournaments,” Nicklaus recalled. “[But] Jack Grout was back in the bleachers, and if I wanted something I'd just walk back in the bleachers and say, ‘What do you see, Jack Grout?’ He'd say, ‘Your head position is a little off.’ And that would be about it. And it was a pretty simple thing.”

Things are not that simple for Woods.

Maybe it’s the age we live in, maybe it’s the athlete. Either way, when Woods set out early Wednesday at Muirfield Village for his first tournament since The Players and his last before the U.S. Open Como was with him for every shot.

Como was even with Woods on Monday and Tuesday when he toured Chambers Bay, site of this month’s U.S. Open. Yet, while the times and attention have changed, the challenge remains the same.

It was the same way for Woods when he was with Foley and Haney. It’s the same way for many modern Tour players. The difference is for players of the ilk of Woods and Nicklaus the status quo, no matter how dominant, simply won’t do.

The distance between Woods and Nicklaus seems to have widened in recent years with Tiger now three major starts away from his 40s. For comparison purposes, Nicklaus won just three of his 18 majors in his 40s.

But what hasn’t changed is how Nicklaus and Woods view the game and their place in it. For all his struggles in recent years, Tiger has remained steadfast when it comes to the ultimate objective.

“It's about peaking at the right time, getting everything organized,” said Woods, who has now gone nearly two years without a victory and has dipped to 172nd in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“The main thing is I want to be able to start playing again, being in contention with a chance to win. I'd like to get there more often and give myself more opportunities to win.”

Woods has always been linked to Nicklaus as a historical milestone, but the common theme between the two can’t be found in the history books. Instead, it’s always been in the duo’s relentless pursuit of perfection.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.