Tiger Tracking First Major of 2007

By Associated PressAugust 6, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA ChampionshipOKLAHOMA CITY -- Tiger Woods usually goes on vacation after winning at Firestone, but that changed this year when it was moved to the week before the PGA Championship. He was at Southern Hills on Monday morning getting ready for the final major of 2007.
 
Considering how this year on the PGA TOUR has gone, that might have felt like a vacation.
 
Golf has been one big grind this year, a seemingly endless supply of courses with deep rough, tricky pins and high scores. Woods was the only player under par last week at the Bridgestone Invitational, which had the fewest number of players in red numbers at a regular PGA TOUR event since the 1995 TOUR Championship.
 
Southern Hills figures to be a solid test, typical of any major.
 
But as Steve Stricker noted last week, 'It seems like every week we're getting one of these.'
 
'The golf courses are so much harder,' Woods said. 'Stevie (Williams) and I were talking about this. Have we played a tournament yet where you had to go low? With our schedule of tournaments I've played in, that hasn't been the case at all.'
 
And he's not alone.
 
One indicator that has surprised everyone from players to rules officials is birdies per round. The PGA TOUR leader in that category has averaged at least 4.4 birdies per round every year since 1999. Going into the PGA Championship, the leader is Jonathan Byrd at 3.85.
 
If the trend continues -- and it doesn't figure to get easier the next month -- it would be the first time since 1990 that no one on the PGA TOUR averaged more than four birdies per round.
 
Woods, who has never finished lower than fifth in that category, is currently at No. 39.
 
'It just gets to the point where every course is a long, long golf course with deep, deep rough,' Davis Love III said. 'It gets a little stressful. You can't get away with very much, and you have to be right on perfect. You miss a fairway, you're hard-pressed to get it back on the green. They keep lengthening courses that are already long. It's just tough.'
 
Adam Scott was asked how many majors it feels as though he has played this year. He used his fingers to start ticking them off, and he wound up using both hands.
 
'Probably seven,' he said, and this was before he went out for his first practice round at Southern Hills.
 
He mentioned the three majors that already have taken place. There was the Wachovia Championship and The Players Championship in consecutive weeks. The International, which produced birdies and eagles galore, was replaced by the AT&T National at Congressional.
 
And don't forget Firestone, which several players figured was suitable for a U.S. Open without any gimmicks from the USGA.
 
'You've got to play for par these days,' Scott said. 'You used to have that one or two times a year, and that was a challenge. But every week it starts to get boring. It lacks imagination.'
 
Four tournaments were won last year with a score in single digits under par, including the majors. There already have been seven such winning scores this year. Woods won Doral at 10-under 278; the year before, his winning score was 20-under 268.
 
PGA TOUR rules official Slugger White says nothing was changed, and he was surprised to hear the average birdies for round was significantly down from last year.
 
'We don't think about birdies and bogeys,' White said. 'We're trying to give them the fairest and the best test. Our general philosophy is difficult and fair every day. There's not one ounce of difference in our philosophy this year at all.'
 
So why such a tough year?
 
Some can be attributed to the change in the schedule, such as Congressional replacing Castle Pines. Some of it is the weather, and look no further than Augusta National, where the frosty air and dry conditions led to Zach Johnson winning at 1-over 289, the first time since 1956 that no one broke par at the Masters.
 
Two courses on the Florida swing were par 70s -- the Honda Classic and Arnold Palmer Invitational -- taking away two birdie chances.
 
Even so, some arrived at Southern Hills either feeling worn out or incapable of being surprised by however difficult the PGA Championship plays this week.
 
'It's gotten that way a little more as time goes on,' Mark Calcavecchia said. 'It seems like years ago, it was just kind of easy. The rough was never this deep week in and week out. I think the pin placements have gotten tougher over the years. Obviously, we're playing courses longer than we ever have. They're trying to combat technology a little bit with course conditions and course setups.
 
'But that's kind of a good thing,' he added, 'to know you don't have to go out and shoot really low.'
 
Woods also is a fan of the tougher conditions. He often says he doesn't like tournaments won at 25 under par, where making a par means losing strokes to the field.
 
But is such a steady diet of pars good for the entertainment value of professional golf?
 
'I think it's great,' Woods said. 'You've got to be smart. The golf ball doesn't go as crooked as it used to, so you've got to do something overall -- making pins closer to the edges, the rough is certainly higher. You've got to do it, or guys will go low. If you give them a golf course that's pretty easy, they're going to tear it apart.'
 
There's no telling what to expect at Southern Hills. Retief Goosen won the U.S. Open in 2001 in a playoff after finishing at 4-under 276. Nick Price won the PGA Championship in 1994 on the same course at 11-under 269, but that was in August, when the heat was stifling and the greens required more water to keep them alive.
 
There is one tradition at Southern Hills. In six previous majors, four of the champions are in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
 
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  • Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

    Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

    By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

    “I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

    Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

    According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

    Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

    Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

    “He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

    Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

    Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

    By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

    He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

    The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

    Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

    Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

    3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

    5/2: Rory McIlroy

    7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

    9/2: Justin Rose

    5/1: Brooks Koepka

    15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

    10/1: Adam Scott

    12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

    15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

    20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

    25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

    30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes