Jack Newman: On the road

By Mercer BaggsMarch 21, 2011, 8:40 pm

Editor's note: GolfChannel.com will be following fourmini-tour players – Tim Hegarty, Zack Sucher, Benoit Beisser and JackNewman – over the course of 2011 in our new feature, 'The Minors.' Checkin each week for the players' progress, updates, photos and more.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Those golfers. With their private jets and millions of dollars. With their six different homes in five different countries and their blonde, skinny, model wives. They can cause you to break the 10th Commandment and commit the sixth deadly sin.

That’s the broad perception of professional golfers. The public sees the elite player and how he lives, sees events like the grandiose Tavistock Cup and believes everyone travels in luxury and is treated like royalty.

Some are. Most are not. In fact, forget the Gulfstream, most guys and girls who play golf for a living can’t afford to travel regularly in coach. Rather, it’s one steering wheel, four tires and many, many miles of paved road.

Jack Newman’s mode of transportation is a “steel green” Ford Taurus, model year 2006 – before the vehicle redesign.

“Yeah, the new ones are pretty sharp,” he said. “I don’t have one of those.”

Newman bought the car used about a month before his freshman year at Michigan State with around 19,000 miles. The odometer now sits over 95,000. Fortunately, it’s as reliable as it is bland.

“It runs and gets me where I need to go,” he said. “That all I need right now.”

The Hooters Tour was on hiatus last week, so Jack didn’t have to travel too far from his rented establishment at Orange Tree Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. He used the down time to work with his swing coach, exercise and rest up for the true beginning of the 2011 mini-tour schedule.

Friday, Newman packed up his tangibles and made his way to Cartersville, Ga., for a club-fitting session with Cleveland Golf. Incidentally, Newman was informed that three of the four Monday qualifiers for this past week’s Transitions Championship on the PGA Tour had visited the Cartersville site within in the past year.

After that, it was off to Gainesville (Ga.) for this week’s Hooters Tour event. Next, it’s east to Conover, N.C., for another tournament; then north to Oxford, Ohio , where he will base out of with former Michigan State assistant coach and current Miami University golf coach Casey Lubahn and his wife, Rachel; and then it’s back down to Georgia for two more events.

All told, that’s six major pit stops, more than 2,100 miles and roughly 40 hours in a Taurus, in one month’s time. That ‘s enough to make a man start believing there’s a 6’3 ½” invisible rabbit riding in his passenger seat.

“I really don’t mind it,” Newman said. “It usually takes me eight to 11 hours to get to each event. It’s relaxing, gives me time to do a lot of thinking.”

When I caught up with Newman in Tallahassee a few weeks ago, he said he was contemplating getting satellite radio, but for now it’s just the regular dial and CDs.

We met for lunch after his second round in the Hooters Tour’s Killearn Country Club Classic … at Subway – true fare for the travelling golfer.

Newman was coming off a birdie on his final hole that Friday, which was good for a second-round 71 – which wasn’t good enough to make the cut, coming on the heels of an opening 75.

Jack’s got lots to think about on those lonely drives, primarily a new swing that’s less than two months in transition.

“I was just talking to my old coach,” Jack said as he sat down in a booth, “about whether I should just take a beating now and not worry about my scores or missed cuts.”

That’s exactly what he’s decided upon.  At 23 years old, he expects a long career in this sport and is willing to sacrifice a couple of extra low scores in the present to be able to shoot them consistently in the future.

His new coach is Mike Bender, instructor to the likes of former Masters champion Zach Johnson and five-time PGA Tour winner Jonathan Byrd.

The two caught up last Thursday at Bender’s golf academy at Timacuan Golf and Country Club in Lake Mary, Fla.

“I’m trying to get a flatter backswing,” Newman said. “The goal is to get a more consistent swing, a repetitive swing that will hold up under pressure.”

Described Bender, “He was pretty upright, with the club laid off at the top. He’d then use a lot of his upper-body in the downswing. His hand pass was too steep, making it necessary to compensate with his hands.”

The goal, Bender said, is to get Newman’s hands on plane; much like you would in a putting stroke. That will create less of a need for his hands to help square the club face at impact, “which results in less margin for error.”

“Any good player trying to get better,” Bender continued, “needs to rely less on timing.”

Both the teacher and the pupil are excited with the progress being made. Newman has picked up noticeable distance, and in a relatively brief amount of time together, Bender can see a great deal of potential.

“Players have different levels of ability in making swing changes. With his level of ability, he’ll have no problem making the changes we’re working on. Certainly, it will take some time, but he will get there,” Bender said.

“I don’t know his short game very well, but with his size (6’4”, 200lbs), the length he can hit the ball, and his attitude, I think he’s going to do fantastic. Ball-striking won’t be an issue. He’ll be plenty good to make it on (the PGA) Tour.”

More than just swing plane, the two are working to improve Newman’s approach to the game. His attitude, as Bender mentioned, is supreme, as is his maturity level. However, he’s still less than one year removed from turning professional and there’s plenty to be learned.

“We’ve talked about things like how to practice,” Bender said. “He didn’t really understand the purpose of practice.

“We talked about shaping shots and hitting into certain zones, not hitting at a single target but around the target.  Take a pro with a wedge and ask the average golfer what would be a good shot. They would say, inside 10 feet. Really, it’s inside 15 feet. The Tour average from 100-125 yards is 17 feet. You’re not going to hit the target, not very often, so aim for an area around the target.”

Thursday at Timacuan, the two focused on Newman’s focus, or more aptly, his eyes.

“We tend to swing in the direction of our eyes. At the top of his swing, his eyes tend to shift left, kind of like Annika Sorenstam. We worked on trying to keep his head in the right spot and he could tell a big difference,” said Bender.

As Newman heads out to states like Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Kentucky and everywhere else his tour travels will take him, there won’t be many opportunities to work with his coach one-on-one. Bender noted that while he doesn’t need to spend a great deal of personal time with players he’s coached for years, such as Johnson and Byrd, it is of great benefit for a new student when the teacher is present more often. To accomplish that, they have established a set of drills Newman can work on while on the road and they are looking into staying connected via the Internet.

Following his short stay in Tallahassee, Newman made his way back south to Ocala, Fla., where he fired bookend rounds of 70-68. In between, he shot 73-77.

“The first and last day, I felt really good. In between, I kind of lost it. I’m working on getting to where I can put together two good rounds in a row, in a tournament, then three good rounds, then four good ones,” Newman said via phone this past week.

“I really like where we’re headed. I just have to keep trusting my swing and what we’re doing.”

“And,” he was quick to note, “have fun. You can’t be successful out if you don’t enjoy what you do.”

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.