Tiger Again Scales the Mountain Top

By Associated PressApril 11, 2005, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- All the images paint a picture of Tiger Woods returning to the pinnacle of golf.
A shot that ranks among the most amazing ever at Augusta National. The intense face bursting with raw emotion when the winning putt dropped on the 18th hole. His fist punching the air with an uppercut, his roar drowned out by a delirious gallery. The red shirt beneath a green jacket.
Woods won the Masters for the fourth time and returned to No. 1 in the world Monday.
CBS Sports said the overnight television rating was 10.3, up 41 percent from last year and the highest for a final round at the Masters since Woods won in 2001 to become the first player to sweep all four majors.
The victory Sunday at Augusta National put him back on track to go after Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. Woods now has nine majors, tied with Ben Hogan and Gary Player, and he is still only 29.
But there was something different about this victory.
Woods no longer looked invincible with a final-round lead in a major, spitting up three shots on the final nine holes. No one feared him, least of all Chris DiMarco, who outplayed Woods in every aspect of the game except when it mattered - with a putter in his hand.
Having gone nearly three years without a major while retooling his swing, it appears that this might be the start of a new era for Woods. If that's the case, it might be different in one area.
Nothing seems to come easily.
Woods won for the third time this year, and none of the finishes were particularly inspiring.
He had a one-shot lead in the Buick Invitational and went for the par-5 18th green in two over the water. But he missed a 2-iron so badly that it came up 20 yards short, and only stayed dry because it landed so far to the right.
Woods pulled ahead of Phil Mickelson in the Ford Championship at Doral with a dramatic birdie on the 17th hole. But with a chance to put him away on the 18th, Woods missed the green and had to scramble for par.
And he had a two-shot lead over DiMarco until making bogeys on the last two holes.
The old Tiger would not have given his opponents any hope.
The new Tiger keeps everyone guessing to the end.
Ultimately, all that mattered to Woods was slipping into his size 43 Long green jacket for the fourth time, joining Nicklaus (six) and Arnold Palmer (four) as the only players who have won the Masters at least four times.
And despite the shaky finish, the lasting image of Woods is that he always manages to get it done.
'At least I didn't lose it on the last hole,' Woods said. 'I got into a playoff, and then I hit two of the best golf shots I had hit all week.'
One of them was a 3-wood that he crushed down the middle. The other was a towering 8-iron that covered the flag and dropped 15 feet behind it. The birdie putt was good all the way, and Woods began his celebration when the ball was still a foot from the cup.
Woods is beatable, but his record is now 9-0 when a 54-hole lead in the majors.
'I went out and shot 68 around here on Sunday, which is a very good round,' DiMarco said. 'And 12 under is usually good enough to win. I just was playing against Tiger Woods.'
Woods now has won the Masters with three swings - a powerful swing he brought to the PGA Tour in 1996, a refined swing crafted with Butch Harmon that took Woods to a sweep of the majors, and a new swing philosophy taught by Hank Haney that remains a work in progress.
Woods has been criticized by some and scrutinized by most for changing a swing that brought him nine victories in 2000 and left him miles ahead of any challengers. Woods spoke more of validation than vindication Sunday evening.
'Hank and I have put some serious hours into this,' Woods said. 'I read some of the articles over the past year of him getting ripped, I'm getting ripped for all the changes I'm making. And to play as beautifully as I did this entire week is pretty cool.'
Woods will not play for three weeks, returning to the Wachovia Championship the first week in May. The next major test comes June 16-19 in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, where Woods tied for third in 1999. A month later comes the British Open at St. Andrews, where he completed the career Grand Slam in 2000 with an eight-shot victory.
The PGA Championship in August is at Baltusrol, and the PGA of America on Monday promoted its major by noting that Woods has never played in New Jersey, and tickets are going fast.
He brings an aura like no other player, and his victory at the Masters can only help the PGA Tour as it prepares to negotiate a new four-year television contract later this year.
But where Woods goes from here remains to be seen.
He was asked that if three victories this year, and his first major since 2002, meant he had arrived again.
'I don't think you're ever there,' Woods. 'You never arrived. If you do, you might as well quit, because you're already there; can't get any better. I'll never be there.'
The last time Woods led a major with a retooled swing was in 1999, when he nearly blew a five-shot lead in the final round at the PGA Championship before making a clutch par on the 17th and holding off Sergio Garcia.
Turns out that was the start of seven major victories in 11 chances, the most dominant stretch ever.
Maybe that's what awaits Woods. And that's what it will take bring back that aura of invincibility, which was mysteriously missing at the Masters.
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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.