Woods, McIlroy leave Abu Dhabi with more questions than answers

By Rex HoggardJanuary 18, 2013, 5:38 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Ubiquitous building-sized posters across Abu Dhabi proclaimed this the week “When Giants Returned.” The European Tour’s desert swing opener was billed as the unofficial start of 2013, the week when Tiger and Rory embark on the game’s next great rivalry.

But as darkness rapidly descended on the desert, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were unceremoniously embarking to their respective next ports of call. For Woods that’s Torrey Pines and his PGA Tour debut. For McIlroy it’s home to south Florida, or perhaps Australia to support better half Caroline Wozniacki.

Both, however, will spend the long hours to points beyond searching for answers.

For Woods it’s a simple question of mistaken identity. His wayward tee shot at the fifth hole on Friday was supposed to be wedged into a plugged lie – playing partner Martin Kaymer confirmed it as such in quick order. But it turns out the world No. 2 had himself an unplayable lie, so instead of a free drop and a grinding back-nine 34 that the world thought kept him inside the cut by a shot, he was told to add two and travel safe.

“It was tough because I didn’t get off to a very good start today and I fought and got it back,” Woods said of the two-stroke penalty he was informed of by officials after his round. “I was right there and I felt that if I had closed to even par I had a chance going into the weekend. Evidently, it wasn’t enough.”

Video: Tiger takes illegal drop

Video: Woods discusses rules infraction

Before we micro-analyze Woods’ bad drop consider that Kaymer took less than 10 seconds to confirm the ball was indeed plugged and, under the Rules of Golf, he was entitled to relief without a penalty.

Also consider that after initially reviewing the area where Woods’ tee shot at the fifth ended up, a European Tour rules official came to the same conclusion. It wasn’t until later that the official began second guessing the drop and the wheels of justice began moving.

“Tiger called me over and said, ‘Is it embedded?’” Kaymer said. “I said, ‘I think so.’ He just wanted to check and it was embedded and then I walked away.”

This was an honest mistake, pure and simple. Happens all the time in golf, just not that often to Woods, who signed for second-round 75 after the penalty was added to his card and missed the cut by a stroke.

Best guess is as Woods wings his way to Torrey Pines for next week’s start, it won’t be his mishandling of the drop on No. 5 that keeps him awake. He has bigger items to lament, including the fact he hit less than 40 percent of Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s fairways in two days (11 of 28), a little more than half its greens in regulation (19 of 36) and had 58 putts.

It all sounded like more of a spring training card then what we’ve come to expect from Woods in his debuts.

“I didn’t hit it particularly well. I putted great but just didn’t hit it very good,” said Woods, who missed a cut in a regular European Tour event for the first time in his career. “I was struggling with that . . . I have some work to do.”

Still, as Woods headed out of town it seemed the only thing he really needed was a return to the friendly confines of Torrey Pines, which he hasn’t played since 2011 and where he has seven victories including the historic 2008 U.S. Open.

High crosswinds and narrow fairways were the culprit on Day 1 when he carded an even-par 72, while Friday’s card featured a spirited finish that included three birdies over his final five holes. And that was after officials informed him walking off the 11th green that there could be an issue with the drop on No. 5.

McIlroy on the other hand may be doing a tad more soul searching.

With a bag full of new equipment and Monday’s rock show announcement that he was joining the Nike Golf fold behind him, the Ulsterman proceeded to post pedestrian rounds of 75 and kick-started his career with the Swoosh with a last-minute audible to switch back to his old Titleist Scotty Cameron putter for Round 2.

Nike Golf did not disclose the fine print of its new deal with McIlroy and it seems likely there are addendums penciled into the deal that would allow him to make such a move. But if that is the case then why not ease into the new bag from the outset?

It took Woods the better part of a decade to play his way into all 14 Nike clubs, with the last piece (the putter) falling into place at the 2010 British Open. It seems like a similarly languid pace would have been prudent for McIlroy.

Besides, he enjoyed only slightly better results with the old model (30 putts) then he did with the new one (31).

Video: McIlroy talks putter switch

“The greens that I’ve been practicing on in Florida are a lot faster than these,” McIlroy said. “The Nike putter is great on that. But then getting here it’s just a weight issue more than anything else. I can feel the head of this one I used today a little bit better. On fast greens, the (Nike putter) works fine.”

Perhaps the old driver would have worked better on wider fairways.

“Fore left!” McIlroy barked as his final tee shot of the day sailed into the gallery adjacent the 18th hole. It was a common theme in Abu Dhabi, where he connected with just 13 of 28 fairways for two days, and probably McIlroy’s primary concern more so than a last-minute putter switch.

Both players bolt the Middle East with more questions than answers, but for the suddenly thin marquee one thing is for certain – Rory v. Tiger may be poised to move to the next level, preferably on a major championship Sunday, just not this week.

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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.