Brendan Steele: On realizing the truth in rote prescriptions

It was another great day at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, short of glorious only because of the high, gauzy clouds that took the luster from the sunshine.

As I was gathering myself in the Media Center to map out my day, Brendan Steele was well into his second round, a little too late to go chase him down. Even though he’s won twice begining the 7th year of his career — 2011 Valero Texas Open in San Antonio and just this season, the 2017 Safeway Open at Silverado Country Club in Napa, California — he’s never really engendered that, “Oh, man! I gotta go see that guy play!” buzz. Maybe that stems from his upbringing in Idyllwild in the California mountains southwest of Palm Springs. They didn’t even have a golf course there.   Continue reading

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WMPO: In the throng with Rickie, Jordan and Jon Rahm

I was finally able to get out on the course at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in time to join Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Spanish phenom, Jon Rohm on the par 5 3rd hole, their 12th. I was glad I had an Inside-The-Ropes badge; the gallery was huge. I caught them coming off the tee — well actually, they were well off of the tee standing in the middle of the fairway idly swinging clubs waiting to go for the green in two — it was the gallery that was still funneling through a bottleneck at the tee.

Once I joined the involuntary laggards, I was able to swing up to just inside the rope line and get to the players just as they were hitting their shots. It wasn’t a big surprise that up ahead, the green was surrounded by a huge gallery.   Continue reading

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WMPO: Bubba, Jordan, Phil and Justin Thomas on the mental side of the game

It was a banner day at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Not just because it was a glorious, windless Arizona day in the mid-70s, but because I was able to ask questions of four of the best players in the game.

Bubba Watson came into the media center with one of his pro-am amateurs, Mark Wahlberg. Continue reading

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Jordan Spieth: The lessons in the quad on the 12th

Jordan Spieth had a five-shot lead when he made the turn at the Masters on Sunday. What could go wrong, particularly with such a reliably tenacious and steely competitor? This was not some new kid who hadn’t been there before. This was the defending champion, U.S. Open champion and, until Jason Day’s recent spurt, the number one player in the world.

He had a spectacular front nine, given the magnitude of the moment, with five birdies and a bogey. He said later that the thought went through his head that with a five-shot lead, all he really needed to do was par in: 36 on the back would be good enough and doable.

This seemingly logical thought wasn’t as benign as it would seem.   Continue reading

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Vicky Hurst: Lessons in a Tour pro’s fall and struggle back

Remember Vicky Hurst? She is the attractive LPGA star whose signature was her Ben Hogan-style cap. She was good enough that she made the 2011 Solheim Cup team as a captain’s pick after just three years on Tour. She had her second best money year in 2012 and then the wheels began to come up. She describes it as a time when serious injury and distracting coaching got the best of her.

But now, she’s back on the LPGA after going back down to the Symetra Tour last year and finishing 8th on the year. I stumbled across her on the range at the JTBC Founders Cup at the Desert Ridge Marriott in Phoenix, Arizona. I have a pretty good eye for the powerful economy of a tour-quality swing and Vicky’s was so good, I stood there and watched ball after ball for over thirty minutes.

I caught up with her the next day on her way for an after-lunch practice.  Continue reading

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Lydia Ko: On working on her swing

It’s pretty exciting when the No. 1 Player in the World shows up in the media center for a questioning free-for-all. Even more so when the conversation moves to the work on her swing with David Leadbetter. And almost ecstasy when that leads naturally into the topic of golf mastery: “How do you integrate all of these swing changes so that you can just play naturally?”

Lydia Ko popped into the LPGA’s JTBC Founders Cup and, as she always does, was only too happy to consider these questions and come up with thoughtful answers. My questions begin with my question that I have been speaking with her for three years trying to find out what her “secret sauce” is.  Continue reading

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LPGA Founders Cup looking for volunteers

For those of you in the Phoenix area or who would like to be here in mid-March, I just received this message from the LPGA Founders Cup seeking volunteers:

JTBC FOUNDERS CUP SEEKING VOLUNTEERS FOR 2016 TOURNAMENT

Register now to volunteer at LPGA tournament coming to Phoenix this March

PHOENIX, Ariz. (February 23, 2016) – The JTBC Founders Cup is seeking volunteers for the 2016 JTBC Founders Cup, March 15-20 at Wildfire Golf Club at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa.

There are a variety of areas in which people can volunteer, with committee descriptions and online registration available on the Volunteer page of the Tournament Website found at www.LPGAFoundersCup.com.

All volunteers will receive a tournament golf shirt, visor or baseball hat, complimentary weekly badge for the tournament; a commemorative lapel pin and one free round of golf at Wildfire Golf Club.

“Volunteers are crucial to the overall success of any tournament, especially at the JTBC Founders Cup.  We are lucky to have so many returning volunteers and always look forward to seeing their smiling faces year after year,” said Tournament Director Scott Wood.   “We can’t thank them enough for all of the time and dedication they put into this event. Everything they do behind the scenes helps make this tournament such a success.”  Continue reading

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Rickie Fowler: “Don’t worry”…and an unrelated Phil addendum

For all of his fans who were ardently pulling for him, Rickie Fowler took one on the chin on Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

With the tournament in hand on the 17th tee, he hit a perfect tee shot that landed on the downslope short of the driveable green, kicked up on the green, scooted all the way through the green and into the water hazard behind. He made bogey, Hideki Matsuyama made birdie and they were tied.

It was a terrific display of golf from 18 through the fourth playoff hole where Matsuyama won when Fowler hit it in the water at 17 again, this time short left with a more “prudent” 3-wood. Actually it was a terrific display of golf all day long by both men: stellar driving of the ball, bold approach shots into the green and amazing putts that caused you to hold your breath as they slowly rolled to the hole.  Continue reading

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Phil Mickelson: Making birdie from “unknown”

Phil Mickelson had one of his legendary adventures on the par-5 15th hole in the 3rd round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He was far enough back at the beginning of the day that he started on the 10th tee.

But he was not discouraged because he knew he was playing well, but most important, he knew why he was playing well:

Q. You’ve been hitting the ground running from the beginning of the season. Are you surprised you’re playing this well this early in the season?

PHIL MICKELSON: Am I surprised I’m playing this well? No, I mean, I had a great offseason, put in a lot of work. I knew from the details, the divot pattern, shot dispersion and so forth, that I was playing well. It was one thing to hit the ball in the hole, but in the past my divot would be going one way and the ball would be going the other and I would kind of save it with the hands.

Now the divot is going down my line where I want it to. The ball is exiting and taking off down where the club is swinging. There is no manipulation. I’m just hitting a lot of good shots very easily.  Continue reading

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Kevin Na: A Tour pro’s Tour pro…the hard way

When the PGA Tour media room staff at the Waste Management Phoenix Open asked me if I wanted an exclusive interview with Kevin Na, I jumped at the chance. When he finished an on-camera promotional piece with the PGA Tour — including a promotion for a Tour outlet in Eastern Europe — the staff guy introduced us and off we went.

Hi. Bill Rand. I write a daily golf mastery blog called EyeOnTheTour.com from the perspective of a former Monday qualifier on the Champions Tour.

Awesome.

And so what I do is watch what you guys do and write about it on a daily basis.

Okay.

And I’ve always been a big fan of yours…

Thank you.

Ever since you did what you did, giving up you senior year in high school…   Continue reading

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