Warm Up Roars

By Rex HoggardApril 8, 2009, 4:00 pm
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AUGUSTA , Ga. ' Last we saw Jacob Immelman he was rushing into dads arms, a snapshot moment a year of Sundays ago.
 
On Wednesday on Augusta Nationals par-3 course he was hoisted high atop pops shoulders coming down the ninth hole, bookend moments regardless of the gravity of the situation or the outcome.
 
Whether the roars return to the back nine on Sunday at this years Masters is up to Mother Nature, but on the little nine perched just the other side of Augusta Nationals signature cabins, the volume was turned up plenty loud on Wednesday.
 
The Masters Tournament
A scene from the beautiful Par 3 course at Augusta National. (Getty Images)
Wednesday at the WGC-Match Play Championship may be the best competitive hump day on Tour, but the Par 3 Contest has staked higher sentimental territory in the golf psyche, if not all of sports.
 
Nowhere else in sporting nation is the calm before the storm so enjoyable.
 
Opposing teams dont roll up for a fun game of two-hand touch before the Super Bowl and there are no friendly pick-up games on the court the day before the NBA Finals.
 
They dont play a Little League game on the diamond before a World Series, said Buddy Alexander, adding to the theme with his 14 years of Par 3 participation.
 
Alexander, the men's golf coach at the University of Florida, is among a select group of honorary invitees, mostly U.S. Golf Association championship winners, who are allowed to compete in the Par 3 and play practice rounds each year. It is just another subtle layer of intrigue to an already richly textured product.
 
In 1960 officials introduced the Par 3 Contest and each year the little course that could delivers entertainment and, on occasion, drama.
 
I remember one year it was me and Mike Donald and Freddie (Couples) and we were playing for a lot of money to me, Alexander said. I hit it to about (1 foot) at No. 1 and to about (1 foot) on No. 2. Before I hit my tee shot on No. 3 there had already been two holes-in-one at 1 and 2. I was thinking, cool I can win closest to the pin. Then I hear the roars and just knew it.
 
Jerry Pate has not missed a Par 3 since 1976, but still covets another chance to win golf's most light-hearted title. He can, with little prompting, however, recount his closest brush with victory as clearly as any tournament he has played.
 
I was 5 under going into the ninth hole and pulled a wedge into the water, Pate recalled. Ben (Crenshaw) told me not to worry about it I was leading, so I dropped a ball and holed out for par. I called the shot but I still lost.
 
Playing his final Masters, Gary Player spun a similarly unlikely par into the hole at the ninth Wednesday after dunking his first attempt. By any other name, practice rounds shouldnt be this much fun.
 
Larry Mize has been a Par 3 participant since 1984 who counts a green jacket among his four Tour titles, but not a Par 3 crown.
 
Ive been shutout over there but Im working on it, smiled Mize. Theres nothing like this in sports. It is very unique.
 
The longevity of the Par 3 seemed summed up in the face of Jack Newman, a Masters first-timer.
 
Late Wednesday Newman was in the lead until he rinsed his tee shot at the eighth hole. Maybe not surprisingly, he was running a tad hot after the gaffe.
 
Someone told me right after I hit in the water that I was leading, said Newman, the U.S. Amateur Public Links champion. I really wanted that. A trophy is a trophy.
 
The pain was eased a hole later when Fuzzy Zoeller pulled a young girl from the crowd and had her hole his 7-footer for birdie. Its this middle ground between competition and clowning that makes the Par 3 more than a simple diversion.
 
Tiger Woods doesnt play the Par 3. Some speculate its because of the jinx, no Par 3 winner has ever gone on to win that weeks Masters, but its more likely that the festivities dont fit into his regimented pre-major routine. And truth be told the Par 3 may be the only event in golf that doesnt suffer without the world No. 1 in the field.
 
Besides, Tour types might be a superstitious lot but anything associated with Masters green is worth winning.
 
(Oliver Wilson) said this morning, I want to win the Par 3. That tradition can be broken, said Rocky Hambric, Wilsons manager with Hambric Sports.
 
Wilson came up short in his bid, finishing well behind champion Tim Clark who aced the ninth hole ' one of three holes-in-one, including Greg Normans pine-rattling hole out at the sixth ' for a 5 under total, and the South African will gladly put the Par 3 jinx to the test starting on Thursday on the serious side of the golf course.
 
As for Immelman, Jacob helped the old man finish up his round, both missing the 5 footer at the last for birdie. Thankfully, dad will handle the putting duties solo the rest of the week and Jacob will gladly wait for another hug at the 18th on Sunday.
 

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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.

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    Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – 

    Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

    Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

    ''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

    Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

    ''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

    Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

    ''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

    Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

    ''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

    The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

    ''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

    Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

    ''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

    The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

    ''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

    He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

    Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

    ''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

    Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

    ''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.