Hooks Cuts - The Winding Road of 2007

By Rich LernerDecember 12, 2007, 5:00 pm
  • There were two significant births in golf this year'Sam Alexis Woods and The FedExCup. Guess which one Tiger didnt kiss? Was the Cup fully embraced? No. Was it reasonably successful? Yes.
     
  • Tiger not closing on Sunday at both the Masters and U.S. Open was slightly surprising, but the courses were so difficult that not even Tiger could be considered a lock.
     
  • The humble kid from Iowa beat the specimen from another galaxy, cried and then kissed his baby when it was all over. The Masters delivered another nice story after a week where the mood was dour because of the brutal test. Most fans think excitement when they think of the Masters, not excruciating pain.
     
  • That brings us to the U.S. Open at Oakmont, which if you recall was deemed by Phil Mickelson to be hazardous to your health. By the way, Im in the camp thats fine with calling Angel Cabreras nearly 350-yard, fairway splitting missile on the 72nd-hole the shot of the year. His 69 on that golf course was equal to 61 on plenty of other TOUR layouts. And Sunday made for an amusing contrast. Tiger, holing a ton of grinding par putts but not nearly enough birdie tries, set hearts racing with the tight red shirt. He looked like Hercules. Cabrera, nervously smoking Marlboros, looked like a hulking casino bouncer. The beauty of golf is that Jackie Gleason can hold his own on the same ballroom floor as Fred Astaire.
     
  • Sergios Sunday in Scotland was the biggest disappointment of the year but I think hell be better for it. We like our athletes gracious in defeat; someday soon, Sergio will be a charming winner, and well be writing him love letters.
     
  • Among my images of the year was amateur Drew Weaver, from Virginia Tech, during a practice round in a downpour at Carnoustie with his father on his bag. His dad looked to the sky, smiled and said that considering where his son had been and what hed been through, this is liquid sunshine!
     
  • Hard to believe Sergio hasnt won in several years. Hard to believe hes not in the top-5 in the world with his ability. What do Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker have that Sergio doesnt, yet? Touch and mental toughness.
     
  • No one can accuse the sport of being out of touch with real world issues. Ill long remember the conference on global warming that broke out at Southern Hills in August.
     
  • Remember when people suggested that Southern Hills wasnt well-suited to Tigers game with its par 70 and various doglegs? For the second straight year he proved to be the shrewdest golf course manager; last summer, he was rather tidy with the no-driver approach at Royal Liverpool. Tigers the best tactician in sports, and certainly more likeable than Bill Belichick. He plots a strategy and executes it with brutal efficiency.
     
  • He might grade it lower, but Phil Mickelson deserves a B+ in 2007. Granted, he didnt win a major. And at this stage when youve already secured your spot in the Hall of Fame, its more about your ultimate place in the pantheon of legends ' top 30 all-time or with three more majors maybe top 10 all-time? Still, he shook off the Winged Foot hangover at Pebble. He then re-charged a potential rivalry with Tiger by winning THE PLAYERS, borrowing a page from the Vince McMahon pro rasslin handbook. He forged an alliance with his arch rivals manager, in this case Butch Harmon. Later in the year, Phil put the Boston Crab on Tiger at the Deutsche Bank. Yes, the middle stretch with the injured wrist was disappointing and the incendiary comments lobbed at the USGA and Tim Finchem smacked of vindictiveness, but Phil was a presence in 07 and he posted some impressive gains.
     
  • More disturbing than losing her game is the fact that in 2007 Michelle lost public goodwill. The only way to gain it back is to win, but that doesnt seem likely any time soon. Its one thing to slump at 32 when youve won a few times. Its another to slump at 18 in a sport where greatness at 14 doesnt guarantee greatness at 24.
     
  • This was a good year for characters in golf---Boo; Rory; Willie Mack; and Woody, a Tabasco guy in a ketchup world!
     
  • Theres not a lot to love these days about the idea of a 16-year-old turning professional. But Tadd Fujikawas so likeable and has been fighting the long odds since his near fatal birth that its hard to root against him. And his Friday eagle at the Sony was among the years most joyous single moments.
     
  • Laura Diaz told me that Lorena Ochoas a better person than a golfer, and thats saying something because Ochoas really special on course.
     
  • As for Annika, this was a year to heal her body and tend to her relationship with Mike McGee. If Juli Inkster can revive her career into her late 30s and early 40s, it would be foolish to suggest that Annika cant do the same. Still, Annika going winless in 2007 is as shocking as the Dolphins beating the Patriots.
     
  • Suzann Pettersen plays an exciting brand of golf. She hits it hard and plays with passion. Told several years ago she might never play again because of a back injury, she now plays every round like its the last round of her life.
     
  • Ochoa may be the best player in womens golf, but Natalie Gulbis, wall-to-wall on this network, is the most visible.
     
  • You could make the case that six different countries could honor six different golfers as their athlete of the year: KJ Choi of South Korea, Padraig Harrington of Ireland, Angel Cabrera of Argentina, Tiger Woods of the United States, Suzann Pettersen of Norway and Lorena Ochoa of Mexico. And that speaks well of our sport.
     
  • Others who stood out in 2007: the U.S. Walker Cup team, the U.S. Solheim Cup team, Scott Verplank at the Byron Nelson, Andres Romero at Carnoustie, Cristie Kerr at the U.S. Womens Open, Morgan Pressel at the Kraft Nabisco, Hunter Mahan and Jay Williamson at Hartford, and Mike Weir at the Presidents Cup.
     
  • Finally, many thanks to the players we cover. Theyre judged harshly every day that they go to work'by the number on the scorecard. In a most unforgiving profession, the vast majority deal with the press and the fans in a courteous and friendly manner. They bring credit and dignity to a beautiful sport. Golf remains largely scandal free, primarily because its filled with good and decent people. And thanks to you for your support and passion. This game has a strange and wonderful hold on so many of us. May you continue to be healthy enough to enjoy it in 2008 and best wishes in the coming holiday season.
     
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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.