Remembering that awful Saturday at Muirfield

By Rex HoggardJuly 15, 2013, 2:36 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – It was a vicious storm, even by Scottish standards.

But then the storm that blew away many an Open Championship dream in 2002 didn’t have the look of a normal hoolie. This wasn’t a Scottish storm, this was straight out of the midwest – black and ugly and unforgiving.

“It was like Kansas and you never see that over there,” said Davis Love III of the storm that descended on Muirfield 11 years ago. “When the sky just turns that weird green color, you just don’t see that over there.”

Blackish green Saturday – the stuff of Open lore.

Love was one of the fortunate on that dark Saturday at the 2002 Open Championship. He’d narrowly made the cut following rounds of 71-72, was one of the first groups off on Day 3 and beat the tempest to the clubhouse.

“It went from decent to awful in a space of 30 minutes,” Love said.

When Love teed off early Saturday he was tied for 50th. By the time the sun set on golf’s meanest day he’d climbed into a tie for 23rd thanks to an even-par 71. Justin Leonard made an even more meteoric rise, beginning the day tied with Love, signing for a 68 just as the chaos began and climbing into a share of third place by sunset.

“We were staying in Greywalls,” said Love of the iconic hotel that sits adjacent the ninth hole at Muirfield. “Justin had the end room and we were close by and I kept running into his room yelling, ‘You’re in the top 15.’ Then I’d run back and yell, ‘You’re going to be leading.’”

The third-round lead went to Ernie Els, who carded a heroic 72 in some of the day’s worst conditions.

To put the Big Easy’s 1-over card in context, there were more than twice as many rounds in the 80s (10) as there were in the 60s (four) and the field average for Day 3 was 74.6.

“I'm just happy to be in the house. That was a very difficult day today. Especially the front nine. I mean, it was some of the toughest conditions I've ever seen in an Open Championship,” Els said at the time.

Els finished 72 holes tied with Stuart Appleby, Steve Elkington and Thomas Levet at 6 under and claimed the claret jug in a playoff.

If Els won the first of his two Open titles on Day 3 in 2002, Tiger Woods certainly lost his bid for his third consecutive major championship on that wind whipped, frigid Saturday.

Woods was fresh off victories at the Masters and U.S. Open when he opened his week along the Firth of Forth with rounds of 70-68 and was tied for ninth place, just two shots out of the lead, when he set out in Saturday’s storm. In other words, exactly where he wanted to be.

Things quickly unraveled for the world No. 1 with a bogey at the first and a double bogey at the par-5 fifth hole. He went out in 42 and did little better on his inward loop, carding a 39 that included his only birdie of the day at the 17th.

Woods’ 10-over 81 still stands as his highest round in a major as a professional.

“I was playing with (Mark) O’Meara at the time, and we were just about ready to go out, and it just hit. You can see this wall of rain coming in,” said Woods, who closed with a 65 on Sunday to tie for 28th.

“The forecast was just for maybe some showers, no big deal, whatever. But no one had forecast for the wind chill to be in the 30s. For it to be that cold ... that was the thing.”

For Woods, and everyone else, the contrast to how the course had played for the first two rounds was jarring.

At the par-3 fourth hole, for example, Woods said O’Meara couldn’t reach the green with a 3-wood. At the fifth, where Woods said he played driver, 6-iron earlier in the week, he hit driver, 2-iron, 2-iron on Saturday ... and still hadn’t reached the putting surface.

The rub of the draw is part of tournament golf, particularly if that tournament is played in Scotland, but the ’02 Open was a wildly exaggerated personification of that truth.

“You could be the guy to tee off at 6:50 or 6:40 (a.m.) and get the worst end of the weather. Or you can get the guy who has the late tee time and have the perfect weather coming in. You just don't know,” Woods said. “I just happened to be at that time when we got the worst of it right when we started.”

As bad as the wind and the rain were that Saturday at Muirfield, it was a thermometer that bottomed out in the 30s that made things so difficult. At one point during the worst of it, Love and Leonard were running dry towels and jackets out to players on the ninth hole from their hotel rooms.

“It just got so cold that nothing was working, and no one was prepared for that. No one had enough clothes. Everything was soaked,” Woods said. “It got to the point where the umbrella was useless. It was raining too hard, and it was too windy.”

Woods was hardly the only contender blown off course on Day 3. Colin Montgomerie, who began the third round tied with Woods at 4 under, went out in 41 and home in 43 for an 84, the day’s highest round. According to links lore, Woods jokingly told Monty on Sunday morning, “I whipped your butt yesterday.”

Truth is it was Mother Nature who doled out the ultimate butt whipping on that stormy Saturday in 2002.

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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.