Walker ready to follow up big year with Frys defense

By Will GrayOctober 7, 2014, 11:17 pm

NAPA, Calif. – One year ago, Jimmy Walker was like many in the Frys.com Open field – a journeyman pro, relatively unknown and looking to break through.

With 187 PGA Tour starts, Walker was still without a victory. He was embarking on his seventh season on the circuit and had 19 top-10 finishes, but still could have walked among a tournament gallery relatively unnoticed.

That all changed last year at CordeValle, as Walker erased a three-shot deficit during the final round for his maiden victory. One win led to two, as Walker added the Sony Open to his collection in January, then he captured the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am the following month for good measure.

Before the PGA Tour had even hit the Florida Swing, Walker had banked more than $3.6 million and jumped to the top of the FedEx Cup standings, where he would eventually finish seventh before making his Ryder Cup debut. At age 35, the Texan had finally experienced the type of year that players both young and old often dream of having.

As he gets set to defend his Frys.com title, with the venue shifting this year to Silverado Resort & Spa, Walker admitted that a few things have changed over the past 12 months.

Frys.com Open: Articles, videos and photos

“It’s funny, you get recognized more, especially after the year that we had,” he said Tuesday. “Out and about, and different tee times, different categories and Thursday and Friday getting to play with different guys.”

After spending so many years on a fruitless search for hardware, Walker now finds himself in unfamiliar territory as a defending champion.

“Just excited to be back. Never been in a position on the PGA Tour to defend,” Walker said. “I don’t think I’ve been in position to defend anywhere. Seems like on the Web.com (Tour) if you played well and you won, you got to move up and that type of thing, so this is a first for me.”

While Walker’s success last season was evident from his multiple trips to the winner’s circle, his stats also indicated a significant shift in his level of play. His greens in regulation rank went from 61st in 2013 to 28th in 2013-14, while he moved from 45th to 11th in strokes gained putting and from 27th to third in birdie average.

Walker has preferred to play frequently throughout his PGA Tour career, having made at least 24 starts every season since 2008, and he explained that a commitment to routine following his Frys.com victory allowed him to build upon the win – rather than feel satisfied with it.

“Nothing has really changed for me as far as going about doing things that I do, golf, how I do it, how I practice,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got a good formula going, but I’m always continuing to try to get better and looking at the stats for last year, where I can improve, what we can do, as far as that goes. Still always trying to keep the pedal down and look down the road.”

Walker may be focused on what lies ahead, but make no mistake: his golf over the past year has elevated him to a new echelon. Last year he was No. 63 in the OWGR, but this week he sits at No. 19, with only one player in the field – Matt Kuchar – ahead of him in the latest rankings.

And while the trip to Gleneagles for the Ryder Cup may have ended in disappointment, Walker shined in his debut performance, compiling a 1-1-3 individual record and capping his week with a 3-and-2 victory over Lee Westwood in singles.

There are many in the field this week at Silverado who bear similarities to the 2013 version of Jimmy Walker, instilled with the belief that one good round will lead to four, and that one high finish will result in more. Working toward – and waiting for – their chance to shine under the brightest of lights.

But Walker is no longer among their ranks, having successfully graduated from the chase pack. His first full season as one of the players being targeted begins Thursday.

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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.