Tag:MMSC
Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:29 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 12:14 pm
 

MMSC: Rory, Tiger, and the art of closing

Rory McIlroy reacts after his final putt drops at the Honda Classic. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

Golf is probably the hardest sport in the world to play, and play well, so it makes total sense that everyone is a critic, and that’s what we’re going to do here at Monday Morning Swing Coach. Cover just the PGA Tour? Nope. We're going to try to expand this Monday feature to anything and everything that happened the past weekend. 

Rory and Tiger most impressive at closing

A lot of things will be made about what happened on Sunday at the Honda Classic. Tiger Woods’ charge up the leaderboard. Rory McIlroy winning and becoming No. 1 in the world. 

But the thing that impressed me the most? How both were able to finish their rounds. 

So many times pro golfers will play great until the end, see what they are doing, and lose focus. You saw that with Brian Harman on Friday, when a holed bunker shot would have landed him in the 59 club, but instead of making the shot, he hit it three feet and then missed the putt for a 60. Sure, 61 is great, but that focus was lost for a second and a shot was dropped that would have allowed him his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour. 

Tiger has been struggling mightily in recent events he was in contention in with actually closing the round. The tournament that comes to mind first was the Masters a year ago, when Tiger made a run early in his round only to struggle on the holes he usually dominates. 

Not this Sunday. Tiger put together a fantastic round in swirling winds, and finished it with a birdie-eagle finish. 

McIlroy was no different. His scrambling and bunker play on Sunday reminded me of Retief Goosen back in 2001 at Southern Hills, but Rory kept missing his golf shots in the right spots, and kept hitting unbelievable chip shots in short range of the cup to give him chances at par, which he converted. 

The comparisons of Tiger and Rory are plentiful after Sunday, but the thing that Woods used to do that separated himself from the pack was play well with a lead, and Rory did just that on Sunday, closing his round out with solid pars when he knew that was all he needed. A less steady McIlroy might have let the Tiger charge ruin him. The new Rory didn’t, and his ability to make the important putts down the stretch allowed him to breeze up the 18th hole with a two-shot lead and an easy run at par and the win. 

A confidence boost week

There are so many names that will be looking back at the Honda Classic with positive thoughts. 

The easy ones are Rory and Tiger, both using this week as a springboard for the rest of the season, but look down the leaderboard and see all the big names that played well at the Champions Course. 

Tom Gillis almost quit golf at one point, but played steady all week, even in the final round, and made a clutch birdie on the last hole to tie for second with Tiger and earn some serious dough he can put towards his 2013 card. 

Lee Westwood was paired with Woods early in the week, and while Tiger always outshines the rest of the field, we shouldn’t forget that Lee fired a final round 63 before Tiger finished to jump 23 spots for a fourth place finish alone. 

And then comes Rickie Fowler. I had a discussion early in the week about the state of Fowler’s game and we decided the kid was regressing and maybe needed a swing change to get to more consistent. 

Maybe I was completely wrong. Rickie shot 66 on Sunday for his first top-10 finish of the season and showed he isn’t completely lost out there. 

The Nationwide Tour’s U.S. Open?

This past weekend, the Nationwide Tour headed to Panama City for an event at the Panama Golf Club, and I’m just going to toss this out there; you might want to avoid that golf course if you want to keep your pride in tact. 

The winning score was 4-under, courtesy of Edward Loar, but he shot a final round 74 to win the event and only six players all week finished in red figures. 

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Posted on: February 27, 2012 7:29 am
Edited on: February 27, 2012 6:10 pm
 

MMSC: Mahan, McIlroy and The Question Mark

Hunter Mahan showcases his newest hardware. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

Golf is probably the hardest sport in the world to play, and play well, so it makes total sense that everyone is a critic, and that’s what we’re going to do here at Monday Morning Swing Coach. Cover just the PGA Tour? Nope. We're going to try to expand this Monday feature to anything and everything that happened the past weekend. 

A Mahan masterpiece or a McIlroy mulligan? 

The crazy thing about match play format is the fact that a lot of the times you don’t get the best “TV matchup” when you get down to the final four players. We hardly ever get the two best players in the world going against each other, and a lot of the times one of the people in the finals isn’t exactly warranting views, but it was a nice surprise when Rory McIlroy and Hunter Mahan ended up being the final two men standing in Marana. 

Mahan is a talented American who has always been a golfer to watch, and has had marginal success on the PGA Tour. McIlroy, of course, is Tiger 2.0, a kid with curly hair, a desirable golf swing and the swagger to become the best at a very young age. 

And while we didn’t really pick this as one of our hopeful matches to begin the week, it was definitely satisfying. Mahan had played some of the best golf heading into the finals and McIlroy was searching for something that would have made all the headlines if it happened. But did it turn out to be Mahan’s victory of Rory’s defeat? 

McIlroy admitted after his finals loss that grinding out a win against Lee Westwood in the semifinals might have taken more out of him than he initially thought possible, but I’m not so much into buying that as I am to think that he simply got beat by a guy playing better golf.

Mahan seemed to keep hitting the shot he needed at the right time, rolled in some clutch putts and would have beat McIlroy even worse if not for a nasty lip-out on the 16th green. Rory is the type of player that could go on Tiger-like runs with his game, but it sure doesn’t seem like he’s there quite yet.

For now, we can all enjoy the fact that an American with an equally impressive golf swing and flat-brimmed custom caps took down an incredible field and did it on his own terms. 

McIlroy will have his chance to win this tournament when he’s ready. For now, Mahan notched his third PGA Tour win in as many years, and second World Golf Championships trophy. 

The Question Mark rookie

There is something incredibly brilliant about a good nickname in sports, and a rookie that outlasted a tour vet in an eight-hole playoff at the Mayakoba Classic might have the best nickname of them all.

John Huh is a big-time player, and in his fifth career PGA Tour event, won after Robert Allenby did just about everything in his power to give Johnny Question Mark the event before a playoff even ensued. 

Allenby had a two-shot lead standing on the 18th tee, but knowing that it’s 2012 and no lead is safe, hit driver into the trees and carded a double-bogey.

Ten holes later, Huh was the champion and Allenby was left wondering how the heck he didn’t get his first PGA Tour win since 2001. 

Note to just about everyone with a big lead on the final hole; it’s okay to hit an iron off the tee. Nobody is going to make fun of the way you win if you win. Anything goes if it means you leave with the trophy. 

One Last Tiger Note

I got a lot of messages from people that mentioned something about Tiger Woods not really looking into his matches this week at the Accenture. A few people mentioned that it almost seemed like he was just working on some stuff and getting ready for this week’s Honda Classic. 

But in our Tiger Vernacular Handbook, wouldn’t that go against everything he has ever said when he talks about playing? He stays true to certain phrases, and “coming here to win” is one of his favorites. If he has some things to work on, that’s fine, but I don’t think Tiger is heading to a big event like the Accenture in hopes of practicing and “finding” something for the next week’s event.


That isn’t Tiger, and I’d be surprised if he believed that is the way to go about things. 

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Shane Bacon and Eye On Golf on Twitter. 

Posted on: February 20, 2012 11:24 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 11:38 am
 

MMSC: Examining the weekend in golf

Phil Mickelson celebrates his birdie on the 18th hole this past weekend with Keegan Bradley. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon 

Golf is probably the hardest sport in the world to play, and play well, so it makes total sense that everyone is a critic, and that’s what we’re going to do here at Monday Morning Swing Coach. Cover just the PGA Tour? Nope. We're going to try to expand this Monday feature to anything and everything that happened the past weekend. 

Who needed Sunday’s playoff win the most?

Sunday at Riviera, the 2012 PGA Tour season continued its incredible start by pitting three big names in a playoff most thought wouldn’t happen after second shots from the final group found the 72nd green. 

Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley brought major-like intensity when they both drained improbable putts to force a playoff against already-clubhoused Bill Haas, the eventual winner when he cashed a similar crazy birdie putt on the second playoff hole. 

So we know Haas won, Mickelson and Bradley lost, but looking back, who needed the win more? 

Why not start with the champion. Haas is one of those quiet players you just know is good. No matter if at times he gets down on his own game, we’ve seen him pull off shots in his last two wins that could make a career, and any son of a PGA Tour star always has that monkey on his back to beat the legacy of his dad. 

Haas needed the win because he keeps winning. This is his third consecutive  year with a PGA Tour title, and he did it quietly against the hottest golfer to date (yes, that would be Mickelson, who ran away with Pebble and looked like he’d go back-to-back if not for some shaky putting to end his Sunday round) and a young guy who just doesn’t seem like he will be a flash in the pan. 

I think Haas needed to win that just to show people that he is damn good. Like, "One of the Best Players on Tour" good. He can and most likely will win a major. He could win three times a season and you wouldn’t be shocked. He showed Sunday that no matter the competition, if he sticks to his game, things turn out well.

Now we turn our focus to Phil. It was a strange week for Mickelson. He started out hot. Needed some eagle magic to keep his charge at back-to-back wins going, and decided at the most critical time in the tournament to forget the speed of the quick Riviera greens (three putts on No. 14 and 15 and a birdie putt on 17 that was dead center but a roll short). 

Mickelson doesn’t really need any more regular-season PGA Tour wins. If he wins, awesome. Free fuel for the 'copter. More sunglasses for the wife. More ridiculous animal-skinned belts to loop around his belly. I think Phil exits these tournaments either happy or sad, and winning isn’t exactly what does that for him. 

His reaction when Bradley matched his birdie on the final hole of regulation shows why he has so many fans. He was so pumped up when he dropped his 30-footer (honestly, the most excited he has ever been on a golf course? I think the walking fist pump was more exclamatory than his horizontal jump at the Masters), but to go over and high-five Bradley after his answered? That was great stuff. For Phil, the only thing that is going to get his legacy deeper is majors, but it would have been fun to see him go back-to-back. That said, he is still in great shape to be the favorite at Augusta, and should be if he continues this. 

No, the answer to my question is Bradley. Yes, he has two PGA Tour wins and yes, one of those was a major, but I think if he would have pulled out this win on Sunday, against one of his idols and a really talented player in a tough playoff, it would have meant more to him than winning the PGA Championship. Yes, you can re-read that, it’s true. 

Winning the PGA was career-making. He will forever be a major winner. He gutted out some birdies when it counted. But I bet it takes you at least 15 seconds to think about who he beat in that playoff (got it yet? It was Jason Dufner, and that was just six months ago). 

If Bradley’s putt on the first playoff hole had just a little less speed, we’d be sitting here talking about a guy that has three wins in under a year and has been on tour for just 13 months. The kid is for real, and a win there would have been enormous for him going forward not just in 2012, but in the coming years after that. 

Now, about all the other Bradley stuff ...

The dancing and spitting has to stop 

I know that slow play has been a huge issue the last few years on the PGA Tour. During final rounds, Twitter is basically one big complaint about the pace of play by just about every golf writer out there (which, by the way, just makes complaining about it as annoying as the actual snail pace these guys go about it). 

But Bradley’s little diddy he does before shots, and the spitting routine he has adopted, is really getting under people’s skin, and for good reason. 

No, I’m not going to sit here and preach about it being a gentleman’s game. Golf is a little different and still old school and that’s why I think certain companies aimed at making it younger aren’t ever going to work out (the golf money is older), but you can’t take 17 practice swings before a shot and expect to get away with it. 

Bradley is going to get the Sergio treatment soon if he keeps this up, and it has been going on for a WHILE now. He steps up ... stops ... realigns ... goes at the ball ... stops ... resets. It’s agonizing to watch as a golf fan, just a step lower than when you watched Jean Van de Velde start taking his shoes off at the 1999 British Open. 

The preshot routine needs to quiet down, but the spitting needs to go away now. It’s unnecessary and makes him look like an immature kid.

Yani, Yani, Yani

I’m going to drop in Tweets of the Week here at MMSC when I see fit, and I think this one from LPGA’s Jane Park says it all ...

Tseng is a machine, and how do you know she’s a machine? Because she has reevaluated how she approaches the media after a year SHE WON 12 TOURNAMENTS WORLDWIDE! If I ever had 20 percent of that season I’d probably wear the same underwear to every tournament and she has figured out some ways to improve? Incredible.

Her win this week against a talented field shows that, and we should expect much of the same for the rest of 2012. Don’t be shocked if she gets to 12 fairly late in the summer and piles on. We have seen women’s golf dominated before by big names. I’m starting to think this could be the one that eclipses all those before. 

And what I did this weekend ... 

I was in New Zealand this weekend caddying for a friend of mine playing in the New Zealand Open, and while she played great considering she’s coming back from a year off the tour because of a thumb surgery, it was our house guest that got me the most nervous. 

Alison Walshe, a friend who played at the same college I attended, stayed with us and the entire week was a social experiment for me. It was the first time I could SEE in a person that they expected to succeed. All week she just looked like she had the thing in the bag, and this is coming from a girl that has never won on the Ladies European Tour or LPGA. 

She played well the first round. Tied for the lead the second, and as we were finishing up our round on the front nine, Walshe was coming down 18 needing a birdie to possibly force a playoff (the eventual winner was in the fairway behind her, needing a birdie to get to 10-under and win outright). 

I write about this because I finally get the nerves you see with tour wives and families when they’re watching their loved one with a putt to win. One of the other caddies actually remarked about my pacing and fidgeting because I was so nervous for my friend, who hit an absolutely incredible chip (think Mickelson’s second shot on the second playoff hole, only if the grass was muddy) to six feet and then rolled in the birdie putt to put herself in a position to get into a playoff.

Sure, Lindsey Wright made a lengthy birdie putt a few minutes later for the victory, but it was exciting and a new experience to see someone you know and care about go through the clutch motions and come out successful. I’m confident now you’ll see Walshe holding a trophy before the year is over. 

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow Shane Bacon and Steve Elling on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com