Does Woods need to re-learn how to win?

By Doug FergusonJanuary 30, 2012, 9:38 pm

Tiger Woods laughed at the question and it was hard to blame him.

Woods had won 82 times around the world, including 14 majors. In the 47 tournaments that he had the outright lead going into the final round, only four players had managed to beat him. This was golf’s ultimate closer.

But this also was a new world for Woods.

In the 12 months since his personal life came crashing down, he not only failed to win, he was never in serious contention. On this occasion, the 2010 Australian Masters, he made two eagles on the last four holes to turn an ordinary round into a 65 and back his way into fourth place. He was asked that day if he would have to learn how to win again the longer he failed to get in the hunt.

“No,” he said, breaking into a confident smile.

Hoggard: Close, but no cigar

Hawkins: Intimidation factor gone

Woods didn’t even let the reporter finish a follow-up question, smiling while shaking his head. “No, no, no.”

Three weeks later, Woods blew a four-shot lead in the final round of the Chevron World Challenge and lost in a playoff to Graeme Mcdowell. He later attributed that to being able to hit only one shot — a draw — while in the early stages of a swing overhaul.

A year later, when his health returned, Woods had a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the Australian Open and shot 75, falling six shots behind and never catching up. And then on Sunday in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, he was tied for the 54-hole lead with Robert Rock and couldn’t hang with an Englishman who was No. 117 in the world with one career victory.

One shot behind when he made the turn, Woods didn’t make a single birdie on the back nine.

Not to be overlooked was his win at the Chevron World Challenge two months ago, when he started the final round one shot behind Zach Johnson and birdied the last two holes for a one-shot victory. It was an important win because it meant something to Woods, yet it was hard not to notice how much harder he had to work to get it.

Woods is still not there. He never thought winning was easy, but he used to make it look that way.

So what to make of Abu Dhabi?

As usual, it’s best not to jump to conclusions about Woods. Even back in more peaceful times, there were whispers that he was in a slump to start the 2001 season. He failed to win his first five tournaments, then went to Dubai and lost a one-shot lead to Thomas Bjorn, hitting into the water and making double bogey on his last hole.

“A lot of people are talking about Tiger being in a slump and he’s not doing the right things,” Bjorn said that day. “The guy is playing fantastic golf. He just hasn’t won in the last couple of weeks.”

Not years. Not months. Weeks.

Sure enough, Woods won his next three tournaments, capping it off at the Masters for an unprecedented sweep of the majors.

Expectations always will be higher for Woods for no other reason than his record was so astounding from the lead. After that loss to Bjorn until the 2009 PGA Championship, he was 25-0 with the outright lead going into the final round.

Over the course of a career, it’s bound to even out a little. And remember, there was one year when Woods twice lost tournaments when he had at least a share of the lead going into the final round. That was in 2000, when many believe he was at the top of his game.

Winning, though, is more important than ever now.

Woods no longer has that aura of invincibility. That will return only if he starts winning with regularity, and it doesn’t matter whether he beats Robert Rock or Rory McIlroy.

Nick Faldo once thought the Masters would be the only major Woods could win, because it was the only golf course where the media were kept outside the ropes. Only later did Faldo realize what an advantage that turned out to be for Woods.

“Everyone joining him now on the weekend at a major goes into his world,” Faldo said in a 2007 interview. “That’s Tiger’s arena. Other guys will step into that arena one week and go back out. He’s there all the time. And each times he’s there, he gains more experience. And then for the rest of the guys, good luck stepping into his world.”

That world suddenly is crowded.

At the moment, no matter how much he has improved, Woods has not set himself apart.

To suggest that Woods faces deeper competition than ever before is to ignore his dominance, and to show little respect for those who had to face him at his best. When one guy is winning 11-of-29 majors while taking an average of six PGA Tour events a year, that doesn’t leave much for everyone else.

But the more opportunities Woods lets slip away, such as Abu Dhabi, the longer it takes to regain his edge, if he ever does.

Woods decided two years ago that he was willing to put in the time to revamp his swing under a third coach, Sean Foley, and that process appears to be coming along. Not to be forgotten is that Woods missed nearly five months of being able to practice because of injuries to his legs.

Luke Donald and Robert Karlsson, who played with him in Abu Dhabi, were struck by the flight and shape of Woods’ shot. That’s what always set him apart from the others – that and his putting. Ultimately, putting will determine not only whether Woods wins again, but how often.

In the meantime, Abu Dhabi can be perceived two ways.

It was another chance for Woods to establish himself against this new world order, and he couldn’t buy a birdie; or in his last three tournaments, he has won and finished third twice.

But the question remains from two years ago.

He took the time to learn a new swing under a new coach. Now does he have to teach himself how to win again?

For that, he has only one teacher.

Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.