Rodgers could make Spieth-like splash in pro ranks

By Ryan LavnerMarch 4, 2014, 7:28 pm

Stanford coach Conrad Ray first saw Patrick Rodgers at a Future Collegians World Tour event in Monterey, Calif.

Rodgers was a ninth-grader from Avon, Ind., as thin as a 3-iron, and the only junior player in the field wearing slacks. Unlike most of the Midwestern kids, he didn’t show up to escape the cold and snow and knock off the rust. He was there, quite simply, to win.

“He was so put together,” Ray recalled this week, “that he looked like he’d been in college and on Tour already.”

After the event, Rodgers headed north to Stanford to tour the campus and facilities. Six years later, he is the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world; he is on the verge of becoming the second-best player in school history (behind only Tiger Woods); and he is just three months away from beginning his pro career, having announced this week that he will forgo his final year of eligibility.

Of the many immensely talented players currently in the college and amateur game, Rodgers, 21, is the most polished and Tour-ready. He’s an old soul and a meticulous grinder with a game that can quickly translate to the play-for-pay ranks, much like Jordan Spieth, his former amateur-golf rival and Walker Cup teammate who has enjoyed a meteoric rise on the PGA Tour.

Rodgers, of course, could already be working toward his card. He tied for 15th at the John Deere Classic last summer and has two tours of duty with the U.S. Walker Cup team. Had he turned pro last fall, his window to secure playing privileges would have been wider.

But he opted to return to Palo Alto because he wanted to address his weaknesses, or at least the few that he discovered while playing with Zach Johnson at the Deere. Rodgers realized it wasn’t about how high or how hard or how far he was hitting the ball. For the game’s elite, the goal is proximity and repeatability. Every time Johnson hit a shot it was struck in the center of the clubface and the ball traveled through the same small window.

“He had to take a real critical look,” Ray said, “and he told me, ‘I’m not even scratching the surface about how good I can and need to be.’”

With a solid, 6-foot-2 frame, Rodgers also knew that he needed to get leaner and stronger if he wanted to survive a 30-week schedule. Guided by Stanford sports performance coach Jason Quan, Rodgers and Ray now engage in friendly competitions to compare caloric and nutrient intake using an iPhone app.

Rodgers is always looking to fine-tune his mental edge, too. Carol Dweck, Stanford’s renowned psychology professor, occasionally will meet with the team to discuss the mental aspects of the sport. One message in particular has resonated with Rodgers – about how it’s important to be in a place mentally where you can reward yourself for the process and improvement and not necessarily be grounded in prizes and results.

It was sage advice, particularly for a player set to embark on a pro career filled with peaks and valleys.

A two-time first-team All-American, Rodgers has obviously endured few setbacks during his two-plus years with the Cardinal. He has seven college wins, just four shy of Woods’ all-time record, and he currently holds the career scoring average mark (70.55).

Still, he has needed to deal with a couple of disappointments, especially in the postseason. Last May, Rodgers played poorly on the back nine at NCAA regionals and Stanford finished a few shots off the cut line for nationals. In team play, the failures can sting even more.

“You can’t just experience roses all the time to know what you’re going after,” Ray said. “I talk about that at length with him, about how golf is really cyclical and that you’d rather have down days and ugly golf at a time where you can manage that. In the pro ranks, you have endorsement deals and people watching you closely and you’re going to struggle, eventually. He’s so well-equipped mentally and physically to deal with those downturns.”

With this foundation, Rodgers has effectively dismissed the ridiculous notion that a modern-day athlete can’t receive a high-level education and also adequately prepare himself for a pro sports career. When former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was taken No. 1 overall in the 2012 NFL draft, pundits and team officials repeatedly cited not only his talent and intangibles but also his smarts and maturity.

Rodgers is no different, and it’s why those in amateur golf circles have been salivating at his pro potential. He even consulted with the signal-caller, now with his hometown Indianapolis Colts, before making his decision to leave school early.

“When you combine physical ability with preparation and a sound approach, that’s pretty powerful,” Ray said. “Patrick has that physical presence and the ability to hit shots, but he also doesn’t shy away from the pressure. He likes the brighter lights. He has all the tools that match up well with what they’re doing at the highest levels – he just has to get there.”

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”