Woods not the first to dismantle a successful swing

By Rex HoggardDecember 3, 2014, 9:24 pm

WINDERMERE, Fla. – Tiger Woods is not the first player to endure the ebbs and flows of a swing change, just the most high-profile convert.

Woods’ experiment with new “swing consultant” Chris Como will be, more or less, his fifth different action as a professional, from the initial world-beater swing under Butch Harmon he took to Augusta National in 1997 to the last four years with Sean Foley, and to varying degrees he has enjoyed success with each.

He has also endured his share of slings and arrows along the way for what some see as a pathological desire to fix what isn’t broken, particularly after splitting with Harmon, with whom he worked with from 1993 to August 2002 when he won eight majors and 26.8 percent of the time on the PGA Tour.

All of which gives his most recent switch all of the markings of a seminal moment for an often-injured, soon-to-be 39-year-old.

What direction do I want to go?

What do I want my swing to look like?

What do I want to get out of my body?



These were all questions Woods mulled in the weeks following his last start at Valhalla and eventually led him to Como, but this week’s host is hardly the first world-class player to reach these types of epiphanies.

Each week on Tour the practice tee is dotted with players who reached the same crossroads. Players like Steve Stricker, who at the end of 2005 seemed to have two choices – change or quit.

“I was at a point where do I continue to play? It wasn’t much fun the way I was playing, or determining what I needed to do to get better,” said Stricker, who had dipped to 162nd in earnings in ’05.

While Woods’ road is not nearly as dire, the two friends seemed to have the same internal debate as well as the same tempered expectations.

“When you go through a change there are some bumps in the road,” said Stricker, who has become something of a putting sounding board for Woods over the years. “You want it to come quickly, but you just know it’s golf and it’s hard to do and there is a learning curve to this.”

Keegan Bradley had a slightly different take when he embarked on what he now considers a “dramatic” swing change in December 2013 with Chuck Cook.

When Bradley made the jump to Cook from longtime coach Jim McLean he’d already won three times on Tour, including a major (2011 PGA Championship) and a World Golf Championship (2012 at Firestone) and was considered by many a bona fide phenom.

While perceived deficiencies in his short game led Bradley to Cook, he never subscribed to the idea that change, of any variety, comes with a price.

“I never make a change and think I’m going to get worse,” Bradley said. “It may happen and any time you change something and put it under the gun it’s nerve-racking, but that’s why we put in the work.”

The Tour’s landscape is littered with stories of swing changes gone awry. Luke Donald spent just a little over a year working with Cook before calling a mulligan and reuniting with Pat Goss, who he had split with to work with Cook in August 2013.

Lee Westwood gave his experiment with Foley even less time, splitting with him at the end of 2013 after roughly seven months.

At the heart of these changes appears to be a particular player's motivation for change. Like Woods, who has repeatedly stated his desire for continued improvement behind his numerous changes, the elusive drive for perfection often clouds the more subtle elements behind an overhaul, like expectations and long-term goals.

Billy Horschel set his path at a relatively young age when he was a senior at the University of Florida and makes a key distinction between what some may view as little more than an overhaul compared to an extreme makeover.

“A swing change is when you’re changing philosophy on what you think a swing should be and you’re going with a method teacher,” said Horschel, who this year became the second player coached by Todd Anderson to win the FedEx Cup.

“Todd and I have made tweaks to make my game better and more consistent. Is that a swing change? No, that’s just getting back to where I swing the club the best.”

Whether Woods’ most recent transition would fall into the latter category – which he seemed to suggest on Tuesday when he spoke with the media – or will be remembered as a dramatic overhaul remains to be seen, but what’s certain is that he is not unique in setting out down an unknown path.

He’s just the only one who does it under the glare of a 24-hour news cycle.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”



Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.



Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)