Punch Shot: Will less-is-more approach catch on?

By Randall MellOctober 24, 2013, 5:49 pm

Tiger Woods has cut down his schedule for years and Steve Stricker was competitive as ever while 'semi-retired' last season. Now, in light of Phil Mickelson's recent decision to follow suit in an effort to put more focus on the majors, GolfChannel.com writers debate whether the less-is-more attitude will catch on with other players.


If Phil Mickelson is going to play less to focus on the majors, and Tiger Woods decides to play less to avoid those “tired legs” he felt at the Tour Championship, that’s just more prize money left over for everyone else, more opportunities for victories and ranking points.

So if I’m another elite player, I’m tempted to send a thank-you card to Mickelson and Woods.

If Lefty and Tiger both trim their schedules, will other players follow suit? I don’t think so. The game’s best players know their own strengths and weaknesses. They know when they’re playing too much or too little, and they’re basing it on how their own minds and bodies react, not on what they know about Mickelson or Woods. Rory McIlroy acknowledges he played too little at year’s start. That isn’t based on his comparing his schedule to Mickelson or Woods. It’s Rory knowing Rory.

Now, if Mickelson wins two or three majors with a reduced schedule next year, yeah, it probably will make the game’s other top players look to see if there’s something to this less-is-more thinking. Winning tactics do influence players.


They’re not following Phil’s lead – he’s just the latest to join the less-is-more brigade.

After all, this is not a new concept. Jack Nicklaus was among the first to cut back his schedule, opting to spend more time at home and put more emphasis on the majors, and that’s largely been the driving force behind Tiger Woods’ schedule making for years.

In recent years Adam Scott has followed suit, trimming his schedule to put a premium on only the biggest events, and he’s practically been a factor in each since. Ditto for Steve Stricker, whose first year of “semi-retirement” was arguably one of his best as a pro: eight top 10s in 13 starts.

That scaled-back approach worked for these players, yes, but it might not for others, including Mickelson. Since 1993, he has played 20-plus events in all but three seasons. Lefty said he won’t “put as much importance” on the tournaments that are played well before a major, though he did not say which tournaments he would cut. His is a particularly interesting case, because he has long said he prefers to play the week before a major, meaning Houston, Firestone and maybe even Memphis are all still in the mix.

Point is, a playing schedule is a matter of personal preference. These players know their games, and how best to maximize their performance. Whether the less-is-more approach will work for Phil – like it has for many other top-tier talents – remains to be seen. 


Without a doubt, we’re going to see more guys in their 40s go the Steve Stricker route in coming years.

As much as the romantic notion of traveling week-in, week-out to compete for millions of dollars sounds enticing to those of us who are mere mortals with a club in our hands, do this for a quarter-century and even the coolest job in the world will feel old after a while. Throw in the fact that most golfers of this age have families at home and whopping bank accounts, and the motivation to grind away like Vijay Singh naturally wanes with time.

Perhaps players would be more reticent to give it a try if Stricker had fallen flat on his face in semi-retirement, but the argument can be made that more time spent away from the game actually helped him inside the ropes. And really, it’s nothing Tiger Woods hasn’t been doing for years, too. Sometimes less is more. Even though a player would have 10 more chances to win by competing in 30 tournaments rather than 20, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll win more often.

If you’re a player like Ernie Els or Lee Westwood or Jim Furyk or so many others, there’s more motivation at this point in your well-established career to be home resting up and preparing for the big tournaments than to put more miles on the private jet. Phil Mickelson will be the next one to go this route in 2014. Don’t be surprised when others continue the copycat process in the near future.


While Phil Mickelson appears ready to embrace a truncated schedule in 2014 – one from which Steve Stricker yielded unexpected levels of success this year – I don’t anticipate many of the world’s best going down a similar road.

A conservative baseline estimate would be 10 starts for an upper-echelon player: four majors, three of four FedEx Cup Playoff events, two of four WGC events and The Players Championship. Most will play in at least 11 of those tournaments, if not 12 or even all 13. From there, players are likely to add a handful of top-tier events, not to mention tournament starts tied to sponsor relationships. While not every top-ranked player will choose the schedule of Brandt Snedeker or Matt Kuchar, who both made 23 starts on the PGA Tour last season, most will find a way to make at least 16-17 starts per year, as Adam Scott and Justin Rose did in 2013.

Additionally, players like Stricker and Mickelson are in unique positions: the former clearly placing an emphasis on his life off the course, while the latter now has a singular focus around which to shape each year’s schedule: the U.S. Open. Both now have a certain degree of financial flexibility, having made more than $35 million in on-course earnings during their respective careers, and neither appears particularly concerned with his position in the world rankings. That’s their prerogative, but it’s hardly going to become the norm. For the vast majority of players, even the best in the world, a relatively full-time slate of at least 16-20 starts will still remain the most effective way to keep their golf games sharp – and keep up in the rankings at the same time.


Welcome to the era of less is more.

Phil Mickelson said this week he plans to tailor his schedule to peak at the majors. When pressed for exactly what that means, Lefty figured he’d trim about 25 percent from his historical lineup.

Over the last 10 years he’s played an average of 20.7 events, which means he would play five fewer events. End of the world, right?

Consider that’s more than one more event that Tiger Woods has averaged over his last eight seasons (13.75). Consider that’s two more events than prolific part-timer Steve Stricker played in 2013. Quality over quantity has worked out pretty well for those two.

When Mickelson says, “My whole purpose and focus will be ... participating in certain tournaments that will help me play well in those majors.” He means that another missed cut at The Greenbrier Classic – he is 0-for-3 making it to the weekend on the Old White Course – or another pedestrian effort at Bay Hill, where he hasn’t posted a top-10 finish since 2002, does little to prepare him to complete the final leg of the career Grand Slam (U.S. Open) and add to his major legacy.

From fewer starts comes greater focus; it’s a truth that Woods has spent more than a decade proving and a strategy that is likely to become a trend among the top players.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.