Woods on Fringe of Contention

By Associated PressJune 18, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- With a little time to kill, Tiger Woods sat on his bag at No. 7 and chatted with his U.S. Open playing partner, Shigeki Maruyama.
Woods asked the Japanese player about his belt and teased him about wearing matching socks.
What was that? A Tiger smile?
For all the frustration, Woods found a glimmer of hope Friday at Shinnecock Hills, managing to break par in the second round and keep himself on the fringe of contention. But it's going to be a long, hard weekend if the game's No. 1 player wants to get back on top.
Maruyama and Phil Mickelson share the lead at 6-under-par 134. Fifteen other players are between them and Woods, who's at 141.
At least he snapped his streak of above-par rounds in the U.S. Open with a 1-under 69. But the most pressing matter - an 0-for-7 drought in the majors - shows no signs of being addressed.
Woods, who once dominated the game like no player since Jack Nicklaus, just can't get anything going. His first tee shot Friday sailed right, burrowing into the hay and leading to bogey. He settled into a run of 12 straight pars - not bad for the brutal Open set-up, but hardly the kind of charge that used to be customary for Woods.
'It's a challenging golf course we have out there,' Woods said. 'You have to be patient. You have to hang in there. It's a U.S. Open. I felt like I played well enough to make some birdies. You just have to be patient. The birdies will come.'
Haven't we heard this all before?
For nearly two years, Woods has come up with a variety of reasons why he's stuck on eight major championships. On this day, he brought up the wind, 'which did a complete 180 after four or five holes.'
'We were looking forward to playing 16 downwind,' he said. 'Instead, it was right in our face.'
So Woods settled into a familiar pattern: brilliance matched with frustration, good shot followed by bad shot, every smile matched by a grimace.
It all adds up to, well, not much of anything. Thousands of fans still follow Woods around the course, as if they wouldn't dare miss it when he suddenly sets off on another period of brilliance.
Not to worry. Woods has been just a shade better than ordinary in the majors since his 2002 Open win at Bethpage Black, another Long Island course about 50 miles away.
It seems a lot longer than that.
Woods' showings in the last seven majors (28th, second, 15th, 20th, fourth, 39th, 22nd) sound like the work of a good, solid tour pro - not the greatest player of this generation.
Not surprisingly, Woods refuses to look at the glass as half-empty. After he stopped talking about the changing wind - which was actually quite calm by Shinnecock standards - Woods turned his attention to the greens. They were much slower than earlier in the week, he maintained.
'I hit two putts that were dead center,' Woods said. 'They just came up a couple of inches short. That's the difference in the speed of the greens.'
But putting isn't the problem. Woods has hit only 12 of 28 fairways over the first two days (42.9 percent). As for greens in regulation, he's managed just 19 of 36 (52.8 percent).
'To be honest, if you look at most of the guys on that board, they're not hitting a lot of fairways,' Woods said. 'I went on the computer last night just to see if I was doing anything different. No one is hitting a lot of fairways.'
Hmmm. He must be looking at a different computer than everyone else.
According to the tournament stats, Woods was tied for 116th in the 156-player field when it comes to staying on the fairway, and only slightly better (tied for 79th) in finding the green in the prescribed number of shots.
There were a few moments of levity in Friday's round.
At the par-3 7th, Woods and Maruyama sparred playfully in the tee box while waiting for the green to clear. Woods managed a smile when a little girl wearing an orange 'Tigger' hat from Winnie the Pooh shouted between holes, 'Hello, Tiger Woods!'
But there was plenty of frustration as well. His caddie, Steve Williams, allegedly kicked at a newspaper cameraman who dared snap a few pictures of Woods as he warmed up before his first hole. Nothing came of the incident.
At the last hole, Woods drove to the proper spot at the right edge of the fairway, providing a chance to go for the green. Alas, he missed to the right and had to settle for par.
'God, Tiger!' he screamed at himself, lingering to take a few extra practice swings.
'Come on, Tiger. Shake it off!' a fan yelled from behind the ropes.
But it didn't sound very hopeful.
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - U.S. Open
  • U.S. Open Photo Gallery
  • TV Airtimes
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

    Getty Images

    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

    Getty Images

    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

    Getty Images

    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.