Woods Faces Tough Task in the Desert

By Associated PressFebruary 20, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureMARANA, Ariz. -- Tiger Woods has compiled some amazing numbers during the longest PGA TOUR winning streak in 62 years. He has won those seven tournaments by a combined 22 shots, is 109 under par and has posted 24 of his last 28 rounds in the 60s.
 
The math is much more simple at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
To make it eight in a row, he has to win six in a row.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods gets in a practice round Tuesday at The Gallery. (WireImage)
'This has always been one of the tougher events to win just because of the nature of the format,' Woods, the No. 1 seed, said Tuesday. 'Match play, anything that happens is unpredictable. Sometimes, it takes a great round to advance. Sometimes, you can shoot over par and advance. All I know is you have to beat one guy at a time. You don't have to beat a whole field. Just six guys.'
 
The 64-man field assembled in the high desert of The Gallery Golf Club represents the best in the world from 17 countries. The only guy Woods cares about Wednesday is Ryder Cup teammate J.J. Henry, his first opponent.
 
How fickle is this tournament?
 
Woods won in 2004 during his worst season on TOUR, when he went through another overhaul of his swing. He was in top form two years earlier, winning the Masters and U.S. Open, yet he couldn't get past Peter O'Malley in the first round of the Accenture.
 
'You can shoot 65 and lose. You can shoot 73 and win,' Henry said. 'You never know what you're going to get. Of course, I know if I play Tiger and shoot 73, I might as well pack my bags.'
 
Henry is fortunate to even be in the field.
 
He was expecting to be the first alternate until Charl Schwartzel of South Africa decided to withdraw on Sunday and play at home in Telkom PGA Championship on the Sunshine Tour, where he has a chance to win the Order of Merit.
 
Jim Furyk is the No. 2 seed and will play Brett Quigley. Third-seeded Adam Scott faces Shaun Micheel, and Phil Mickelson has the No. 4 seed and will play fellow lefty Richard Green of Australia.
 
The most compelling matches feature Ryder Cup teammates -- Sergio Garcia against Darren Clarke in one match, Padraig Harrington against Lee Westwood in another. And in a reminder that anything goes in this event, Geoff Ogilvy plays Steve Stricker in a match of past champions who were seeded No. 55 (Ogilvy) and No. 52 (Stricker) when they won.
 
Woods is a pro at match play, even though most of his success came as an amateur.
 
He learned as a teenager how frustrating this format can be, taking on a kid named James Mohan in the Southern California Junior Match Play. Woods said he shot 69 that day, posted the lower score and got eliminated.
 
'I didn't quite understand that,' he said. 'I just came home and told Dad, 'I shot a better score than he did, but he won the match. That doesn't seem right.' He explained it to me. We went out the next couple of days and played match play.'
 
After that, it was rare when Woods didn't win.
 
He captured three straight U.S. Junior Amateur titles, followed by three straight U.S. Amateurs. His record at the Accenture is 23-5, and his singles record in match play including exhibitions is 36-11-2. Someone once asked Woods why his record in match play was so much better as an amateur, and his answer was telling.
 
'The field,' he replied.
 
Jack Nicklaus believes Woods' amateur record is what has carried him to 53 stroke-play titles, including 12 majors.
 
'Each day is a tournament in match play,' Nicklaus said. 'And you've got to finish that day if you want to go to the next day.'
 
Nicklaus also is proud of his match play record. The only match he says he lost in 1959 was the quarterfinals of the British Masters. He lost two matches in 1960, and only one in 1961.
 
'As a result, I was a lot tougher when I got to the TOUR and got to medal play,' Nicklaus said. 'When I had to finish a tournament, I was able to finish it. Tiger's record as an amateur was fantastic. He knew how to finish as a kid, and when he got here, he didn't have to go through that. Absolutely, that was no coincidence.'
 
For all the lore over Woods' record in match play, he might be tougher to beat over 72 holes of stroke play. Furyk was asked whether he would rather face Woods in an 18-hole match or 18 holes of stroke play.
 
It took him a while to find the answer before he drew one obvious conclusion.
 
'I guess the point there would be it's not really a good scenario either way,' Furyk said.
 
After some more thought, he chose match play because 'it's a little bit more volatile.'
 
The streak is volatile by its sheer nature.
 
Woods was reminded that this streak only applies to PGA TOUR events during a practice round Monday when he caught up with Shaun Micheel, who beat him in the first round of the HSBC World Match Play Championship last September on the European Tour, ending his winning streak worldwide at five tournaments. Also in the field this week is Yong-Eun Yang and Harrington, who beat him in consecutive weeks in Asia. Henrik Stenson is here. He beat Woods last month in Dubai.
 
Considering this World Golf Championship is sanctioned by every major tour in the world, maybe he's really on a losing streak.
 
Whatever the case, it won't be easy getting to No. 8 on the PGA TOUR.
 
'He's a great match player,' Ogilvy said. 'But over 18 holes, it doesn't take much for someone to come up with something good.'
 
Related Links
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    Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • 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