After Long Break Tiger in Full Flight

By Associated PressJanuary 29, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 Buick InvitationalSAN DIEGO -- The clubs finally came out of the closet after a winter break, and Tiger Woods laid out his plans for the new year. He didn't talk about the Grand Slam. He didn't say anything about his PGA TOUR winning streak.
And he sure didn't mention the FedExCup.
'The only thing that matters to him is getting better,' swing coach Hank Haney said.
Haney said this a week ago Tuesday, waiting in darkness behind the first tee on the South Course with a dozen or so fans for the world's No. 1 player to show up at Torrey Pines for his first practice round of the year.
Five days later, with the grandstands full and the fairways two-deep with fans, Woods captured the Buick Invitational for his seventh straight PGA TOUR victory, the second-longest streak on the PGA TOUR behind Byron Nelson.
Looks like he's getting better.
'What we're witnessing is something special,' said Mark O'Meara, who played two groups behind Woods on Sunday, although he finished his final round on the ninth green. 'We've been watching history being made these past 10 years.'
The immediate history is Nelson's streak of 11 straight victories in 1945, thought to be as untouchable as Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak or UCLA's basketball team winning 88 straight games under John Wooden.
What seemed so improbable now looks possible, depending on where Woods plays next when he returns from the Middle East.
Woods flew across 11 times zones Sunday night to get to the Dubai Desert Classic, where he is defending champion. And while he will have a slightly shorter trip home to Florida on his Gulfstream V, he said it was tougher on his body coming back.
'We'll see how it goes,' he said, meaning he will either play Feb. 15 at Riviera in the Nissan Open or the following week at the Accenture Match Play Championship at a new venue in Tucson, Ariz.
Woods made his PGA TOUR debut at Riviera at age 16 in 1992 and missed the cut with rounds of 72-75. It is the only tournament he has played at least four times without winning, and it must gnaw at him that it is a hometown event. He has had only one serious chance of winning, closing with a 70 in 1999 and finishing two shots behind Ernie Els.
During his last great streak in 1999-00, he won nine times in 15 starts on the PGA TOUR and only once finished out of the top five during that stretch -- a tie for 18th at Riviera. His last two top 10s, he got there with rounds of 65 and 64 on the last day. A year ago, he narrowly made the cut and then withdrew when he got sick.
Assume he skips Riviera.
The Match Play is always a crapshoot, although Woods won twice when it was at La Costa. His next two starts likely would be Bay Hill, where he has won four times; and Doral, where he is the two-time defending champion. That would take him to Augusta National with a chance to reach 11 in a row.
Suddenly, 'untouchable' becomes a remote possibility.
And while this streak will always be messy because he failed to win twice in Asia and once in Europe -- tournaments that do not count in the PGA TOUR record books -- Woods is impressed by one aspect. Since missing the cut at the U.S. Open for the first time in a major, he has not finished worse than second in stroke play anywhere in the world.
'That's pretty good, I think,' Woods said.
So is he better than he was a year ago?
Better than eight PGA TOUR victories in one season, and two majors that ran his total to 12?
Woods softly nodded as he leaned back in his chair to chat with a few reporters while waiting to do a television interview. He doesn't measure improvement by numbers alone. He uses statistics as a gauge, not a gospel.
And he doesn't look only at his golf.
Woods hit nine fairways on the meaty South during the second round and shot even-par 72. He hit only nine fairways in the third and fourth rounds combined -- and found 16 bunkers on the weekend -- but shot 9 under par to surge past a trio of PGA TOUR rookies and beat Charles Howell III by two shots.
'The stats may not show I hit the fairways, but my misses were so much better,' he said. 'I could play these misses and I could easily fix them, which I did. They were not misses off the planet, they were just off the fairway or in the rough or bouncing in the bunker. That's how I know I've really improved over this offseason and toward the end of last year.
He also said he has a better understanding of how to manage his game, the product of maturity.
'And off the course,' he added, 'is 180 degrees.'
He walked off the 18th green and gave his mother a hug. Also waiting for him was his wife, Elin, who is expecting their first child in July, along with her father and a couple of her brothers and sisters. All of them were in Colorado last month, skiing and spending time during the holidays, when Woods broke the news about becoming a father.
Woods rarely makes any comparisons these days without taking inventory of his emotions.
He spoke before the tournament about the difference between dreading 2006 because his father was dying of cancer, and being excited about 2007 because he was going to become a father for the first time. Woods spent the previous offseason not skiing on the slopes in Colorado but sleeping on the floor at his father's home in Cypress, spending as much time him as he could.
'Last year, I would rather spend time at home with Dad than practice,' he said. 'I've been able to practice harder this year.'
O'Meara waited around the final three hours to catch a ride with him to Dubai. He has known him better than any player since Woods turned pro, and notices a peace about the world's No. 1 player.
Coupled with a game that is getting better, it's a frightening combination.
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  • Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

    By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

    In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

    Made Cut

    The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

    Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

    “I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

    Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

    Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

    This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

    Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

    Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

    The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

    Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

    Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

    The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

    First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

    “You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

    A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

    “The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

    For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

    Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

    “I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

    Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

    “Oh, yeah,” he told “Way by.”

    Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

    Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

    Missed Cut

    Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

    Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

    “That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

    Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

    While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

    Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

    Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

    An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.

    Original story:

    Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

    President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

    Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

    Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

    By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

    HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

    Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

    ''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

    Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

    Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

    Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

    ''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

    Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

    Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

    ''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

    Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

    By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

    Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

    Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

    What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

    Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

    Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

    Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

    Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.