Woods Seeking First Major in Two Years

By Associated PressJune 15, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Tiger Woods came to the U.S. Open fully ready to deal with the swirling winds, waist-high grass and quirky bounces at Shinnecock Hills.
 
He wasn't quite as eager to address another matter that got almost as much attention Tuesday -- the growing concern about the state of his game.
 
'Am I tired of it? Yeah,' Woods said.
 
He followed his words with a smile, but it's clear Woods has had enough of the same questions over and over.
 
They've come after every wayward tee shot, every back-nine disaster, and every tournament Woods has failed to win.
 
They came again after a practice round at treacherous Shinnecock Hills, where Woods won't be contending if he keeps hitting the ball sideways off the tee as he has in recent months.
 
'Certainly I try and just kind of take it in, but the problem is you guys keep asking me about it,' Woods said. 'Every tournament I go to you keep asking the same questions.'
 
The questions come because the player who used to dominate the majors doesn't seem to be the same player anymore. Woods hasn't won a major in two years, and you can't tune in to a tournament anymore without seeing him slashing it out from under a tree.
 
You also can't stop hearing commentators analyze his swing, and question why he refuses to seek help from former instructor Butch Harmon. At the Memorial, Woods' caddie put his golf bag in front of a camera so his swing couldn't be picked apart.
 
'We laugh on tour about how these guys think they know everything, but they don't,' Woods said.
 
Woods' biggest problem, though, may be the fact that it might be tough to be Tiger Woods, but it's even tougher to follow him.
 
When he last teed it up in a U.S. Open on Long Island, it was almost a given that Woods would win. The fans expected it, and so did most of the other players.
 
Two years later, things have changed.
 
Since winning about 50 miles from here at Bethpage in 2002 -- his seventh win in his last 11 majors-- Woods has gone seven major championships without a win. He hasn't won a stroke play title since October, and he's blown two 36-hole leads already this year.
 
Worse yet, he's in danger of losing the No. 1 ranking he has held since the 1999 PGA Championship. That could happen this week if Ernie Els wins the Open and Woods finishes worse than sixth.
 
'I know that I haven't played up to my absolute peak, but who does week in and week out?' Woods asked. 'It certainly is not from a lack of effort, and I know that I'm going to be making some great progress this year.'
 
Just what is wrong with Woods is easy to see, and just as difficult to pinpoint. His short game remains immaculate, and his irons are almost always the right distance.
 
Get him on a tee, though, and watch out.
 
Woods is 147th on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy this year, hitting barely more than half the fairways he aims at. At crucial times, like when he resorted to a safe slice off the tee in the Wachovia Championship to try to keep the ball somewhere in play while blowing a second-round lead, it seems even worse.
 
And it's not just the driver.
 
In his last tournament, Woods was trying to make a late comeback in the Memorial when he hit a 4-iron off the tee into the water. He has even struggled at times with the 2-iron stinger he likes to use off the tee to stay in play.
 
If it weren't for great putting, Woods wouldn't even be in the mix. Because of the putter, he has one win and seven top-10 finishes in 10 tournaments this year, numbers that anyone who isn't named Tiger Woods would take in an instant.
 
Even the hottest putter, though, won't win at Shinnecock if the tee shots bury in the deep grass that resembles fields of grain blowing in the coastal wind.
 
Woods says winning his ninth major championship will also involve some luck, the kind he got at St. Andrews in 2000 when he didn't hit a ball into a bunker for four rounds, although two bounced right over deep bunkers.
 
His rivals believe that sometimes Woods manufactures his own luck. He may not dominate anymore, but they're not counting him out at Shinnecock.
 
'I'd hate to rule out him coming back and playing at that level again because I think that's most likely going to happen,' Phil Mickelson said. 'I think we all expect him to come out and light it up like he usually does, and I think it's very, very soon going to happen. I just hope we can put it off as long as possible.'
 
Until then, Woods is trying to put things in perspective. He's won $51.5 million in eight years as a pro, made many times more than in endorsements and still wants desperately to compete just as he did in the past.
 
He laughed when someone suggested he might be the biggest celebrity in the Hamptons this week.
 
'I'm just a golfer, man,' he said. 'I chase a little white ball around and work on my farmer tan, that's it.'
 
Related links:
  • 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.