An Approach Beyond Reproach

By Associated PressMarch 18, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 WGC CA ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. -- All anyone is talking about is the putt.
 
But when Tiger Woods called his swing coach the morning after Bay Hill, all he wanted to talk about was the shot that set it up.
 
He was so happy with himself, Hank Haney said.
 
It was a 5-iron from 164 yards, and those two numbers are but one example why this was an exquisite shot.
 
The wind had switched and was coming into him from the right. The flag was tucked behind the lake on a green framed by rocks. Bunkers guard the back of the green, which slopes toward the water.
 
And the most important detail? Woods was on the 18th hole, tied for the lead.
 
He could have hit an 8-iron that distance, even in this scenario. Its surprising to hear Woods club selection over various shots, considering his strength, yet Haney said Woods is all about control, and he prefers to use more club than usual in the wind.
 
The hardest thing to do under pressure is play a delicate shot, Haney said. Under the hardest conditions, youd rather have a shot that you can swing at hard. All he could talk about was the shot on 18. He told me, I knew if I didnt do it right, I could upshoot it into the wind and its in the water. If I flipped it, I hit it in the back bunker. He had to commit to do it correctly. And he pulled it off.
 
That was phenomenal. That made him feel good.
 
Also overlooked was the celebration.
 
Woods showed a new twist when he made the birdie putt to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He backpedaled as it broke sharply to the right and headed for the hole. He wound up for a big fist pump, as usual, only this time he snatched off his cap and spiked it.
 
But what Haney noticed was a hand slap back in the fairway.
 
Woods held a slight cut with his 5-iron against the wind and posed over the shot until it landed safely some 25 feet above the hole. His caddie, Steve Williams, held out his hand and Woods slapped it with force.
 
Ive played with him so much. Ive been around him so much, Haney said. But its always fun to see shots he gets excited about.
 
Its only natural for so much attention to be on the winning putt, especially the way Woods reacted.
 
Woods is all about winning, and it never gets old. Bay Hill was his 64th career victory, and it many respects it was routine. This was not a major. He didnt make any history except for tying Ben Hogan at No. 3 on the tours all-time victory charts.
 
But there is equal satisfaction in shotmaking, and Woods must wonder if he gets his due.
 
Steve Stricker was in Orlando last week on vacation with his family, but he saw the finish and immediately sent a playful text to Woods. You make everything, the message said. Thats an inside joke between them, for Woods sent him the same text last month at the Accenture Match Play Championship when Stricker made a 50-foot birdie putt to win on the 20th hole in the second round.
 
Even so, there is a sentiment that Woods success comes mainly from making so many putts.
 
That might have been the case in 2000, which for years was a standard that even Woods had a tough time matching. He has said many times over the last few months that he is better than 2000, but it remains to be seen whether anyone believes him.
 
Most people see only the results.
 
Woods won nine out of 20 events on the PGA TOUR, including three straight majors. He is perfect in 2008, but it has only been three tournaments, and the Masters is still a month away. Still, Woods says he has never had more control of his game than now, and the frightening thing is he doesnt feel like he has reached his peak.
 
Im hitting shots that I never could hit before, even in 2000, he said. People think, Yeah, you played great. But I made everything. Im actually hitting the ball better now than I did during that stretch.
 
And thats no accident.
 
Woods once told Golf Digest he was envious of Hogan and Canadian legend Moe Norman, saying they were the only two players who truly owned their swing. Woods was asked Sunday how close he was to owning his.
 
Im starting to understand it, said Woods. Those guys were able to fix their game, especially Hogan, because he played a lot of tournaments. He was one of the first guys to ever do a lot of swinging at night in hotel rooms, to try to figure it out for the next day. Thats the whole idea of understanding your game, so you can fix it on the fly.
 
Woods not only is miles ahead of his competition, he is working as hard as anyone.
 
How do you catch up with that?
 
Woods now has won 16 of his last 25 starts on the PGA TOUR, a staggering 64 percent. Even more frightening is to wonder if Woods, 32, has even reached his peak. Jack Nicklaus is next on the PGA TOURs career victory list at 73, with nearly half those wins (35) coming after he turned 32.
 
The more he wins, the more determined he is to improve, Haney said. His desire to improve is at its highest right now.
 
One thing missing from their conversation Monday morning was the winning streak, which began in September. Woods didnt talk about five in a row on the PGA Tour, six in a row worldwide. He only cared about one tournament, one shot, one putt.
 
As he walked toward the parking lot Sunday evening at Bay Hill, Woods was asked how long he would relish this victory.
 
Tonight, he said. Ive got another tournament this week.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC -CA Championship
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

    Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

    "I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

    Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

    "I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

    Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

    "Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

    Getty Images

    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


    Masters victory


    Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

    Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

    Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


    Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


    Green jacket tour

    Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

    Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

    Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


    Man of the people


    Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

    Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

    Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


    Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


    Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


    Growing family

    Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

    Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


    Departure from TaylorMade


    Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


    Squashed beef with Paddy

    Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

    Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


    Victory at Valderrama


    Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm