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January 20 2013

8:29 PM

Albers' observations from PGA West


After a pair of weekend 66s, Phil Mickelson is building confidence. (Dunn/Getty Images)

By Fred Albers, PGA TOUR.COM Correspondent

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The par-5 closing hole always seems to provide drama and it certainly did on Sunday. With a chance to win the tournament, both Charles Howell III and Brian Gay missed eagle opportunities and then could not make their birdie putts. Scott Stallings yanked a 6-iron into the water to make bogey and miss the playoff. The 18th is a wonderful “risk-reward” hole that can expose a player’s nerve.

Warm up: Scott Stallings has an unusual warm-up routine on the driving range. He never hits the same club twice in a row. Most players will start with the wedge, work their way up to the driver and then finish the warm-up with a few more wedges. Stallings works through his bag as if he’s playing an actual round of golf, hitting at specific targets with specific trajectories. Ben Hogan use to work his way through the bag, hitting clubs in the same order he would during the upcoming round.

Hockey: David Lingmerth showed his Swedish heritage with a little hockey. Before the playoff began, Lingmerth turned an iron upside down and used it like a hockey stick, flipping left-handed wrist shots at his caddie with remarkable accuracy.

Short game: Harvey Penick, the great teacher from Austin, warned students to never believe an opponent with a good short game was lucky to win. There is never anything lucky about a good short game. Penick might have been talking about Brian Gay. Gay was 176th on TOUR in driving distance last season but he was also 6th in strokes gained-putting, second in scrambling and fifth in sand saves. He used that short game to make nine birdies in the first 13 holes to take the lead.

Streaky: Scott Stallings played 60 holes without making a bogey and his first hiccup came on a 23-inch putt. Stallings hit a 188-yard 8-iron into the seventh green and missed his 16-foot birdie putt. He then missed the par putt from inside of two feet for his first bogey of the week. Lee Trevino is the last PGA TOUR player to go bogey-free for an entire tournament and win. The Merry Mex was mistake-free in 1974.

Grip: David Lingmerth has a strong grip and usually flights the ball low with a right-to-left ball flight. All that worked against him in the playoff. A seemingly perfect drive, actually resulted in a sidehill-uphill lie which promotes a hook. The combination of a strong grip and uphill lie led to a big hook and his ball splashed into the water left of 18, essentially ending his chances to win. 

All-American: Americans simply dominated at Humana. Of the top 22 players, 21 of them were Americans. David Lingmerth was the only non-American to finish inside the Top 20. Granted, there was a limited presence to begin with as only 39 foreign-born players entered the tournament. That said, Americans still dominated this week.

Contrast: The PGA TOUR is filled with different swings and there were two great examples on Sunday. Brian Gay has very little wrist cock and does not generate much clubhead speed, resulting in limited distance. Scott Stallings sets the club and holds that angle through impact creating lots of lag and consequently clubhead speed. Gay’s average ball speed in 2012 was 156.79. Stallings was 179.63.

Most improved: Phil Mickelson must be full of confidence headed to his hometown of San Diego for The Farmers Insurance Open. He started slowly with a 72 on Thursday then rallied for rounds of 67-66-66. Mickelson made one bogey on the weekend.

Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.

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