Road to the Top Always Goes Through Woods

By Associated PressJuly 25, 2006, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)Golf's landscape can change quickly.
Phil Mickelson had a two-shot lead with three holes to play at the U.S. Open. He looked like a lock to win his third straight major and head to Hoylake for a shot at his own Grand Slam, and a spot in history that was supposed to be the private domain of Tiger Woods.
Four days on the crispy, brown links of Royal Liverpool changed everything.
The cheers Mickelson heard as he finished up the British Open on Sunday were coming from behind the 18th green, where Woods had a one-shot lead and was just getting started. Woods then matched the best round of the day (67) while playing in the final group and won by two shots for his 11th career major.
Woods now has won three of the last seven majors, slightly better than the 3-of-9 mark Mickelson brought to Winged Foot.
Mickelson might never get another chance like the one he had at the U.S. Open, making double bogey on the 18th hole to lose by one shot. Woods winning the next major was almost like slamming shut a door that was halfway open.
The points separating Woods (No. 1) and Mickelson (No. 2) in the world ranking are equal to the points that separate Mickelson and Brett Rumford at No. 126. The actual gap isn't that wide, but considering how they finished off the last two majors, it might seem that way.
Heading to Medinah next month for the PGA Championship, this is how the landscape looks now.
Mickelson had been the best player through six months of the season, but now it's a toss-up.
He won by 13 shots at the BellSouth Classic and followed that with his second victory in the Masters and should have won the U.S. Open.
Woods, however, leads the PGA Tour in victories. Along with his silver claret jug, he won the Buick Invitational in a playoff and the Ford Championship at Doral in a shootout.
Not to be forgotten is Geoff Ogilvy. Along with winning the U.S. Open after Mickelson's collapse, the 29-year-old Australian was the comeback kid at the Accenture Match Play Championship, surviving four matches that went extra holes.
Woods might have the edge right now because his victory at Royal Liverpool put him atop the PGA Tour money list for the first time this year at just over $4.2 million, even though he has played only 10 tournaments.
The money title is significant because it's something Mickelson has never won. He also has never been voted player of the year.
Barring a victory at Medinah next month, Mickelson will not be allowed to take time off over the last month of the season -- including the Tour Championship -- if he wants to win those awards.
'We have one more major coming up, and I really want to be prepared for that,' Mickelson said.
Still, the message that came out of Hoylake was that all roads ultimately have to go through Woods.
Just as glaring as the absence of Mickelson among the leaders at the British Open was the presence of Sergio Garcia, playing in the final group with Woods while dressed in an outfit that some would say was the color of a lemon.
Garcia was outclassed from the start. With shorter irons in his hand, he couldn't get the ball closer to the hole than Woods. And his putting is so poor, some wonder whether he is battling the yips at age 26. He looked closer to Woods at age 19 when he chased after him at Medinah in the '99 PGA Championship than he did on Sunday.
Ernie Els had his chances, too.
He held his own playing with Woods in the final group Saturday, when both shot 71. But it was an ideal situation in the final round when Els played in the second-to-last group, and put pressure on Woods with no mistakes and a two-putt birdie on No. 5 to tie for the lead.
But the Big Easy blinked, and he had to settle for his best finish in a major in two years.
Els has three majors and is among the few players in their prime to have been No. 1 in the world. But one can only wonder how many more majors he would have won without Woods in the picture.
'Competing against a guy like Tiger for our generation of players is really tough,' Els said. 'He has really found a way to win majors. For me, I can do a couple of things better under pressure, so I'm going to be working on that for the next time I play a major.'
Vijay Singh sustained his battle with Woods longer than anyone. He rose to No. 1 in the world in 2004 with nine victories, beating Woods head-to-head and staying at the top for six months. That's longer than anyone else has been No. 1 since Woods turned pro.
But he missed the cut at Royal Liverpool, his first weekend off at a major in four years.
It was a strong leaderboard going into the last day at the British Open -- Woods by one over Garcia, Els and DiMarco, all of whom Woods has beaten while paired together in the final group of a major.
DiMarco must wonder what it takes to win a major. He shot 68 in the final round, didn't make a bogey over the final 17 holes, and still was reduced to a footnote after finishing two shots behind.
'He's a hard guy to catch,' DiMarco said. 'He's got an uncanny ability, when somebody gets close to him, to turn it up to another level.'
And until that changes, Woods will be in the driver's seat.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''