Montgomerie Shoots for Second Best

By Associated PressDecember 5, 2002, 5:00 pm
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Colin Montgomerie's career was at a crossroads in May when he slipped to No. 38 in the world ranking, his lowest position in 10 years. He considers his return to No. 10 an impressive achievement.
'I'm back where I feel I should be,' he said Wednesday.
Where does Montgomerie go from there?
'Forward,' he replied.
How far?
'Number 2,' he said.
Motivation isn't the problem. Even at age 39, three years removed from the last of his record seven consecutive money titles on the European tour, Montgomerie believes he still has the game and the desire to contend every time he plays.
It's that other guy ' Tiger Woods ' keeping him realistic.
Montgomerie wasn't just being gracious to the host of the Target World Challenge, which starts Thursday at Sherwood Country Club and features 16 world-class players.
He was being realistic.
Montgomerie doesn't have the game to catch Woods in the world ranking, and he's not sure anyone else does, either.
Phil Mickelson is currently No. 2, although it is virtually impossible for Lefty to catch Woods in the world ranking next year or the year after.
Right behind is Ernie Els. Montgomerie gives him higher marks, if only because the Big Easy is coming off an eight-stroke victory in South Africa.
'If Tiger still has the commitment to keep going and the desire, it's going to be very difficult for anybody,' the Scot said.
Montgomerie would have no qualms with being No. 2, not like he did seven years ago when he pushed Greg Norman and came close on a few occasions to overtaking him.
'Now if you're the second-best golfer in the world, it's not bad, considering who's No. 1,' Montgomerie said.
He'll get a crack at Woods this week in a $3.8 million tournament that marks the end of the silly season.
Along with being the host, Woods also is the defending champion. A year ago, he closed with a 64 and made up a four-stroke deficit against Vijay Singh on the back nine to win by three strokes.
Woods faces an elite field that features eight of the top 10 in the world ranking ' only Els and Sergio Garcia are missing ' and 14 of the top 20.
'You're competing not only for a lot of money, but you're also playing against some of the best players in the world,' Woods said.
This is Montgomerie's first trip to California since the Match Play Championship at La Costa in late February, when he was beaten in the first round and vowed never to return to America because of what he perceived to be heckling.
He has put that behind him, and now says he is getting more confident and more comfortable in the United States, which can only lead to good things.
'Hopefully, a major might just come around,' he said.
Montgomerie for years was considered the best player not to win a major, although he says Mickelson now deserves that label more than him.
'I always felt it was quite an accolade, that,' he said. 'Because obviously, it's better than being the second-best to not win a major. He's probably overtaken me now. We've both been at it for quite a time.'
Montgomerie is gearing up for four more chances at the majors next year.
His official season ended in controversy when he and Bernhard Langer decided to share the title in the Volvo Masters when it became too dark to continue their playoff. He also counts the Ryder Cup as a victory, which he should, because Montgomerie was the only player unbeaten in five matches.
Since then, he has changed equipment to the Hogan Apex Tour golf ball, and will go to Texas on Monday to start working on the Hogan irons.
He won't start playing golf again until either the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines or the Nissan Open at Riviera, giving him time to prepare for the Match Play Championship.
Montgomerie has never won an official tournament in the United States, which Tony Jacklin recently called one of the great mysteries of golf.
It's really no secret. Unlike other Europeans, such as Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal or Langer, Montgomerie has never played a full PGA Tour schedule.
And he's not about to now.
'The need to play over here full-time now has disappeared because we play these tournaments anyway,' he said, alluding to the BellSouth Classic, The Players Championships and other events considered European tuneups for the majors.
Montgomerie believes the gap between the PGA Tour and PGA European Tour has closed significantly in the last 10 years, and he points to the Ryder Cup as an example.
Europe has won the cup in six of the last nine matches, and stunned a heavily favored U.S. team at The Belfry in September by winning 15 1/2 -12 1/2 .
'There was a time where 30th place in America was a lot stronger than 30th place in Europe,' he said. 'Now, I think that gap has closed, and it's closing all over the world.'
More from the Target World Challenge
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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.