Imagination the Key to Tigers Open Success

By Associated PressJuly 17, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- The 18th hole at Carnoustie stretches 499 yards, a straight shot that must clear the Barry Burn off the tee and on the approach to the green. On some days at the British Open, it can be reached with a big drive and a short iron.
Not this day.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods practices Tuesday with Hank Haney watching. (Getty Images)
That's why Tiger Woods was aiming sideways.
Fearing he might not clear the burn into the 30 mph gusts, Woods hit a 2-iron about waist-high toward the opposite fairway and found short grass. Then came another 2-iron whistling under the wind, back toward the 18th fairway. That left him one more 2-iron to the green, but this one drifted just enough to the right to catch a bunker.
It was only a practice round, but it was an example of how players must use their imagination to figure out how to get to the green, no matter how unconventional it might be.
And it explains why Woods considers the British Open his favorite major championship.
'I love playing over here, because it allows you to be creative,' Woods said. 'Augusta used to be that way. The U.S. Open is obviously not. The PGA is kind of similar to a U.S. Open setup. Over here, you can create shots. You get to use the ground as an ally.'
The ground was his best friend a year ago at Royal Liverpool.
After a few rounds on the dry fairways, Woods realized he was better off leaving his driver in the bag. He hit it only once over four rounds, opting for irons short of the bunkers and long to mid-irons into the greens. The strategy worked to perfection, and Woods captured the claret jug for the second straight year.
He arrived at Carnoustie with a chance to win three in a row, a feat accomplished by only four other players at a championship that dates to 1860. The last was Peter Thomson in 1954-56.
Thomson, a savvy Australian, is now a member of the Royal & Ancient and expects to see Woods posing with the claret jug Sunday.
'He has a chance to win eight in a row,' said Thomson, who won five times and was runner-up three other times. 'If I could do it, surely he could.'
Woods seemingly has owned other tournaments since turning pro. He won at Bay Hill four straight years, and he has won five times at Firestone and Torrey Pines. He won three straight years at Muirfield Village, and those four green jackets came from Augusta National.
Those courses were predominantly about power.
The links courses used at the British Open require brains, even at a 7,421-yard course like Carnoustie.
This is where Woods first experienced links golf, as a 19-year-old amateur at the Scottish Open. He opened with a 69 in the first round, and it was all uphill from there. Woods finished at 9-over 293 and tied for 48th.
'I absolutely loved it,' Woods said. 'It was the first time I could actually use the ground. I grew up on kikuyu grass golf courses (in California), and you never would bump-and-run a golf ball there. I thought it was neat to putt from 40 to 50 yards off the green, hit 5-iron from 135 yards and run the ball. That to me was fun.'
But that didn't make him an expert.
Thomson first noticed Woods a year later, playing the British Open as an amateur at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and felt he looked lost. Woods shot 66 the next round to make the cut and wound up in a tie for 22nd, his last event as an amateur.
Mark O'Meara played practice rounds with Woods on links courses in Britain and Ireland and watched the maturation process.
'When Tiger came out, he played one kind of shot,' O'Meara said. 'He would admit that when he played here in '99, he wasn't as capable as playing low shots as he is today. He's much better at playing low shots now. Links golf brought that out in him.'
But the imagination was there all along.
Woods recalled his preteen years in golf, when it was challenging to find different ways to get the ball to the green.
'That's one thing my instructors tried to get me to do, just hit a normal shot,' Woods said. 'I like to maneuver it a little bit. I like to do something to with it. That was always an enjoyable part of the game of golf. Coming over here enhanced it.'
Phil Mickelson understands what he means.
His father built a green in their backyard in San Diego, and Lefty spent hours chipping.
'I couldn't drive. I couldn't go to the golf course,' he said. 'I'd hit the same shot over and over, and it got boring. So I would move around the backyard, hitting lob shots and low spinners and trying to create shots just in a small space. It kind of carries over to the way I like to play when I get in a tournament.'
But it hasn't carried over into the results.
He has only one top 10 in the British Open, missing the playoff by one shot at Royal Troon three years ago. Mickelson has every shot in the bag, but his short game usually helps him save par.
'It's getting better,' he said. 'The biggest thing for me was off the tee. I really struggled in the past off the tee. Now, I've been working on these low drivers that I've been able to keep in play and not have the wind blow it way off line. That's going to be a key. If I don't hit the fairway, I have to keep it close enough to where it doesn't get in too much trouble.'
Woods has won twice at St. Andrews, where he could power his tee shots beyond the bunkers, and once at Royal Liverpool, where the strategy was to keep it short of the bunkers.
Carnoustie offers a mixture of those choices, its fairways littered with so many bunkers that keeping short of the sand often means bringing another hazard into play.
'On a lot of holes, there's always going to be a bunker you have to avoid,' Jim Furyk said. 'You're going to have to pick your poison. Do you want to play more conservative or more aggressive? Take it over the short ones or stay wide of the long ones?'
This is what Woods and the rest of the field will have to sort out when the British Open starts Thursday. Most of that depends on the wind, which can change direction and strength without notice.
Woods was home in Florida last week, which never will be mistaken for the eastern coast of Scotland. He said he was working mainly on moving the ball in both directions with various trajectories.
It might have looked strange to some of his neighbors in Isleworth. It might be just right at Carnoustie.
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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

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    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

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    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.