Austin obsessed with making Ryder Cup team

By Associated PressAugust 6, 2008, 4:00 pm
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2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' By any measure, Woody Austin has had a solid and successful career playing golf. Yet he believes his resume has one obvious gap in it.
I played every major. Ive been around the world and played in different events, the 44-year-old journeyman said this week during preparations for Thursdays opening round of the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills. If I get on the Ryder Cup, Ill say Ive played in every big event and on every big stage that you could play as a professional golfer. Thats the one thing Im lacking.
Woody Austin
Woody Austin hopes to play for the Red, White and Blue in the Ryder Cup. (Getty Images)
To make the U.S. squad for next months Ryder Cup at Valhalla, Austin will either have to climb one spot in the rankings ' he is ninth, one rung below Steve Stricker ' or else catch the eye of team captain Paul Azinger, who could make him one of his four elective picks.
There is much to recommend the persistent Austin, who has won three times in his 14 years on the PGA TOUR, stood out on last years winning U.S. Presidents Cup team and ranks 32nd on this years money list.
But he has not won since Memphis a year ago and Azinger has said he will give priority to those with victories this year. Yet Azinger talks as if Austin is precisely what hes looking for: someone who wants to be at Valhalla and who will fit in, prepare, handle the pressure, keep the ball in play and win some points.
Woody Austin is a pretty good player, Azinger said Wednesday. He hasnt won, but I believe hes had chances to win and hes a pretty good match-play player. And hes kind of got that blue-collar mentality.
Whether he makes the team or not may ride on his play this week at Oakland Hills, a course that Austin professes to love even though it is long (he is only average off the tee) and has devilishly hard greens (he calls putting the weak link in his game).
This is the kind of venue that seems to work for me, he said. You have to drive it in the fairway. The bombers, when they hit it into the rough, at least arent sitting with perfect lies.
Austin is one of the most popular players on Tour, most likely because the galleries see themselves in him.
I like to try to show that Im no different than you. Youre doing your job and Im doing mine. Other than that I just play golf. I play golf a little bit better than you, but that doesnt allow me or give me the right to walk around like Im better than you, he said. So I try not to give off that persona. I try to make people feel like they can come to me. And I try to talk them as much as possible.
The most impressive things about Austin are often eclipsed by those hot-pepper shirts he wears or his unfortunate appearances on video.
After winning the Buick Open in 1995, Austin beat out David Duval to earn the PGA TOUR rookie of the year award. He closed with a 67 in last years PGA Championship at Southern Hills to finish second to a guy who wont be around to hold him off this week, Tiger Woods.
But he bristles at the way hes portrayed by some, a sort of comical oaf who is constantly getting into humorous situations. He believes some ridicule him, and that many do not take him seriously as a golfer or a man.
Hes tired of seeing the video from years ago where he repeatedly hits himself in the forehead with a putter shaft after missing a putt.
Then, of course there was last year during a critical point in the Presidents Cup when he attempted to advance a ball on the edge of a water hazard left of the 14th fairway at Royal Montreal, splashed it out with a mighty swing, then lost his balance and fell face first into the lake.
That was shown countless times on television and is a staple on video Web sites. Almost no one remembers that he birdied the final three holes that day to earn a much-needed half-point for the Americans. Or that he captured an impressive 2 1/2 points for the U.S. side in his first international team competition.
He was called Aquaman. It was funny at first ' he even played it up by breaking out a pair of large, purple goggles the next day at the competition. Since then, everywhere he turns someone mentions his least favorite moment of what was otherwise one of the greatest weeks of his life, ending with a victory celebration alongside captain Jack Nicklaus and his teammates.
After getting a taste of that, he longs to make the U.S Ryder Cup team with perhaps his last shot at doing so.
He is almost consumed with playing well enough at Oakland Hills that he wont have to rely on Azinger to arbitrarily pick him.
Its like I told my wife, As much as I dont want to think about it and as much as Im trying not to think about it, I cant STOP thinking about it, he said.
Perhaps making the squad would help highlight his game instead of his bloopers.
I want to be known as me. I want to be known as a golfer, he said. I dont want to be known as a guy who fell in a lake.
Related Links:
  • Video: Adam Barr chats with Woody Austin
  • Video: Woody Austin PGA press conference
  • Full PGA Championship Tee Times
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”