Tiger Left To Ponder What Might Have Been

By Associated PressJuly 18, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- If only Tiger Woods could have a do-over on those two shots at Pinehurst.
 
Then think what might have been.
 
Woods coasted to a five-stroke victory Sunday and his second major championship of 2005, winning the British Open at the home of golf after taking the Masters in April.
 
If he hadn't flubbed a chip and missed a short putt at the U.S. Open last month, Woods could be going for the Grand Slam at the PGA Championship next month.
 
``That's just the way it goes,'' Woods said, thinking back to his runner-up finish to Michael Campbell at Pinehurst. ``I just didn't have a very good putting week. It happened at the wrong time.''
 
Woods' timing was right on at the Old Course.
 
He took control with a 66-67 start, scrambled Saturday when a couple of shots wound up in the bushes, then finished it off with a 2-under 70 -- the only player in the final seven groups to break par on a day when the ocean breezes picked up and the flagsticks were flapping in some devilish locations.

``It was Tiger's week,'' said Campbell, who held on for a two-stroke win in the U.S. Open but finished seven shots back at this Open.
 
Make no mistake -- Woods is back, looking just as dominating as he did at the start of the millennium.
 
``It's amazing,'' said Scotsman Colin Montgomerie, the popular runner-up at St. Andrews. ``Can he achieve the impossible? He's on his way.''
 
Two days after Jack Nicklaus bade a teary farewell to the majors, stopping to pose atop the Swilcan Bridge on his way up the 18th hole, Woods passed over the hallowed stone arch with purpose in his step.
 
While the Grand Slam is out reach -- for now -- he did wrap up the ``Nicklaus Slam,'' going 4-for-4 when the Golden Bear played in golf's biggest events for the last time.
 
Woods became just the third player to win 10 major professional titles, passing the halfway mark on the way to Nicklaus' record of 18. The only guy in between, Walter Hagen at 11.
 
Just as they did on Friday for Nicklaus, thousands of fans squeezed onto balconies and pressed their faces against windows to capture a historic moment. This one remains a work in progress.
 
Nicklaus watched the final round from his home in North Palm Beach, Fla.
 
``He never looked like there was a chance for him to lose,'' he said. ``It was a pretty awesome performance.''
 
Woods and Nicklaus are the only players to win the career Grand Slam two times over, and the only Americans to win the British Open twice at storied St. Andrews.
 
``There's a lot of things that make him special,'' said Woods' swing coach, Hank Haney. ``Like all great champions, he can raise his game when he needs to.''
 
Woods turned to Haney to help overhaul his swing for the second time, looking to dominate the way he did on the way to winning seven times in 11 majors starting with the 1999 PGA Championship.
 
``I've been criticized for the last couple of years. 'Why would I change my game?' This is why,'' Woods said. ``First, second and first in the last three majors. That's why.''
 
Woods had a star-studded group behind him on Sunday -- major winners, highly ranked players, seasoned vets who knew their way around this revered patch of Scottish seaside.
 
None made a serious charge. None seem capable of beating Woods when he's at his best.
 
``I don't think it's impossible,'' said Jose Maria Olazabal, who played in the final group with Woods and wound up six strokes behind. ``But it's close to impossible.''
 
Woods will go to Baltusrol as an overwhelming favorite to pull even with Hagen and win three majors in a year for the second time -- not bad for a guy who's still five months away from his 30th birthday.
 
Woods already claimed the ``Tiger Slam,'' becoming the only golfer to hold all four major titles at the same time. But it wasn't a Slam in the purest sense, since he won the last three titles of 2000 and didn't win the Masters until the following year.
 
But this guy tends to get whatever he wants, whether it's the Nicklaus record that everyone thought was untouchable or the modern Grand Slam, which has never been done.
 
``Jack's got 18, now I have 10,'' Woods said. ``When I first started playing, I didn't think I'd have this many majors before the age of 30. There's no way. No one ever has.''
 
That's why he turned to Haney to work on a swing that already seemed flawless. It was a grueling, frustrating process that led to Woods going 10 majors without a win, equaling the worst drought of his pro career.
 
It paid off in the end -- and everyone else finds themselves playing for second.
 
Again.
 
``It's no disgrace finishing second to Tiger Woods,'' said Montgomerie, cheered on all day by flag-waving Scottish fans but unable to mount a charge on Woods.
 
The winner never trailed over the final 63 holes, turning in the first wire-to-wire victory at the Open in 32 years. The ``Big Five'' everyone talked about at the start of the year is down to one.
 
Montgomerie didn't seem too upset about the outcome. At least his career is back on track after he seriously contended in a major for the first time since the 1997 U.S. Open.
 
``My career has been longer than most,'' Montgomerie said. ``It's nice that it's having a little bit of a resurgence now after three years really in the wilderness.''
 
Woods never drifted that far off course, but the decision to tinker with his swing did make him vulnerable in the majors.
 
``He just wanted to get a plan,'' Haney said. ``He never asked low long it was going to take, or when are we going to get there.''
 
Is Woods there yet?
 
``I don't think there is a 'there,' `` Haney said. ``That's the great thing about him.''
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.