Woods More an Enigma Than a Favorite

By Associated PressJune 14, 2005, 4:00 pm
PINEHURST, N.C. -- The tee shot was pure power, right down the middle of the fourth fairway at Pinehurst No. 2, a perfect drive by Masters champion Tiger Woods.

The next shot Tuesday morning looked like it came from some guy who missed the cut in Dallas.
 
It went right of the fairway, right of the rough, beyond a sandy cart path and about 15 yards short of landing in the backyard of a two-story home. Woods looked at the ground, asked for another ball and pulled that one into the rough just short and left of the green.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods will need a solid week off the tee in order to avoid the penal rough at Pinehurst No.2
His record alone would indicate that Woods is the betting favorite this week at the U.S. Open. But he's more of an enigma than an intimidator.

He arrived at Pinehurst as the No. 1 player in the world, even though that was more a byproduct of the computerized ranking system. He won against two of the strongest fields on the PGA Tour this year, coming from behind at Torrey Pines and beating Phil Mickelson in that dramatic duel at Doral.

The other victory was at the Masters, but even that came with some baggage.

He looked like the Woods of old with that stunning chip-in for birdie, when the ball made a U-turn on the 16th green, hung on the lip of the cup for what seemed like forever, then dropped for a two-shot lead. Then he looked ordinary with back-to-back bogeys, having to win in a playoff for the green jacket.
 
'The bogey-bogey finish at Augusta, you don't see that from Tiger,' Luke Donald said. 'You don't expect that from Tiger. Maybe he's just not that comfortable yet, not quite as consistent.'

No one knows what to expect.

'There's still that unpredictability with what he's doing,' said John Cook, a neighbor who often practices with Woods at Isleworth Country Club near Orlando, Fla.

Woods remains somewhat coy about his work with swing coach Hank Haney, saying late last year that the changes all made sense to him one day on the range before he won two straight tournaments -- but saying after he won the Masters that he still has a long way to go.
 
Winning another green jacket didn't make the skeptics go away.
 
'If I read some of the stuff, it looks like I have no game left, so I might as well quit and retire,' Woods said Tuesday. 'I won a major this year -- that's pretty good. I like my chances. I've been playing well. This entire year has been a process of just an evolution of getting better. I'm excited about this opportunity this week.'

There are plenty of reasons for him to believe he can add the second leg of the Grand Slam, as his good friend Annika Sorenstam did this past weekend at the LPGA Championship.

Pinehurst No. 2 essentially comes down to the short game, and Woods is among the best. He circled the turtleback greens Tuesday with a variety of clubs, often using the putter, sometimes lofting chips with his wedge, occasionally using his 3-wood to bang the ball up the steep slope and onto the green.

Woods had an excellent chance to win the U.S. Open six years ago at Pinehurst, pulling within one shot of the lead until he made bogey from the bunker on the par-3 17th and finished two shots behind Payne Stewart.
 
But there are noticeable changes this year, some with the golf course, some with landscape on the PGA Tour.

Due to a cool spring that killed some of the grass, USGA officials had to plant sod around the slopes of the greens, and bare patches of dirt are evident on just about every hole.

'It's very difficult to execute the shots on the lies that we're getting around the greens, in that the grass is so closely mown,' said Phil Mickelson, the runner-up at Pinehurst in 1999. 'It's very easy for clubs to come just slightly behind the ball, the grass grabs it and stops it, and you see guys flub it. That's what's so tough about chipping.'

Woods seemed more concerned with the rough.
 
There wasn't much of it when he played a practice round last week, but it was nasty when he returned -- not the thick, sticky grass found at Northeastern courses like Congressional and Winged Foot, but Bermuda grass that makes the ball sink to the ground. That's important given the greens at Pinehurst, because players have to control their approach shots.

'Getting the ball to the green is not an easy task,' Woods said.

Woods will play the first two rounds with Chris DiMarco, who pushed him into the playoff at the Masters. It will be another reminder of how he won the first major of the year, and how much hard work it required at the end.

DiMarco remembers the time when Woods was atop the leaderboard and everyone could bank on the outcome, a feeling that no longer exists.

'I think the players have gotten better, and I think there's a little intimidation factor that's gone,' DiMarco said. 'Once people started beating him down the stretch, that kind of faded away. That usually goes a long way.'

But for all the questions about his game, and a long list of challengers -- Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Mickelson, David Toms, Sergio Garcia -- Woods still managed to win the Masters and two other big tournaments.

Cook can only wonder what will happen when his consistency catches up with his talent.

'There's a reason there's a Big Four or a Big Five, and it's because one guy is playing mediocre,' he said. 'If that one guy is playing his best, there is no Big Four.'
 
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

  • Tee Times - U.S. Open

  • Photo Gallery from Pinehurst

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    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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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.

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    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.

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    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.


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    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.

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