Stage Presence

By Rex HoggardMarch 4, 2009, 5:00 pm
They emerged from the desert, by way of the United Kingdom, with equal parts youthful exuberance and uncanny presence, babes making time in the World Golf Championship woods.
To be sure, the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is only one week, an oddity of the competitive calendar that pulls a divergent cast into a capricious format, but to dismiss either Rory McIlroy or Oliver Wilson as one-offs is to miss the subtleties of two remarkable players.
If anyone doubted either players credentials, their play in the Arizona desert finished that conversation. Wilson advanced to the Sweet 16, McIlroy went one better to the Elite Eight, and both established themselves among a corps of youthful climbers that includes Japans 17-year-old phenom Ryo Ishikawa and New Zealand teen Danny Lee.
Its not whether or not we will see more of McIlroy and Wilson on leaderboards in the future, but it's how much of the tandem will we see regularly in the United States which begs an answer.
This is a dangerous business this prodigy management.
Send a 20-year Tour veteran across the globe to collect play-for-pay checks and he comes home with an all-world case of jet lag and an I break for Yaks T-shirt. Run a young gun raged across the four corners and one could inadvertently derail, or even destroy, a career.
The formula seems to be a matter of taste, and when it comes to McIlroy and Wilson, the answer seems to lie in each players personality.
At 19 years old, McIlroys road appears to be one blazed of his own making. The Northern Irishman recorded his first victory as a professional earlier this year at the Dubai Desert Classic and, at least for the foreseeable future, is going to make his professional bones on an international stage.
Theres absolutely no point in him taking out his PGA Tour card, McIlroys manager Chubby Chandler told the Irish Times last week. Suddenly he has got to play 15 tournaments. Suddenly they start dictating to you.
Rorys going to be young for a while yet and hes going to want to go home and have a bit of time out with his pals. The moneys not an issue. I said to him last night. For me with you theres a totally different set of rules than there is with anybody else because weve got time.
Which means McIlroys exposure to American galleries will likely be limited to majors, World Golf Championships and the occasional tune-up event. Instead he will probably follow Padraig Harringtons lead and play more than his European Tour minimum (12 events) and dabble on the PGA Tour when it is convenient, a true international player with a worldwide appeal.
The guys that try and play the two tours, it is quite tough with all the traveling back and forth over the pond. So I just have to weigh all the options, said McIlroy, who is playing this week at the Honda Classic and next week at Doral before heading home to Northern Ireland to prepare for the Masters.
Wilson, however, seems headed down a slightly different path.
The former Augusta State standout owns a home in Charlotte, N.C., and is looking for a new base in Florida. In many aspects, the Englishman also has the type of game that plays well on either side of the pond.
At Augusta State, Wilsons short game was so prolific he was dubbed the Magic Man, but when he turned pro he turned his focus to his full swing and his improved ballstriking was evident last week with clutch victories over Anthony Kim and K.J. Choi.
He has been working so hard on his swing, said Rocky Hambric, the president of Hambric Sports which represents Wilson. Improving his iron play was the most important thing coming out of college.
American galleries got a glimpse of Wilson, 28, during last years Ryder Cup when he and Swede Henrik Stenson stunned Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim during Day 2 foursomes play, 2 and 1, and the matches seem to have sparked him late in the year with a runner-up finish at the HSBC Champions and a tie for sixth at the Hong Kong Open.
The Ryder Cup gave him the confidence he could play with the best players in the world on the biggest stage, Hambric said. It really gave him a boost.
It seems both young stars are ready for the biggest stage. The only question is where that stage may be.
Getty Images

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?''

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

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.