Putter Sabotaging Tigers Success

By Associated PressJuly 4, 2005, 4:00 pm
Turns out everybody looking for the Kryptonite in Tiger Woods' bag the last few years was probably focused on the wrong club. It wasn't the longest stick in there sapping the strength of the world's best player, but likely the shortest one.
 
The putter sabotaged Woods again Sunday afternoon, and with it, his chances of stealing the Western Open from Jim Furyk. Losing a tournament that he's won three times already may not have crushed Woods' ego, but it can't have boosted his confidence with two weeks left before he tees it up at St. Andrews in the season's third major. Especially not after a three-putt on No. 17 at Pinehurst two weeks ago doomed him to a second-place finish behind Michael Campbell at the U.S. Open.
 
Tiger Woods
A 3-putt on the 13th hole Sunday put a halt to Tiger's final round charge.
After he shot a 66 at Cog Hill to finish two strokes behind Furyk, someone asked Woods what part of his game he'd improve immediately if someone handed him a magic wand. He didn't hesitate.
 
'Everything,' he said. 'Everything is key at the British Open. You have to drive it well and position your irons well.'
 
More telling, though, was the 90 minutes Woods spent on the practice green Thursday evening after taking 29 putts en route to an opening-round 73 that left him dangling perilously close to the cut line.
 
Talk about paying immediate dividends: Woods vaulted back into the tournament Friday and Saturday, with nary a three-putt in either round. He began the final day five shots behind Furyk, but a birdie-birdie-eagle binge on Nos. 9-11 pushed him to 13-under and into the unlikely co-leader's spot for all of 10 minutes.
 
Then, Furyk rolled in a second birdie of his own at the 11th, plowed in a third straight at No. 12, right about the same time that Woods three-putted the 13th - and the tournament was effectively over.
 
'This year,' Woods said afterward, 'either I'm putting great or I'm struggling. Nothing in between. Either I'm rolling them in from everywhere or I'm three-putting.'
 
That's hardly news, but neither is it the exaggeration it might sound like. Woods has wrestled with his driver since he exploded on Southern California's loaded junior amateur circuit, and for all his awesome power, the plain fact is that he's never been precise. For all the fuss that's been raised about his wildness off the tee, the most telling numbers have always been those he's rolled up on the greens.
 
Last year, for example, Woods ranked ninth on the PGA Tour in distance, averaging 302 yards, but 182nd in accuracy, finding the fairway just 56 percent of the time. He offset much of that wildness by finishing second in putting average, and really limited the damage by taking just 23 three-putts all season.
 
Coming into the Western, though, Woods already had 20 three-putts this season. He chalked up No. 21 on Thursday, but after the lengthy practice session, appeared to have put the problem behind him. Then came Sunday. With Furyk playing in the twosome behind him and applying pressure most of the way around, Woods three-putted Nos. 6 and 13 for bogeys. That saddled him with 23 this season - as many as he had all last year.
 
To top it off, Woods made a third bogey by leaving a sand shot in the bunker at No. 14. That many mistakes in the final round made Woods seem more like a flinching Tiger than a crouching one. Either way, it caught Furyk off-guard.
 
'I would say it surprised me,' he said, 'because he's such a good player. That's one negative of being the best. Everyone expects you to be perfect. If he makes a mistake, it sticks out more than anyone else. People pay notice to it. People will mention it to him. He has to relive those moments a little more critically than everyone else, because the spotlight is on him.'
 
That was apparent when someone asked Woods about the number of three-putts this season versus last. He didn't even wait to hear the entire question.
 
'I knew that,' Woods said.
 
'It's speed,' he continued. 'You're not going to misread a putt by 8 feet. If anything, you're going to have poor speed. Poor speed always leads to three putts, not misreads.'
 
Conventional wisdom is that pro golfers are so close in the skills necessary to play the game that each week comes down to a putting contest. By spending more hours at the gym, visiting their sports psychologists religiously and applying every bit of technology that club and ball manufacturers have developed in recent years, the pack chasing Woods have neutralized his distance advantage.
 
None of them are his equal yet in the mental-toughness department. But they know that Woods can't will the ball into the hole every time he needs to - and certainly not the way it seemed he could once. Spraying tee shots all around the grounds has made Woods seem beatable. But the golfers trying to do just that know Woods is never more vulnerable than when he's wrestling with a balky putter.
 
'He's human,' Furyk said a second time. 'Sometimes it doesn't seem that way, but he's human.'
 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.