Woods Happy with Hard-Earned 70

By Associated PressJune 16, 2005, 4:00 pm
PINEHURST, N.C. -- Tiger Woods hit a tree, muffed a pitch, missed eight fairways and seemed always to be pondering a way to get out of his next jam.
 
He knew he wasn't going to win the U.S. Open on Thursday. The way he was spraying the ball around Pinehurst No. 2, his job became finding a way not to lose it.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods had two birdies and two bogeys in his opening 70.
Woods managed to do just that and, when his day ended, had a smile on his face as he signed for an even-par 70 that turned out to be a lot better than it looked.
 
'Granted I didn't drive it as well as I wanted to. I didn't hit my irons as precisely as I needed to, either,' Woods said. 'I felt like I didn't make a lot of putts. But I just kept hanging in there, just kept grinding.'
 
The greatest player of his time usually wins tournaments by posting a lot of red numbers, even at the U.S. Open. That didn't happen Thursday when he birdied both the par-5s but nothing else.
 
And it's not going to happen the rest of the week on a course that penalizes even the slightest mistake.
 
'It's OK to make a par,' Woods said. 'You know that if you do that for 72 straight holes you're looking pretty good.'
 
For a while in his first round, Woods wasn't looking very good. He started on the back nine and promptly made birdie on his first hole, but by the time he made the turn on a steamy morning amid the Carolina pines he was 1 over.
 
Woods wasn't hitting fairways and he wasn't making putts. The massive gallery that followed him and playing partners Chris DiMarco and Luke Donald wanted a chance to cheer, but it's hard to yell and scream for par saves.
 
'We heard one roar today and that was when Chris holed out on No. 2,' Woods said. 'Other than that you didn't hear anything.'
 
Woods tried to give them something to cheer for, and it almost backfired badly. It came on the 336-yard third hole, a par 4 that's marginally drivable but one that most players opt to play with irons off the tee.
 
DiMarco and Donald did just that while Woods took his time on the tee, pulling out a pen to put his mark on a new ball. Finally, Woods motioned for DiMarco and Donald to go ahead and walk to their balls while he waited for the green to clear to take his shot.
 
A crowd applauded, sensing some drama. Woods gave it to them, but not in the way he wanted.
 
Woods took a vicious swing with his driver, and the loud whack of club hitting ball reverberated through the pines. A few seconds later there was another sound ' that of Woods' ball ricocheting off a tree deep off the right side of the fairway.
 
You don't win Opens without some breaks, though. And Woods got a boost toward winning his third when the ball bounced off the tree toward the green, ending up in deep rough just short of a greenside bunker.
 
'Great break there because I came out of my drive,' Woods said. 'I'm trying to hit some kind of low fade in the right bunker, so I can pitch up on the green. I overcooked it big time.'
 
Woods nearly compounded his mistake on his next shot, a muffed pitch that barely cleared the bunker. He made par, but his adventures weren't over.
 
On the next hole, a reachable par 5, Woods hit his drive so far left that those standing behind the ropes on the left side of the hole near the tee box gasped as the ball shot over their heads.
 
Woods found his ball buried deep in the left rough, but somehow managed to get a middle iron on the ball and hit it into the greenside bunker. From there, he hit it to 1 foot and made his only other birdie of the day.
 
Over the space of four holes, Woods missed three fairways, hit a tree, found a bunker and misplayed a pitch. For the four holes he was 1-under, thanks to magnificent work around the mounded greens that are Pinehurst's trademark.
 
He was also painstakingly patient on a day and on a course where patience was tested at every turn. The 70 was never going to be a 65, but Woods had every opportunity to turn it into a 75 and didn't.
 
'I relish it anytime we get an opportunity to play a golf course like that,' Woods said. 'When you shoot well in the '60s you move up the board and you're going to move up the board fast. That's how major championships are, and that's why I think all of us enjoy playing them.'
 
Woods will have three more days to enjoy this one. He already owns one major championship this year, and did nothing to shoot himself out of a second.
 
'Today was a very satisfactory day,' Woods said. 'I feel if I could have three more days like this I'm going to be close to where I need to be on Sunday.'
 
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - 105th U.S. Open
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    Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.