McGirt follows Nicklaus formula for success

By Ryan Reiterman June 6, 2016, 12:09 am

DUBLIN, Ohio - For three straight days, conditions at the Memorial Tournament were soft and low scores were plentiful.

Sunday was a whole different story.

The threat of storms brought plenty of high wind and the scores followed. What looked to be a shootout turned into a struggle for survival on the back nine with several big names succumbing to the carnage.

That was just fine with eventual champion William McGirt, who won for the first time in 165 starts. After handing him the trophy, tournament host Jack Nicklaus told McGirt he won plenty of tournaments with the same formula.

“The golf course gave up birdie after birdie after birdie, and then all of a sudden, a little teeth got into it coming down near the end, and you just stayed dead steady right on track and kept on going,” Nicklaus said to McGirt. “That's what it takes to win golf tournaments. I've won - I don't know how many tournaments - I won half of my golf tournaments watching everyone else self-destruct. I didn't win them. They just self-destructed, and that's the way you win.”

McGirt made 15 straight pars to close out his first win, none bigger than the 9-footer he made to beat Jon Curran on the second playoff hole.

“Luckily, the wind kept it from being a shootout at the end, and pars were good enough coming down the stretch,” McGirt said.

Not bad preparation for his first U.S. Open in two weeks.

Memorial Tournament: Articles, photos and videos

With his victory on Sunday, McGirt is now exempt for Oakmont and avoids a 36-hole qualifier on Monday. He also receives a three-year exemption and a check for $1.53 million. His last professional win - in 2007 - was for $16,000.

“I thought I'd hit it big,” said McGirt on his mini-tour win.

His second win was much tougher. McGirt grinded out a victory on a day when 29 players started the final round within five shots of the lead. But with wind gusts anywhere from 15-25 mph, the bogeys - and others - started piling up.

Phil Mickelson began the second nine with two straight bogeys, and then his chances ended when his ball came up short of the green and rolled into the water on the 186-yard, par-3 12th.

In the next group, K.J. Choi made a quadruple-bogey 7 on his way to a 78.

World No. 1 Jason Day nearly put two balls in the water before recording a double bogey.

Dustin Johnson found the green, and then three-putted from 54 feet.

Matt Kuchar bogeyed 12, doubled 13, bogeyed 15 and just like that his chances for a second Memorial title were gone.

“There's no room to like bail out there,” said Curran, who made a bogey on 12. “You have to hit a good shot, and it was blowing 10 or 15 [mph] in and off the left. It was 185 yards, so that's a tough setup.”

The tee at No. 12 is elevated, so tee shots were ballooning in the wind. Players who kept their tee shots low risked hitting too much club and sailing over the skinny green.

It’s no surprise the eventual winner stepped up and hit one of the best shots of the day at 12. McGirt took the most aggressive line of anyone in the last seven groups, and his tee shot landed 21 feet away. Not a dart by any means, but it was one big hurdle to jump in his quest to change his fortunes after 12 years as a professional.

“There were times on that tee box it could have been anything from 4-iron to 7-iron depending on the wind gust, and I got over it and just said, ‘OK, please let it go the right distance,’” McGirt said.

His prayers were answered, and now the 36-year-old will get to savor his maiden win before teeing it up at the U.S. Open.

“I wondered for years if I would ever get to the PGA Tour, and then once you get out here, OK, you've played 160 events. Are you ever going to win? You've put yourself in position a couple of times,” McGirt said. “But I think you have to get your nose bloodied some to learn how to handle it, and I definitely had my nose bloodied a few times.”

It will be McGirt’s second start in a major. At his first major, the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, McGirt received a piece of advice that helped him win on Sunday.

McGirt was chatting with Tiger Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, and the 14-time major champion overheard McGirt saying he doesn’t look at leaderboards on the back nine.

Woods came over and joked McGirt was an “idiot” for not knowing where he stood.

He didn’t make the same mistake at the Memorial.

“After the discussion we've had at Kiawah, I've looked every chance I have,” McGirt said.

He prevailed after a long, tough final round at Muirfield Village, and now McGirt’s name is alone at the top.

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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.