Hooks and Cuts: Sawgrass Storylines

By Rich LernerMay 13, 2011, 4:04 am

The Players ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – When Tiger Woods triple-bogeyed the fourth, our jaded crew went on the over/under watch for number of holes before the WD. Where he once inspired such confidence, now there’s just so much conjecture.

– David Duval used to believe you needed to be No. 1 in the world and be skinny to be happy. He was both of those things 12 years ago, but wasn’t happy. He is now, thanks to marriage and family. Duval’s on the slow road back, but at least he’s not empty. Now he’s whole. And he’d laugh if you made a crack about that.

– Johnny Miller on 'Golf Talk Live' Wednesday said Tiger’s an old 35. Even before the limp, he’d been walking like Jim Brown after a 40-carry game.

– Lucas Glover with the full-facial fuzz, looks like he could suit up for the Boston Bruins and play some old-time hockey.

– Paul Goydos rinsed his tee ball at 17 in ’08 before losing to Sergio, but still believes it’s an equitable playoff hole. “It is sudden death,” he told me Tuesday, and it was that for him. “What I like is that it doesn’t give an advantage in a playoff situation to a longer hitter or to a particular ball shape the way 18 might.” I, personally, would like to see a three-hole overtime starting on No.16.

– One golf industry heavyweight tossed out a major idea that piqued my interest: The PGA of America someday moving its PGA Championship outside the United States on occasion, to the Far East, South Africa or South America. It was just a thought, nothing more, but interesting nonetheless.

– Mark O’Meara’s happily remarried after a difficult divorce, working hard at 54 years old with a daughter in law school, a son in college and a surprisingly low number on Day 1.

– I don’t understand Bubba Watson, with a first-round 76, not playing a practice round this week. I get that the course may not fit the eye, but go figure it out. Glover did. He’d missed the cut in his first four appearances before finishing third last year and posting 65 today. What did he finally learn about TPC Sawgrass? “Hit fairways,” he said.

– With nagging injuries and lagging confidence, Henrik Stenson is a shell of the player who won here two years ago. He shot 79 to open.

– O’Meara played two practice rounds with Tiger this week and saw no sign of knee trouble. “I was shocked,” O’Meara said of Tiger’s early exit. He had dinner with Tiger Wednesday, saying Tiger was in “great spirits.”

– Preparing a story for the U.S. Open at Congressional on the view of golf on Capitol Hill. Did you know that in the Katrina Disaster Relief Bill the golf industry was excluded from getting aid? That golf was lumped in with the following categories: casinos, liquor stores and massage parlors? Seriously. That’s why We Are Golf was formed – to lobby and educate our leaders that golf is not a game for only the elite. Progress is being made and there’s now a 100-member bipartisan golf caucus that will be out at Congressional on Tuesday of the U.S. Open.

– Because a man can’t live on golf alone, I tried to expand my horizons by piping in the Pay-Per-View Pacquiao/Mosely bout. What a monumental waste of $65. Not only was the fight a farce, but it didn’t start until almost midnight. Inexcusable. Me against sleep was the better fight. Elsewhere, the Lakers' exit was as shameful and embarrassing as any I’ve ever seen from a champion. Andrew Bynum should’ve been suspended for 20 games, not five, for the cheap shot on Dallas’ J.J. Barea. I feel better now that I got that off my chest.

– Watney makes nine birdies and an eagle in Round 1. I know it was easier in the morning with softer greens and little wind, but nine birdies and an eagle is just not that easy on this golf course, under any conditions. But that’s what players – real players – are capable of doing. And Watney’s a real player.

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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.