Woods Drawing Scrutiny

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2004, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Tiger Woods went from celebrated to scorned.
He teed it up in the Bay Hill Invitational with a chance to make history as the first player to win a tournament five straight times. By the end of the week, he had his worst finish in five years, a tie for 46th that left him 18 strokes behind.
It all led to another round of questions about his game.
What's wrong with Tiger?
'I just don't understand it,' Woods said Tuesday. 'That was the first time I finished out of the top 10 this year. Going into that week, no other player can say that. Every player has their hot streaks, their lulls. Last week was one of those times I didn't play well. That happens.'
Tiger WoodsStill, scrutiny on the world's No. 1 player picked up, probably because of what's on the horizon.
Coming off three straight rounds over par - the first time he has done that in a regular PGA Tour event - Woods leads a strong field at The Players Championship on a course that doesn't forgive even the slightest misses.
Two weeks later is the Masters, the major championship Woods has geared himself for since January.
His results suggest he will be the favorite this week, at Augusta National, everywhere he plays. Woods won the Match Play Championship, has three other top 10s and is fifth on the money list, despite playing only five times.
But Match Play is too fickle to gauge a game, and Woods had only one other good chance at winning this year.
Asked how he knows if he's peaking at the right time, Woods mentioned quality shots.
'When you make a golf swing, you don't feel like the ball was really there,' he said. 'And you look up, and it's right where it needs to be. That's a cool feeling. If you can do that more repeatedly heading into a major championship, you're looking pretty good.
'I'm starting to see some signs where that's coming back.'
Now would be a good place to start.
The Players Championship is widely regarded as the fifth major. Woods considers it the hardest tournament to win.
The 149-man field is among the strongest in golf, featuring 48 out of the top 50 in the world. The exceptions are U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, out with a wrist injury; and Rocco Mediate, who withdrew Tuesday with a bad back.
The Stadium Course on the TPC at Sawgrass simply won't allow players to get by without their best golf.
'You've really got to be very accurate off the tee, and your second shots are so important - same with Augusta,' Ernie Els said. 'If you have a good week, if you finish top 10, you can look at those players. They're going to have a good week at Augusta.
'If you're peaking, you're going to be well-prepared for Augusta.'
That's not always the case. Craig Perks won The Players Championship two years ago, then shot 81-71 at the Masters. Davis Love III won at Sawgrass last year, opened with a 77 at Augusta National and rallied to tie for 15th.
Woods is the only player to have won at Sawgrass and Augusta the same year.
But if he struggles this week, he probably will face even more questions about his game.
Part of that is due to his split from swing coach Butch Harmon a year ago. Dozens of players say privately that Woods needs to go back.
'Butch and I really didn't work a lot the last two or three years,' Woods said. 'Our biggest task was from '97 through '98, when I changed my swing. After that, it was basically kind of maintenance here and there. I've been doing that the last two years on my own.'
Even so, he is judged by a different standard than everyone else.
Woods was made aware of that last week when Vijay Singh and Els, the Nos. 2 and 3 players in the world, were never a factor at Bay Hill and escaped unnoticed.
Els missed the cut, ending his current streak at 30. Woods' record cut streak continues at 119.
'There wasn't any mention in the paper back home that Ernie missed the cut,' Woods said.
Els is trying to put that behind him, as well as what happened last year in The Players Championship.
The Big Easy won four times in the first two months, but injured his right wrist on a punching bag at home in London. He wound up having to pull out of The Players Championship.
This year, having won the Sony Open and the Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne, Els skipped the Match Play Championship to cut down on his global travel and be fresh for this important stretch of golf.
Missing the cut was a wake-up call.
'I've got to get over it and get going this week,' he said. 'It's a new week for everybody.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”