Woods Building Momentum Toward the Masters

By Associated PressMarch 6, 2006, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)The road to the Masters usually starts with the Florida swing on the PGA Tour, although Tiger Woods already had a head start even before he arrived at Doral.
He began 2006 with a victory at Torrey Pines, making a birdie on the last hole and winning when Jose Maria Olazabal missed a 4-foot par putt in the playoff. He birdied his last two holes in Dubai to get into a playoff with Ernie Els, winning when the South African found the water.
But his victory on the Blue Monster might have been the best proof that Woods is getting closer to having full command of swing changes he has worked on with Hank Haney the last two years.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has had little to hang his head about thus far in the 2006 season.
It was his 10th wire-to-wire victory among his 48 titles on the PGA Tour. And it was another case of Woods doing whatever was required -- birdies early in his round to keep his two-stroke cushion, back-to-back birdies when David Toms closed within one stroke and a safe shot when a bogey was good enough to win.
After his third victory in five starts this year, Woods was asked about his confidence.
'Pretty high, considering I've put myself there in virtually every event,' he said.
Monday's world ranking gave Woods more than double the points over Vijay Singh, the first time his lead has been that large in three years.
Beyond the trophies, however, are the opportunities. And that's where Woods has separated himself from the pack.
Dating to the U.S. Open last year at Pinehurst, Woods has either won or finished second in nine of his last 14 events on the PGA Tour. It is similar, although not quite as pronounced, as the streak he enjoyed at the start of the 2000 season when he won or was runner-up in 10 of 11 tournaments.
'Put it this way,' Woods said. 'If I hit a couple of bad shots, I feel like it's not the end of the world. I can fit it and I can move on and I can still post a really good number. Before, it would be damage control and somehow try and wheel around it and shoot somewhere around par or even under par. But that's not the case.'
Some of his victories have been handed to him when his opponents blinked first. John Daly had a 15-foot birdie putt to win the American Express Championship last October, and three-putted to lose the playoff. Then came the mistakes of Olazabal in the Buick Invitational, and Els in Dubai.
Toms contributed to the cause by three-putting from 60 feet, a tough putt under any circumstance. That allowed Woods to aim away from the water and into a bunker, taking bogey to win by one shot.
But the wins keep piling up, and the mystique is slowly returning.
'You just kind of hope you catch him on an off-week somewhere,' Rich Beem said Friday, when he went into the third round one shot out of a four-way tie for the lead that included Woods. 'You're not going to beat him. He's like a heavyweight fighter.'
Phil Mickelson felt it Saturday.
A year after engaging it a fantastic duel with Woods at Doral, they were in the final pairing Saturday. Neither paid much attention to it because it was only the third round, and because so many players were capable of making a move. But the look on Lefty's face spoke volumes when his 4-iron around the trees on the 18th hole -- Woods called it the best shot he had seen that day -- spun off the green into the water.
Mickelson said after the third round that he wasn't concerned about the pairing, then quickly added, 'I should be now. I'm four back.'
'He's a tough guy to overcome when he's got the lead,' Mickelson said Sunday after putting two balls in the water on consecutive holes and shooting 73.
Woods not only is 34-3 when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead, no one has ever beaten him when starting the final round more than two shots behind.
And while his bogey-bogey finish was sloppy, it wasn't the only time. Along with his bogey-bogey finish in regulation at the Masters last year, he bogeyed two of the last three holes in the 2002 U.S. Open to win by three shots, and he had to two-putt for bogey from 60 feet on the last hole at Firestone to win by one over Mickelson in 1999.
Asked how his victory at Doral will stand out among his other 47 tour victories, Woods talked about various shots he had worked on with Haney.
He found the perfect ball flight of a 4-iron that stopped a foot away on the par-3 fourth in the first round. The arc of his swing, he said, was perfect on two mammoth tee shots at the par-5 eighth.
'I thought one of the coolest shots I hit today -- even though no one realizes this -- is the shot I hit on 8,' he said Sunday. 'I had 103 yards and I hit a little 9-iron in there. I hit a draw in there, which is hard to do hitting it that soft, held it back up against the flag. That to me is where I'm trying to get to, the ability to hit shots like that on call.'
That's where he is headed with the Masters only a month away.
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    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

    Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

    "I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

    Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

    "I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

    Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

    "Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm