Tiger tales Memories of majors biggest win ever

By Associated PressJune 13, 2010, 6:39 am

2010 U.S. Open

Tiger Woods tapped in one last putt, the final stroke of his U.S. Open masterpiece at Pebble Beach. No one had ever been more dominant in 140 years of major championship golf. Those who played with him that week doubt anyone will see such a performance again.

The scoreboard behind the 18th green stood as a monument. Fans didn’t just look at it. They were transfixed by it.

Next to Woods’ name at the top was a row of red numbers that stretched across the holes until it ended at 12 under. The rest of the white board was filled with black numbers: Everyone else was over par, no one within 15 shots.

His swing coach, Butch Harmon, was in the TV tower for British-based Sky Sports and rushed down to congratulate Woods. Standing on the green, Harmon overheard Miguel Angel Jimenez, who shared second place with Ernie Els, say to a USGA official in his heavy Spanish accent, “Excuse me, sir. Can you tell me where the playoff starts for the other tournament between me and Ernie?”

That’s what it felt like 10 years ago at the U.S. Open – two tournaments.

Woods might as well have been playing alone.

In a major billed as the toughest test in golf, Woods went 22 holes without a bogey to start the championship and 26 holes without a bogey at the end. No one had ever finished a U.S. Open in double digits under par. His 15-shot margin was the widest ever in a major, breaking a record that had been set in 1862.

“At that moment in time, we thought we saw some of the best golf we’ll ever see by any player,” Thomas Bjorn said.

Bjorn, who played with Woods in the third round that week, was among a dozen people interviewed by The Associated Press who practiced, competed or walked alongside Woods in the days leading up to his landmark victory at Pebble Beach.

Woods stopped to see Harmon in Las Vegas on his way to Pebble Beach. He played that Sunday at Rio Secco with one of Harmon’s newest pupils, a 19-year-old Australian named Adam Scott, who did not qualify for the Open and planned to turn pro the following week.

In 25 mph wind, Woods set the course record with a 63.

“He did things that I didn’t know you could do on the golf course,” Scott said. “I’m glad he won the U.S. Open by 15 the next week. Because if he didn’t and played like that, I don’t think I would have turned pro. I said to Butch, ‘We’ve got a lot of work to do.’ What I saw was pretty amazing.”

Harmon didn’t play, but he accompanied them.

“Everyone on my staff ran down to the casino and bet on him,” Harmon said. “We didn’t get great odds, obviously, but it was as good of a lock as I’ve ever seen.”

Woods and Mark O’Meara, played the previous week at Isleworth, their home course in Orlando, Fla., and practiced together all three rounds at Pebble Beach. O’Meara was his usual practice partner at the majors. He had seen it all. This was different.

“He hit every shot just perfect. He never missed a shot,” O’Meara said. “He seemed calm, he seemed relaxed and he seemed in control Those were the three things that were different about him.”

John Cook, another close friend from Isleworth, arrived from the Buick Classic and joined them for the final two practice rounds.

“He was in the middle of a pretty special time,” Cook said. “You could see his confidence building and building. Tuesday and Wednesday were so flawless in preparation and attitude. Everything was in sync. Every shot was the perfect trajectory.”

NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller followed them for a couple of holes on Wednesday and asked how Woods was playing.

“I said, ‘Nobody is going to beat him. Nobody is going to beat him for a long time,”’ Cook said. “With the exception of one or two holes, it probably was the most flawless major championship ever.”

O’Meara made a similar prediction driving to dinner with his wife.

“She said, ‘How are you playing?”’ O’Meara recalled. “I said, ‘I’m playing all right, but it doesn’t really matter. The tournament is already over.’ She said, ‘How can you say that?’ I said, ‘Tiger is going to win. And not only is he going to win, he’s going to blow away the field.’ I don’t know how he couldn’t. He’s playing well. He loves the course. And he proved me right.”

No coach saw more of Woods that week than Hank Haney, who was working with O’Meara but whom Woods hired four years later. He was not amazed by how Woods was hitting the ball because it was like that the previous week at Isleworth.

“It was one of those special putting weeks, and you don’t see that coming in practice,” Haney said. “You never see a guy get done in a practice round and say, ‘This guy is making everything.’ Because they don’t even putt toward the hole.”

Steve Williams began working as Woods’ caddie in March 1999, and they won their first major together at the PGA Championship that year. This was their sixth major, yet the preparations were vastly different in one area – putting.

“Tiger spent an unusually longer amount of time practicing putts inside 10 feet than he would normally do,” Williams said. “When the greens are fast and bumpy, it’s difficult to chip it close. On the Wednesday night we were out there putting with the lights on, in the dark, trying to get a key, trying to dial in something that would help.

“Obviously, he found a key. He started hitting the putts a little more up on the ball to get it rolling. It’s not an uncommon thing, but it’s something you would never think about if the greens are pure.”

Paul Goydos qualified for the U.S. Open by finishing in the top 15 the previous year. When he registered Monday morning, he saw the sign-up sheet for practice rounds. First off Wednesday morning was Woods, Mark O’Meara, John Cook and TBA.

“To be announced,” Goydos said. “I said, ‘Boys and girls, attention! We’re announcing who’s playing. I am.’ I wrote my name in.”

What a treat that turned out to be.

“He seemed as unconcerned with life as anyone I had ever seen on the golf course the day before a U.S. Open,” Goydos said. “We’re all hitting 20 chips and putting to all these spots, and he would hit a shot into the fairway, knock it on the green, hit a few putts and sit there and talk to Butch. It’s almost like he was saying to Butch, ‘Look at these idiots.’

“It wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to win.’ But he had it all figured out.”

When they finished the round, two reporters were waiting to speak to Goydos.

“I had never seen a display of golf like that in my life,” Goydos said. “He’s going to win by 10. That’s what I said to these reporters. That tournament ended on Tuesday. The only thing he had to do was stay upright. There was just no question. If I could gamble, I would have bet everything I had. I saw a 10-shot victory. And I was wrong.”

Of all the holes Woods played in practice, Wednesday at the par-3 12th was what got everyone’s attention. The green was brick hard, typical of a U.S. Open. There was no way to get it anywhere near the hole, much less keep it on the green. Or so they thought.

“We were on the 12th tee, the pin was back right. He hit a 4-iron, this high cut about a yard-and-a-half that never left the flag and stopped about 5 feet away,” O’Meara said. “Butch said, ‘Good swing.’ And I said, ‘Really? Now I know why you’re such a great teacher. What was your first clue, that he hasn’t missed a shot all day?’ We were needling each other pretty good.”

Cook’s son was caddying for him that week and he recalled the teenager’s reaction as much as the shot.

“He hits this towering 4-iron, and this thing would have landed on the hood of your car and stopped,” Cook said. “We all looked at each other. My son Jason, who was 14, had his mouth open and his eyes real big. I said, ‘That’s a golf swing.”’

Goydos hit a 4-iron about as flush as he could, as high as he could, then watched it bounce over a green he described as a trampoline.

“Tiger hits this shot over the moon, flies the bunker and stops this far,” he said, holding his hands about 5 feet apart. “I said, ‘What did you hit there?’ He said, ‘4-iron.’ So that’s a little disappointing.

“We get to 18 and I drove it down the left side, had about 233 to the front and hit 3-wood. Tiger hit the ball a little farther right and he was about 5 yards ahead of me. He hits this shot – WHOOOSH! – like a rocket. I said, ‘What did you hit?’ He said, ‘4-iron.’ And I said, ‘Boys, this tournament is over.’ Because if you can hit a 4-iron 195 yards in the air and 225 yards in the air when you want, this tournament is OVER.”

Woods played the opening two rounds with Jim Furyk and Jesper Parnevik, in conditions so foggy that the first round Thursday eventually was suspended with 75 players yet to finish. Woods teed off in the morning and shot a bogey-free 65, the lowest score ever at Pebble Beach in a U.S. Open.

“He had complete control as far as drawing the ball, cutting the ball, hitting it high, hitting it low. Whatever the shot called for, he seemed to be hitting it right at the pin,” Furyk said. “I just remember him rolling in 8-footers and 12-footers. Pebble Beach isn’t the smoothest surface, and these 8-footers were going in with perfect speed. I was just shaking my head.”

Parnevik was doing more than that. He was laughing.

“It almost became a joke,” Parnevik said. “We could not figure out if he ever missed a putt from inside 20 feet. And you know how Pebble Beach greens can be. I remember we were on the 12th hole Friday. We got called off because of darkness. Tiger had about a 40-footer and he decided to keep going and not leave it until the morning. And he holed it. If you watch the highlight reels, you can see me and Lance (Ten Broeck, his caddie) laughing. It was incredible.

“I don’t know if he’s ever played that well,” he said. “It was special to be there.”

Returning to the 13th hole Saturday morning to complete the second round, Steve Williams reached into the bag and noticed something wrong. There were only three balls in the bag. He was concerned at first, then figured they would be OK with only six holes to play.

From the left rough, Woods hit a 56-degree sand wedge with such force that it put a scuff mark on the ball.

“He putts out for his par and gives it to a kid as he leaves the green,” Williams said. “My first thought was, ‘I’ve got to go get the ball off that kid. I’m watching this kid, and he’s showing his dad the ball. It’s got Tiger’s name on it, he’s all excited. How can I ask for this ball back? So we have two balls left.”

Woods bogeyed the 14th, birdied the 15th and parred the next two holes, keeping the same ball.

Then comes the 18th, with the ocean down the left side of the hole and out-of-bounds well to the right. Woods was leading by seven.

“My first thought was to hit iron off the tee, but he’s driving fantastic,” Williams said. “I can’t say, ‘Tiger, you can’t hit driver here because we ain’t got enough golf balls in case you hit it in the ocean.’ It’s the only time I can actually say I had butterflies in my stomach standing over a tee shot.”

For good reason. Woods hooked it in the ocean.

One ball left.

“I said, Tiger, you’ve got a seven-shot lead, take that iron out, hit it down the fairway, get it up there and let’s go to lunch and not waste making a horror number,”’ Williams said. “He said, ‘Give me that (expletive) driver.’ I can’t say, ‘This is the last golf ball you’ve got.’ I tried as best I could, as conservatively as I could, to talk him out of it.”

Woods hit the fairway, hit into the bunker and got up-and-down for bogey and a 69. He had a six-shot lead, a U.S. Open record for largest 36-hole margin. Woods didn’t find out until after the tournament why Williams was insisting on an iron.

“He said, ‘What was all that commotion on the 18th tee on Saturday morning,”’ Williams said. “I said, ‘Well, that was the last golf ball you have. If you had hit that down there in the water, we were going to see how quickly I could run 800 yards to the hotel room and back in five minutes.’ We always laugh about that.

“But if he hooked that second one in the ocean, I wouldn’t be standing here telling you the story.”

The first big blunder for Woods came on the third hole Saturday afternoon when he took two swings to escape gnarly rough and made a triple-bogey 7. He birdied two of the next four holes, and that was end of the suspense.

“Yes, he made a triple bogey down the third,” said Bjorn, paired with him that day. “But it was literally perfection all the way through. It was a different kind of golf to watch than anything I’ve ever seen. He was in full control of what he was doing. It was, looking back, one of the most special moments in the history of golf, to be honest.”

Woods shot 71, the only round he failed to break par. His 10-shot lead through 54 holes was another U.S. Open record.

Bjorn was out of it early and shot an 82. He felt as much out of control as Woods was in command.

“I thought going into it, ‘This is going to be the toughest day I’ve ever experienced as a player,’ and I realized very quickly what I was facing,” Bjorn said. “The whole course felt like it was moving because of the crowd. It was literally an impossible day for me. When I got to about 8 or 9, I just decided to sit back and watch history in the making instead of worrying about what I was doing.

“The way he played then, everything he did was so different from what anyone else could do.”

Els had a 68 in the third round that put him in the final pairing Sunday with Woods, and even 10 shots behind, he wasn’t waving a white flag on the first tee. He wanted to get off to a good start and see how Woods was playing.

Woods was flawless. Els had a balky putter. Within an hour, the only question was the margin of victory.

“It wasn’t easy for me,” Els said. “The tournament is over, and you basically watch another guy just kill you. It wasn’t the greatest of feelings. But it was nice to see. As I look back now, I was glad I was there, because it was obviously something very special.”

Woods opened with nine pars, then ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch to start the back nine. At that point, his only goal was to play the final round without a bogey. Els never felt so alone playing before so many people.

“He wouldn’t say a word to anybody,” Els said. “I was kind of playing on my own with a circus around me. I was basically watching him play. It was his show. If you don’t approach him, he doesn’t say anything, especially in the fourth round. With that lead, I don’t know what he had to prove. But he wanted to prove something. He never let up. He kept putting his foot on the gas. I’m sure he enjoyed it.”

Woods closed with a 67, the low score of the round for the third time that week.

After his final putt, Woods raised his right arm and smiled toward a gallery that was not sure what it had just witnessed. He set or tied six U.S. Open records that week, but those are just numbers.

No one had ever destroyed a championship field like that in golf.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like it before,” Bjorn said. “And I find it difficult to believe we’ll ever find anybody doing it again.”

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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.

Amen.

The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.



Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”