Tiger Continues Pursuit of More Claret Jugs

By Associated PressJuly 14, 2007, 4:00 pm
Tiger Woods never posted any of Harry Vardon's feats on his bedroom door.
 
His career has always been about Jack Nicklaus and that benchmark of 18 professional majors, and Woods has made incredible strides in his first decade on the PGA TOUR. He captured the career Grand Slam at age 24, two years sooner than Nicklaus. He won back-to-back titles at the Masters, and one-third of his majors have come from Augusta National, just like Jack.
 
Tiger Woods and caddie
Tiger Woods embraces his caddie after winning his second straight Open Championship. (WireImage)
But along with a closet full of green jackets, Woods is starting to assemble quite a collection of claret jugs.
 
He heads to Carnoustie for the 136th British Open with a chance to become the first player since Peter Thomson in 1954-56 to win golf's oldest championship three straight times. If he's successful, that would give him as many jugs as jackets.
 
Nicklaus and Vardon share the record for most titles (6) in a single major. For all the fixation over Woods and Augusta National, his presence at the British Open has become equally daunting.
 
Could he reach Vardon's record at the British Open before Nicklaus' mark at the Masters?
 
Is it possible his dominance lies more on the linksland than amid the azaleas?
 
'I will say this: The British Open Championship is my favorite major,' Woods said. 'I just love the history, tradition and atmosphere. You need patience and imagination to play well.'
 
Thomson has watched Woods develop a game suited for links golf and wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he goes on a dominant run.
 
'He'll have a run for 10 or 15 years during which he'll win at least half of them, maybe a few more,' Thomson said from his home in St. Andrews. 'I'm assuming he goes about it in the way he does now. There's never been any golfer, maybe even a tennis player, who applied himself in such a way that Tiger has.'
 
Nick Faldo, who won the Masters and British Open three times each, helped Woods into his first green jacket in 1997 and always figured that would be his domain. Now, he's not so sure.
 
'That's a tough one,' Faldo said. 'You've got to believe that everything about him is set up perfectly for Augusta. But he has this great ability now to adapt, as he did at Hoylake, where strategy golf came in.'
 
Augusta National has added nearly 500 yards since Woods won his first green jacket by a record 12 shots. And with improved technology, from drivers to shafts to golf balls, Woods no longer has exclusive rights to power.
 
The British Open has always been more about brains than brawn, the often overlooked strength of the world's No. 1 player.
 
After twice winning at St. Andrews by either hitting it over or around the bunkers, Woods arrived at Royal Liverpool last year to find the grass brown and crusty, the fairways running faster than some greens. After a few practice rounds, he decided his best option was to leave driver in the bag and navigate his way around the course with his irons.
 
It proved to be a brilliant strategy, and he went on to a two-stroke victory.
 
'The majority of golfers really don't relish playing a course like Carnoustie, Hoylake, Lytham & St. Annes,' Thomson said. 'They're not comfortable playing that kind of golf. Tiger is. I remember seeing him play at Lytham as an amateur, and he didn't look like he belonged there. It was a complete mystery to him. But it didn't take him long to get the hang of it.
 
'He's such a brain, and he has studied it very well. That's what the Open championship courses demand.'
 
Carnoustie is nothing like Hoylake.
 
Located north of St. Andrews beyond the Firth of Tay, it is considered the toughest links course in the world with its narrow fairways, the winding Barry Burn over the closing holes, pot bunkers that put a premium on strategy and wind that dictates everything.
 
Woods tied for seventh at Carnoustie in 1999. He finished at 294, which remains his highest 72-hole score as a professional.
 
There was a reason for that.
 
The fairways were as narrow as a country lane on some holes. The rough allowed for little more than gouging the ball back into play, and sometimes even that required luck. There were 102 rounds in the 80s, and two in the 90s. It was so unpredictable that Rod Pampling was in the lead after the first round, and on his way home after the second.
 
And the conclusion was like a carnival.
 
Jean Van de Velde had a three-shot lead going to the last hole, then took triple bogey with a series of questionable choices and terribly bad fortune. The three-man playoff was won by Paul Lawrie, whose 10-shot comeback on the final day was a major championship record.
 
Lawrie might be the only one with happy thoughts of Carnoustie.
 
'I've kind of suppressed those memories,' said Phil Mickelson, who shot 79-76 and missed the cut by one shot. He didn't miss another cut until last month in the U.S. Open at Oakmont.
 
The British tabloids referred to the links as 'Car-Nasty,' and those weren't shock headlines.
 
'I've never played a golf course as hard as that golf course was set up, and as unfair as it was set up,' Woods said. 'I remember No. 6, stepping off the fairway 9 yards wide in a layup area. That's not a real big layup area when you have to hit a 4-iron.'
 
Even so, it is a major championship in which Woods has thrived.
 
Just like Jack.
 
Nicklaus only won three claret jugs, the fewest of any of the four majors. But perhaps his most astounding record at the British Open was finishing runner-up a record seven times. Nicklaus was so adept on the links that during on 18-year stretch, from 1963 through 1980, he finished first or second 10 times and was never worse than 12th.
 
One shot here, one putt there, and no telling how many Opens he could have won.
 
That might be the direction Woods is going.
 
Along with his three victories, he was one shot out of a playoff at Royal Birkdale in 1998, two shots behind Ben Curtis at Royal St. George's in 2003. And while going for the calendar Grand Slam in 2002, he was two shots out of the lead going into the third round when he caught the worst of the wicked weather at Muirfield and shot 81.
 
He has posted four straight top-10s since then, his longest such streak in any major.
 
'I feel pretty comfortable with both,' Woods said when asked whether he was better off at the Masters or British Open. 'The British Open is the only tournament where it's hit or miss on tee times. If you play well at the Open, sometimes it may not be good enough, because you just may get the wrong side of the draw.
 
'I always enjoyed the British Open. I always have.'
 
No other American dominated the British Open like Tom Watson, a five-time winner and the only champion to win on five courses. Watson won his first major at Carnoustie in 1975, holding off Nicklaus and Johnny Miller, beating Jack Newton in a playoff.
 
'I felt on links courses, I had a pretty good understanding of how hard to hit it and a great ability to get the ball up-and-down,' Watson said. 'And there is the factor of how you negotiate these golf courses. That's what Tiger did last year so well at Royal Liverpool. He just refused to challenge the bunker,'
 
The next challenge is Carnoustie, where Woods will try to move one major closer to Nicklaus' record in the majors -- and Vardon's record in the British Open.
 
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  • Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

    While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

    Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

    By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

    The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

    The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

    Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

    Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

    ''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''


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    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

    Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

    Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

    ''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

    The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

    Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

    ''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

    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.


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    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: