Tiger Tries to Get Back on Course

By Associated PressJuly 19, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- The lazy atmosphere of late afternoon on the day before the British Open transformed into a minor frenzy in front of the Royal Liverpool clubhouse Wednesday.
 
Photographers scrambled for position in front of the practice green. Fans strolling toward the gates fought for a view behind the ropes. Even some of the players stopped what they were doing to watch.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has his sights set on his third Open Championship victory.
Getting a glimpse of Tiger Woods has been rare this week.
 
He arrived at Royal Liverpool on the weekend when there were no crowds, playing Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. The next two days, he teed off so early that he was done before most fans arrived at the course. On Wednesday, he didn't even play, showing up in the late afternoon to hit balls on the range and stroke a few putts.
 
It will be more important to be seen on the weekend -- any time this weekend.
 
The defending champion at the British Open, Woods will be trying to bounce back from missing the cut in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, where consecutive rounds of 76 sent him home early for the first time in a major.
 
'I took a lot of time off prior to the U.S. Open and I wasn't hitting the ball as well as I wanted to in competition,' Woods said. 'But I fixed those mistakes prior to the Western (Open), and I got back into the competitive flow again.'
 
Woods was in jeopardy of another missed cut at the Western Open two weeks ago until shooting 67-66 to work his way up the leaderboard, and he got within one shot of Trevor Immelman until finishing two behind. Still, it was a step in the right direction, especially going to the British Open.
 
'It's nice when you play four rounds,' he said. 'I had two extra days there at the Western to get back into the flow of things, and the weekend I played great. So I feel like I'm back into playing again after taking such a long time off.'
 
The reason for the long layoff -- he has played only six competitive rounds since the Masters -- was the May 3 death of his father.
 
Woods still cannot shake questions about his father, how he is coping and how long it might take him to come to terms. But in this case, some of the questions brought back good memories, and pertinent ones.
 
Earl Woods accompanied his 19-year-old son to Carnoustie in 1995 for the Scottish Open, his first taste of links golf. Woods opened with rounds of 69-71 before the wind picked up, scores shot up and he tied for 29th, 17 shots out of the lead.
 
'He absolutely loved it when I played at Carnoustie, because it was one of the very few times that he thought I was able to use my imagination and create shots,' Woods said. 'It presents so many different options. And he thoroughly enjoyed it, watching me go out there shaping shots and hitting all those weird shots. He always got a big kick out of that.'
 
That's what will be required of Woods at Royal Liverpool.
 
The biggest change is in his bag, where he is bringing the 2-iron out of an eight-month retirement to hit low, penetrating tee shots that run endlessly on baked fairways, some of them so bare they have more turf than grass.
 
Standing behind the 14th green on Tuesday, he tried to bump a pitch up the slope toward the green, and when it rolled back to his feet, he tried again with the putter.
 
'We don't play golf courses like this each and every week. And we certainly don't ever play a golf course this fast,' Woods said. 'And those times, you have to be able to control your golf ball in the air, you have to control your spin. It's not like you can hit a marginal shot and expect it to be OK.'
 
Expectations are different this time.
 
Woods plays the British Open as well as any other major besides the Masters, finishing in the top 10 six out of his nine starts as a pro. He won last year at St. Andrews for the second time, by five shots over Colin Montgomerie. He manufactures shots as well as anyone in the game.
 
But there has not been much of a buzz about him this week.
 
Part of that is because no one has seen much of him. He has not won since Doral, and his nine starts on the PGA TOUR this season are the fewest of anyone in the top 50 on the money list.
 
And the focus on the majors has shifted to Phil Mickelson, who has won three of the last 10. The Masters champion was on the verge of winning three straight majors at the U.S. Open -- a chance to show up at Royal Liverpool with his own Grand Slam on the line -- until taking double bogey on the final hole at Winged Foot to finish one shot behind Geoff Ogilvy.
 
Peter Thomson, who won at Hoylake in 1956 for his third consecutive claret jug, also weighed in on Woods.
 
'If he never wins another tournament, his reputation is made,' Thomson said. 'But he's after higher, more glorious heights than anyone's ever dreamt of, I think. But he's having a bit of a stumble, I think. He'll play well again, I'm sure.'
 
There remain questions about Woods' focus two months after his father died.
 
Ernie Els was going through the list of top players and how well they play in the majors when he got to Woods, whom he still believes is the man to beat when Woods is on his game.
 
'Tiger, if his mind is 100 percent on golf this week, he's probably the guy to beat again,' Ernie Els said. 'That's a talent.'
 
Related Links:
  • Tee Times - 135th Open Championship
  • Course Tour - Royal Liverpool
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.