Tiger St Andrews Ready for History To Be Made

By Associated PressJuly 9, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- The birthplace of golf is becoming a popular place to say goodbye.
 
Arnold Palmer struck a famous pose atop the small stone Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews when he played his final British Open in 1995. It was a heartfelt tribute to the King, who resurrected American interest in golf's oldest championship and returned the Open to its place of prominence.
 
Next to cross that bridge for the last time will be Jack Nicklaus, who conquered the Old Course in 1970 and 1978 and has decided to make this British Open his final appearance in a major championship career that defined the modern standard of greatness.
 
And, in the middle of these amazing 10 years at St. Andrews, was Tiger Woods in 2000.
 
``Tiger said goodbye to us all in another way that year, didn't he?'' Ernie Els said with a laugh.
 
Indeed, Woods turned his back on the field and left everyone in his wake when the British Open last was held at St. Andrews, turning in a performance never before seen on these hallowed grounds.
 
He did not hit into a single trap over 72 holes, using sheer power to fly the ball beyond the punishing pot bunkers that serve as the best defense on the Old Course. When it was over, Woods became the youngest player (24) to complete the career Grand Slam, and his 19-under 269 remains the record score in relation to par at any major.
 
St. Andrews is loaded with history, and the home of golf is ripe with opportunity to make more when the 134th British Open returns to the Old Course for the 27th time starting Thursday.
 
``What makes this one so special?'' Adam Scott said. ``Jack's last major, what Tiger did there the last time and the fact that it's St. Andrews. There's something about that place that means more than any other.''
 
Woods has a history of winning majors when Nicklaus is on his way out.
 
He won by a record 15 shots at Pebble Beach when Nicklaus played in his final U.S. Open in 2000, and won the PGA Championship at Valhalla later that year while playing the first two rounds with the Golden Bear. Nicklaus said after missing the cut at the Masters this year he no longer would compete at Augusta National, and Woods went on to win in a playoff.
 
``I won on what was supposed to be his last farewell at St. Andrews (in 2000),'' Woods said. ``So hopefully, I can do it again. I've been pretty good on his farewells.''
 
Coming off a 2 1/2-year drought in the majors and his third swing change as a pro, Woods is doing just fine this season. Along with winning his fourth Masters and two PGA Tour events that featured some of the strongest fields of the year, he finished two shots behind Michael Campbell in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
 
``I've played well of late,'' Woods said while tuning up his game for links golf in Ireland. ``It's nice to have the pieces fall together at the right time for three majors in three months.''
 
Woods remains locked in a battle for No. 1 with Vijay Singh, who has played St. Andrews better than the other courses on the British Open rotation. For all the talk of a ``Big Five,'' they are starting to separate themselves.
 
Ernie Els was the runner-up at St. Andrews in 2000 and simply adores the Old Course. He was on the winning team twice at St. Andrews during his nine years playing the Dunhill Cup. Phil Mickelson finally found some success in the British Open last year, finishing one shot out of a playoff at Royal Troon. He already has spent two full days at St. Andrews, playing one round without any pins in the green.
 
All that's missing is a head-to-head showdown among the stars at a major. The only time any of them met in the final round this year was at Doral, where Woods rallied from a two-shot deficit to beat Mickelson.
 
``I am surprised we haven't had more head-to-head duels,'' Mickelson said. ``But I think we're going to have that at the British Open. I just have a feeling, the way the golf course is set up.''
 
The Old Course is not the same layout that Woods overwhelmed in 2000.
 
The Royal & Ancient has moved back five tees, adding 164 yards to the Old Course. No change is more daunting than on the par-5 14th, which has been extended from 581 yards in 2000 to 618 yards for this Open. That brings a series of bunkers called the ``Beardies'' into play off the tee, and the notorious Hell Bunker on the approach, especially if the wind is whipping off St. Andrews Bay.
 
``I don't know where in the world you're going to drive the ball. I have no idea,'' Nicklaus said. ``You've got the wall on the right and the Beardies on the left, and there's no place to hit it but there. And you can't hit it short of them, because there's no land.''
 
The R&A cited advances in technology for making the changes, but don't get the idea that better clubs, balls and players have ruined the Old Course. This is the 100-year anniversary of when bunkers were added and St. Andrews was lengthened to protect against the new rubber-core Haskell ball. Some things never change.
 
Woods has not seen the alterations to St. Andrews, but already he doesn't like them.
 
``I don't understand why they would do it,'' he said. ``They are so dependent on the weather. If the wind blows and you get bad weather, the guys are going to shoot high scores. But if you don't get any wind, like in 2000, everybody went low. That's the way St. Andrews is. It's not a very difficult course when the wind doesn't blow at all. When it does, you hope to shoot even par, because that would be a good score.''
 
Then again, Woods has reason to prefer that the Old Course stay how it was in 2000, when he led by six shots going into the final round and won by eight, the largest margin of victory at the British Open since 1913.
 
Mickelson noticed the difference during his two practice rounds, and it all made sense to him.
 
``A lot of the bunkers that were not in play in 2000 are in play this year,'' Mickelson said. ``That being the case, I would say that the changes have done exactly what they have hoped to accomplish, which is bring on No. 14 the Beardies bunkers and Hell Bunker in play. And they are very much in play.''
 
Despite all the changes to the course, and the battle at the top, the focus on this British Open is on Nicklaus.
 
About the only thing Nicklaus has failed to conquer in golf is learning how to retire graciously. He wishes now he had left tournament golf after winning the 1986 Masters at age 46 for his sixth green jacket. It was his last victory on the PGA Tour, and Nicklaus has gone from hoping to dreaming that he can compete.
 
``Sometime in my early '50s I felt like the game was passing me by,'' he said. ``It didn't pass me by, I fell back.''
 
At age 65, this is his final year of eligibility for the British Open, and he might not have played except that the R&A, knowing his love affair with St. Andrews, moved up the Old Course one year in the rotation to accommodate him.
 
He already has said he won't return to the Masters after an unceremonious departure this year - missing the cut, finishing on the ninth hole because of rain delays, not letting anyone know until after he signed his card.
 
Just like Palmer in 1995, Nicklaus will pause atop the Swilcan Bridge in what is sure to be an emotional moment.
 
And, by the end of the tournament, the winner will cross that bridge, hoist the silver claret jug and become part of the rich history that St. Andrews always seems to deliver.
 
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  • Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

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    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

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    Getty Images

    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

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    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

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    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

    Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.