Covering Annika and Ochoa

By Tom AbbottMay 21, 2008, 4:00 pm
Having spent the last week at the Sybase Classic in New Jersey, it is rather difficult to write about the European golf scene of late. I know Richard Finch fell in the water at the Irish Open en route to victory, and a chap called Seve captured a win in Italy. No, not Ballesteros; Im talking about a young Englishman by the name of Benson, Seve Benson. Im assuming his father was quite the golf fan during the real Seves heyday. Benson notched his first win on the European Challenge Tour this past weekend. Seems Seve Benson is a name to remember; we could hardly forget it could we? Goodness knows how much confusion will ensue should Seve begin to build a career along the lines of Seve.
To the Sybase Classic it is then and what a rollercoaster of a week. Tuesday seems like a blur. Annika made her announcement during at a 2 p.m. press conference. At 11 a.m. that morning the tournament released an alert calling for a major announcement that afternoon. Subsequently just about every media outlet in the New York metro area came scrambling to the Upper Montclair Country Club. By the time Annika came into the press room the place looked more like a Britney and Kevin custody hearing than an LPGA Tour event. GOLF CHANNEL covered the press conference live, and as you saw Annika was emotional, but composed.
I was surprised at the timing, but not the venue. Annika is a long-time client of IMG; the Sybase tournament is owned and operated by their arch rivals Octagon. But the location for such a newsworthy event was spot-on. Sorenstam had access to Letterman, the Mets game and a number of other major publicity outlets this past week. Lest we forget, Annika is now driving the brand; the earnings from her playing days will halt at the end of the season.
Her retirement is a classy move. Bowing out at the height of the game means leaving with your head held high. Its a tough task but most believe she can do it; that was certainly the sense I got from players and those associated with the LPGA. A few famous names put question marks out about a full retirement, but to be fair to Annika at no point did she fully commit to never playing again. She chose her words carefully, saying she was 'stepping away' from the game with her intention being to halt her playing days.
The tournament itself was blighted by weather. Monday saw torrential rain in the area; travel into Newark was a disaster, I could have made it home to London and had a nice dinner in the time it took to get from Orlando to Clifton, NJ.
The course took a battering, but officials didnt see the need for lift, clean and place, setting a dangerous precedent for later in the week. Thursday was glorious, but Friday saw a return to the nasty stuff. To be fair to the officials, the forecast on site called for rain in the afternoon, but nothing too heavy. This was inaccurate and with the course beginning to flood, play was halted late Friday morning with the first group through 17 holes.
The fact that officials had not instigated lift, clean and place, and the fact the rain continued to pour, meant they had no choice but to cancel round 2 and disregarding the scores already recorded. The rules state that if a round is started without lift, clean and place you cant just bring it in willy-nilly. The decision by the LPGA to cancel the round caused quite a stir and continued to be the big talking point through-out the weekend. Conspiracy theorists had their views. Players like Catriona Matthew and Rachel Hetherington were left disappointed; both were leading when play was suspended, but the show went on.
Quite a show it was by Lorena Ochoa. Her Saturday 67 was marvelous, as the wind strengthened through-out the day. It was gusty, and swirling in the lower portion of the course, but still she remained on top of her game. She teased the field on Sunday, and showed some anger which rarely comes out, but on the flip side, I dont think Ive seen her so happy to get a non-major victory. In my interview with her post-round she talked about the importance of winning in the week Annika announced her retirement. She wasnt being rude or big headed, just saying, in her unique and kind-hearted way: you can talk all you want but its the golf that counts.
This week Annika did the talking, Lorena did the playing the battle continues.
Email your thoughts to Tom Abbott
Related Links:
  • Video: Annika 'Stepping Away'
  • Annika Through the Years
  • Full Coverage - Sybase Classic
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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.