Gutty performance: Vertigo doesn't stop Day

By Will GrayJune 21, 2015, 3:04 am

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – As Jason Day crouched behind his ball on the 18th green, lining up his final putt of the day, there was a bobble. A slight moment of unsteadiness, a flash of uncertainty, as if all of this effort could still suddenly go for naught.

He reflexively reached out his hand for balance, collected himself and took a deep breath. 

After standing and checking his line once more, he rolled in the 6-foot putt and brought to a close one of the biggest tightrope walks in U.S. Open history.

Entering the third round at Chambers Bay, the question was not where Day stood on the leaderboard, but whether he would be able to suit up. Less than 24 hours earlier, the Aussie lay beside the ninth green with his tournament fate hanging in the balance, as a slip from a dizzy spell led to a lengthy delay and ultimately a diagnosis of benign positional vertigo.

There is no good time to battle such a plight, but a major championship has to be among the worst options – especially on a course as physically demanding as Chambers Bay.

But after a night of rest and treatment from his medical team, there stood Day on the first tee, ready to tackle the most grueling test in golf on a layout that would make him feel as if he were going up and down Seattle's Space Needle before the day was done.

Full-field scores: 115th U.S. Open

Eighteen holes later, capped by that final birdie that spurred the biggest cheer of the day from the grandstand lining the home hole, Day had conquered Mount Chambers and improbably earned a spot in Sunday’s final pairing.

“I said to him on [No.] 18, I said that was one of the greatest rounds of golf I’ve ever watched,” said caddie Col Swatton. “That was a super-human effort.”

While the end result netted a share of the lead alongside three others, the actual product was rife with nervous energy and bated breath. Day appeared unsteady on his feet from the opening hole, at times either leaning on Swatton for physical support or dropping to one knee to gather himself.

Swatton said there were times he thought he might have to stop his player, but the toughest hole was No. 4 – a 504-yard par 4 that rises 45 feet from tee to green. It was at that point that Day put his arm around Swatton and relied on his caddie, swing coach and mentor to guide his ascent.

“I just said, ‘You’ve got the heart of a lion. You’re going to show the world today that you’re going to be the greatest you can be,’” Swatton said. “And I said, ‘Look, let’s do it.’ And he just put his head down and kept walking one foot in front of the other. It was pretty impressive.”

Day bogeyed No. 4, his second blemish of the day. The following hole, playing partner Kevin Kisner offered to start getting the ball out of the hole for Day to save him from bending down to retrieve it. Day refused that offer, along with a similar one from Swatton, but then a funny thing happened – he appeared to grow steadier as the afternoon progressed and dropped only one more shot the rest of the round.

“I didn’t feel that great coming out early,” Day said in a post-round statement. “I felt pretty groggy just from the drugs that I had in my system, then kind of flushed that out on the back nine.”

Added Kisner: “He didn’t say much after a while, he was just feeling terrible. I think whatever medicine he’s taking just makes him feel worse, and he played unbelievable there coming in to make those three birdies. He impressed me.”

Those birdies came on Nos. 15, 17 and 18, rocketing Day to the top of the standings, but even during times of prosperity it was clear that the 27-year-old wasn’t quite right. He backed off his final tee shot, closed his eyes at points in between shots and continued to lean on Swatton to get him to the finish line.

 “The vertigo came back a little bit on the 13th tee box, and then [I] felt nauseous all day,” Day said. “I started shaking on [No.] 16 tee box and then I just tried to get it in, really. Just wanted to get it in.”

“The hardest part for him is just turning the head,” explained Swatton. “Every time he turns to look at the target, it takes a second for his eyes to steady up a little bit.”

The theater of Day’s finish recalled memories of Ken Venturi’s battle with heat stroke at Congressional in 1964, or more recently Tiger Woods’ one-legged triumph at Torrey Pines in 2008.

“I said to him, ‘They might make a movie about that round,’” Swatton said. “That was the greatest round I’ve ever watched. I’ve watched a lot of golf, and watching that was pretty special.”

After enduring one of the most harrowing moments in major championship history, Day now stands on the cusp of his breakthrough triumph, fittingly at an event where he has come so close in recent years. He has passed a monumental test, but one of even greater stature now awaits: one last climb across the cliffs and dunes of Chambers Bay, one more chance to erase the heartbreak of past near-misses.

Day answered the bell during the third round, and should he again rise to the occasion he could author one of the more improbable chapters in this tournament’s illustrious history.

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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

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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.