Good stretch for anyone else is a slump for Tiger

By Doug FergusonMay 12, 2009, 4:00 pm
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PGA Tour (75x100)PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Tiger Woods must be kicking himself for dropping out of Stanford two years early. If this golf career doesnt work out for him, he doesnt even have a college degree to fall back on.
 
OK, his game is not that bad.
 
But it sure can be made to seem that way.
 
Its hard to believe it was only six weeks ago when Woods went through yet another coronation. He rallied from five shots behind and won the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a birdie putt on the final hole. He was one month into his return from major knee surgery that kept him out of competition for eight months.
 
And what has he done lately?
 
Woods tied for sixth at the Masters. He was within one shot of the lead going to the back nine at Quail Hollow, closed with nothing but pars and finished fourth. He was in the final group Sunday at The Players Championship, five shots behind Alex Cejka, then made bogeys from the pine straw, rough and sand on the front nine and wound up in eighth place.
 
For any other player, that four-week record would make him one of the hottest players in golf.
 
For Woods, its bordering on a slump.
 
What has he won, 11 of his last 18? Paul Goydos said. Yeah, Im really concerned about this flash in the pan.
 
This is nothing new.
 
A week after Woods won the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black for his eighth major championship, Golf Digest ran an online survey asking if he would break Jack Nicklaus record of 18 majors, and 73 percent said yes. Two years later, after Woods had gone eight majors without winning, the magazine posed the same question, and 71 percent said no.
 
Woods once said the media tend to exaggerate when he plays poorly ' and when he plays well.
 
But its his own fault.
 
Woods is the one who set outrageous standards by winning the career Grand Slam at age 24, by winning one U.S. Open by 15 shots and another on one good leg. He has never lost a PGA Tour event when leading by more than one shot going into the final round. And his 66 victories on the PGA Tour are one more than the next six players combined in the world rankings.
 
He contributes to the expectations by what he says.
 
Woods now has 16 consecutive top 10s in stroke play, a streak that was mentioned to him after the Masters.
 
I have a hard time looking at it that way, he said. Its just the nature of how I am. You want to try and win every event you play in, and obviously, I havent done that this year.
 
Perhaps there are so many questions about his game because he played in the final group and listened to the cheers ahead of him, not around him. Then again, he did that at back-to-back majors in 2007 (Masters, U.S. Open.)
 
Or maybe because it was three consecutive weeks when he had a chance to win on the back nine. One of the NBC analysts Sunday could not recall Woods playing so badly with a chance to win, meaning he wasnt watching the week before at Quail Hollow.
 
It still was shocking to see him fall out of contention so early, especially watching Cejka melt in the steamy conditions.
 
I think you guys got to cut him a little bit of slack at times, Henrik Stenson said after his flawless 66 to win at Sawgrass. He cant win every week, even though he obviously wants it.
 
Cejka, who watched his five-shot lead turn into an eight-shot deficit, couldnt help but notice that Woods didnt hit very many good shots. He was no less astounded by the 1-over 73 on Woods card.
 
It should have been 5 over the way he kind of played, Cejka said. But hes a grinder, you know?
 
Even so, the pressure will build.
 
Woods next scheduled start is the Memorial, where he is a three-time winner, but not since 2001. Then comes his return to Bethpage Black for the U.S. Open, where he won by three shots in 2002 and will be expected to do something similar.
 
Its always best to look at Woods as a portrait instead of a snapshot.
 
One golf magazine once ran a picture of Woods on the cover with a headline, Whats wrong with Tiger? Within months, he ran off consecutive victories at Bay Hill, The Players Championship and the Masters.
 
Ill fix it, Woods said as he left Sawgrass.
 
Remember, he has played only six times since being gone for eight months. It might be best to wait until the majors are over to see what kind of progress Woods has made after being away for so long.
 
Or maybe hell win the U.S. Open, and everyone will wonder what the fuss was all about.
 
You can be sure though that the only people who arent the least bit concerned about Woods are the guys he is trying to beat.
 
This will be just another motivational tactic for him, Goydos said. The more this happens, the worse it will be when the putts fall and when he stops having to hit left-handed. Hes going to kill us even more. Were all going to be Rory Sabbatini and Stephen Ames for three months. And I havent even said a word.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.