Tiger's Ryder Cup passion gets him vice captain spot

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2015, 12:00 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – For a guy who needs no help padding the résumé, Wednesday’s Ryder Cup announcement qualifies as a bona fide bombshell.

Tiger Woods – who by his own assessment still has plenty of miles ahead of him on the competitive highway – was named one of Davis Love III’s five vice captains for next year’s matches, along with Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk.

Although Woods is certainly qualified for the job, the honor sticks out as on oddity on the not-yet-40-year-old's list of achievements – 14-time major champion, 79-time PGA Tour winner, short-list candidate for G.O.A.T., and now ... golf cart driver.

To be fair, given the intensity of this year’s Ryder Cup process, which began with the creation of a task force last year, golf cart driver doesn’t begin to do the job justice; but it is a stark sign of the times for the former world No. 1.

“I’ve been around him so much and seen all the phenomenal golf he’s played. I never could have imagined him being an assistant and not playing, to be honest,” Charles Howell III said Wednesday at the RSM Classic. “Circle of life, I guess. He still hasn’t not qualified yet. Remember that.”

Howell’s double negative aside, Wednesday’s news opened a new chapter in the Woods tale. After seven Ryder Cup appearances and a 13-17-3 record, it’s difficult to imagine Tiger is ready for a non-playing role. And that's because he isn't.

In that sense, there is a danger in reading too much into Wednesday’s news, as evidenced by Woods’ potentially complex role on the U.S. team.

“He wants to play and be a vice captain. He wants to be the leader of his group, whoever that is, of guys that he's going to probably play with,” Love said. “Tiger is very capable of doing that.”

Love said Woods, who has been accused of being uncommitted and uninterested when it comes to America’s biennial team matches, started the drumbeat for his involvement as early as last December at one of the initial task force meetings, stressing his desire to be engaged with the process - even if that meant serving as a vice captain.

Love names Woods, Furyk, Stricker as Ryder Cup vice captains

That dedication spilled over at last month’s Presidents Cup, as Woods became the quintessential armchair quarterback.

“I was surprised. It was 5:30 in the morning and Fred [Couples] told me, ‘Tiger wants you to call him,’” Love recalled. “He’s not getting to play, so he’s excited and he wants to help. He wants to win. He wants to be in the mix. He doesn’t want to be sitting at home.”

While this does little to clarify Woods’ competitive future, his commitment to the U.S. team over the past 12 months should finally quiet the notion that he doesn’t care about America’s team fortunes.

“I think one of the biggest misconceptions that we see out there is all he cares about are his personal records,” Zach Johnson said. “I'm not suggesting he doesn't care about them. That's not what I'm getting at. But he is passionate about the cups, specifically about the Ryder Cup.

“So, when you have, in my opinion, the best player that I've ever played with as a guy inside your team room, regardless if he's playing or not, that's huge.”

Howell echoed those sentiments, remembering his first start at the Presidents Cup, when he was paired with Woods in 2003.

“He was a really big calming influence,” Howell said. “He was like, ‘Charles, it’s OK. It’s just golf.’ If he’s not playing, I think he’ll be a fantastic vice captain.”

In a perfect world, Woods would do both – play and provide a level of insight and inspiration that can only come from a player with his résumé.

While the latter is assured thanks to Love’s announcement Wednesday, the former remains very much in down. Woods has dropped to 384th in the world rankings and has exactly one top-10 finish on the Tour in two years, but Love suggested Woods has started the road to recovery and has penciled in Sept. 27, 2016 as a date worth keeping.

“I talked to him several times over the last few weeks about his back, how he's feeling, how he's playing, or how he's practicing,” Love said. “He's excited about it. He wants to make the team. Don't mistake that's his No. 1 goal.”

It’s hard to imagine that it would be the Ryder Cup – the one event throughout his Hall of Fame career that has, at least outwardly, seemed to be an afterthought – that may jolt Woods back to competitive reality, back to a place that was once so familiar via a job that seems so foreign.

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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.