For Tiger Its the Short Game Stupid

By Associated PressAugust 22, 2006, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)Tiger Woods has hit some amazing shots in his career.
He drove the green on a 347-yard hole at Doral. He hit 6-iron from 218 yards out of a bunker and over the water in Canada. His most famous shot might be the chip-in at the Masters that made a hairpin turn at the top of the ridge on the 16th green.
But he was equally proud of the most boring shot in golf, a special gift for swing coach Hank Haney.
'He told me Saturday afternoon, 'Hank, you've never seen me putt good,'' Haney said Monday night from his home in Dallas. 'And I told him after he got done, 'I've seen you putt good now.''
The one club Woods singled out in his five-shot victory at Medinah was his putter.
He started his final round with a 10-foot birdie to seize the lead, then pulled away with a pair of 40-foot birdie putts, both of them tumbling into the cup with perfect speed.
'I just felt like if I got the ball anywhere on the green, I could make it,' Woods said. 'It's not too often you get days like that, and I happened to have it on the final round of a major championship.'
Oh, he's had that feeling before.
It lasted an entire summer in 2000, when Woods won three straight majors among his nine PGA Tour victories and shattered the tour record for lowest scoring average with a mark of 68.17.
That once-in-a-lifetime season has become conversation at water coolers again, especially after Woods won the PGA Championship. It was his third straight victory, two of them majors, by a combined score of 60 under par and margin of 10 strokes.
Is an encore around the corner?
Conventional wisdom holds that 2000 was a special year that will never be matched. And as well as Woods has played, three victories over five weeks is hardly enough to draw any conclusions.
But if he is to repeat his mastery, it starts with the flat stick.
'Truthfully, he hasn't putted well,' Haney said.
Woods hit the ball so well in 2000 that his favorite shot was a 3-wood that had 2 inches of draw on No. 14 at St. Andrews. What often gets forgotten is that he made just about every putt inside 10 feet.
Haney has been revamping Woods' swing the last two years, so it might seem self-serving for him to talk on the short game when everyone else is focusing 300 yards away, usually in the trees.
Then again, Haney gets criticized during hard times and ignored when Woods is winning majors.
Woods went through the 2004 season with only one PGA Tour victory, and Haney was the guy who messed up his swing. He has won 11 times the last two years, including four of the last eight majors, and now Woods is good enough to win with any swing.
Remember everyone saying that Woods couldn't win on courses that took the driver out of his hand?
Now they're saying he can only win on courses where he can leave the driver in his bag.
'Any time he doesn't have to hit driver, he'll hit it right down the middle,' Chris DiMarco said.
That was either a backhanded compliment or a bad perception, because Woods is capable of missing fairways with anything, as he showed in the third round at Medinah by hitting 3-wood that was headed for trouble until a fan swatted it back into play.
Haney attributes some of perception to equipment, especially as it relates to driving accuracy.
Woods used a 43 1/2 -inch driver with a small head and a steel shaft in 2000, and he could hit it about 290 yards in the air. Now his driver is nearly twice as large, with a 45-inch graphite shaft.
'You could make the argument that his driver is now just a specialty club,' Haney said. 'It's a club he uses when he can go ahead and bomb it, and there's no reason not to. Let's compare the club he hits 290 yards, which is how far he was hitting his driver in 2000. That's his 3-wood now.'
For all the talk about distance and accuracy, Haney believes the key lies elsewhere.
It's the short game, stupid.
And he isn't the only one in Woods' camp who feels that way.
'I told Tiger at the start of the week, if you don't make a double bogey and you don't three-putt, you'll win this tournament,' caddie Steve Williams said Sunday evening.
He had a three-putt bogey on No. 16 in the third round, and no double bogeys.
Woods had five three-putts at Pinehurst No. 2 when he finished two shots behind Michael Campbell in the U.S. Open last year, and Haney said he had five more three-putts at Baltusrol when he wound up two shots behind Phil Mickelson in the PGA Championship.
Haney is a nut with statistics, but two obscure stats he uses to state his case are eye-openers.
Woods is tied for first in proximity to the hole on the PGA Tour. But he ranks No. 171 in avoiding three-putts, averaging slightly less than three per tournament. Woods is No. 1 in greens hit in regulation, but 159th in average putts per round.
'If you look at his statistics, it's incredible what he's done this year,' Haney said.
Someone in New Zealand asked Williams earlier this year if he ever thought Woods could repeat a season like 2000, and the answer was somewhere between doubtful and questionable.
'But with what Hank has taught Tiger, and the way Tiger has taken it in, I don't think we've seen the best of this guy,' Williams said. 'The best is yet to come, and we're starting to see signs of it. I think Tiger can improve, and you'll see some great results.'
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Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.

Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.

Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.

Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 

Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.