Tiger has the rest field right where he wants it

By Associated PressApril 9, 2009, 4:00 pm
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AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Every time Tiger Woods opened the Masters with a round of 70, he went on to win the tournament. The first time, a dozen years ago, it was by a mind-blowing 12 strokes. Even though hes five behind after just one day, he has the field exactly where he wants it.
 
On a picture-postcard day when journeymen and even a 50-year-old were part of the crowd going low, low and lower on every side of him, Woods was unusually calm. He closed this round of 2-under with a few uncharacteristic stumbles, but that didnt seem to fluster him, either.
 
He missed an 8-footer at No. 16, then a 4-footer at No. 17 for birdies. Next, he deposited an 8-iron from the fairway 50 feet over the 18th green and wound up making bogey. You half- expected to see steam blowing out of both ears when he exited the scoring hut.
 
If I had hit bad putts, it would be a totally different deal, but I hit good putts. It just means, he said evenly, I need to read them a little better.
 
Why so calm?
 
Over a golf course where he averages almost 73 on Thursday, it was his best opening round in a half-dozen years. So when someone pointed out that Woods had never broken 70 on the first day at Augusta National, he was rehearsed and ready. His smile widened from ear to ear.
 
Yeah, he said, fixing the questioner. I also won it four times.
 
Moments like that are a reminder that Woods had surgery to rebuild his knee, not his confidence.
 
Its a long week and the weather is going to start changing a little bit here and youve just got to keep patient, stay with it, he added. Its not like I havent been in this position before.
 
Woods says something like that almost every year, but this time theres a sense he knows more than hes letting on.
 
The swing he and coach Hank Haney have been fine-tuning for going on five years now looks better than ever, even better than when Woods finished off his latest sublime run by winning the U.S. Open on the 91st hole before going under the knife. The left foot that used to lift off the ground to take some of the stress off his knee now stays firmly rooted to the ground. Hes still susceptible to the occasional blocked drive, but hes also still the best scrambler on the planet.
 
His drive off No. 2 wound up in a gully, sitting on pine straw, 25 yards right of the fairway. With the TV cameras filling up the bushes behind him, Woods settled into his stance, hit a deft little pitch back to the middle of the fairway and left himself an approach shot of close to 230 yards off a downhill lie.
 
Anybody who still had questions about whether the knee was strong enough to brace against for a full shot didnt have to wait long for the answer. Woods threw the iron shot up into the sky and the ball stopped 10 feet past the flag like a Velcro strip was attached. Then he missed the putt. It went like that the whole day.
 
He made a birdie at No. 9 from 3 feet, then two more by tapping in at both of the par-5s on the back. The only birdie putt he made outside a few feet all day came at No. 14, where he sank a 20-footer.
 
Everyone was making birdies everywhere on that back nine, so I knew it could be had with good shots. Basically, he said, I was in a position to shoot 4-under-par and just didnt get it done.
 
There was plenty of the usual hissing, grousing, grimacing and flinging the occasional club back toward his bag with a bit too much English. Little seems to have changed since the last time we saw Woods at a major, except somehow he seems different.
 
Everyone speculated about how marriage, the loss of his father, the birth of his own kids and most recently, the surgery, would affect Woods. His response to every one of those life-changing events has been the same: He simply got better. On the admittedly scant evidence of 18 holes at his first major back, Woods might be better still. He knows it, even if hes reluctant to tip his hand early.
 
Someone asked a second time whether, with all the low scores, Woods was worried about his position. He repeated his stock answers.
 
Weve got a long way to go. The conditions are going to change, Youve just got to stay patient.
 
A moment later, another questioner asked how the knee held up.
 
Great, he replied. Thank you.
 
And the moment after that, he turned on that knee and started walking toward the clubhouse in the distance, the polite grin creasing his lips growing wider with every step.
 

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  • 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:

    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.”


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    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 Web.com 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.


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    ''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 Web.com 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.''