Like Jack, Tiger wins by not beating self

By Doug FergusonMay 13, 2013, 7:30 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have never had a conversation longer than a couple of minutes, and rarely about golf. Maybe it's because they already think along the same lines when it comes to winning tournaments.

The Players Championship was another example of how Woods rarely beats himself.

Nicklaus was under the oak tree at Augusta National last month after hitting his ceremonial tee shot when he talked about one that got away, the first time he had a share of the lead going into the final round of a major and didn't win. It was the 1971 Masters, and he found the water trying to reach the 15th green with a 3-wood.

''I don't like to waste a tournament on one shot,'' Nicklaus said. ''If I was today thinking about strategy of what I wanted to do on that, I probably wouldn't have done it. I put myself out of the tournament. One shot shouldn't be a shot that puts you out of the tournament.''


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The island green on the TPC Sawgrass is nothing like the 15th at Augusta National, but it's hard not to think about Nicklaus when reviewing the hole that settled a weekend duel between Woods and Sergio Garcia.

Woods was standing on the 17th tee Sunday when he looked over and saw Garcia approaching the par-5 16th green with a putter in hand, realizing he was there in two and at worst would make birdie to tie Woods for the lead.

The pin was in its traditional Sunday location, the back right corner behind the bunker. Finding land is always the priority. From there, it's a bonus to catch the ridge that feeds the golf ball down a gentle slope toward the hole.

''The thing is, you can get baited into hitting it over there, and that's the hard part,'' Woods said. ''I thought that the prudent play for me was hit it in the center of the green, even left-center, and try and hit kind of a pull-cut. It I hit a pull-cut, it's going to have a little bit of distance to it, and it might have the shape where it might land up on top and feed down. But when I hit it, a little bit of gust came up and it stalled out.''

The ball stayed on the front of the green, leaving a difficult putt from 45 feet. Woods hit a lot of good putts that didn't go in Sunday. This might have been the best putt that he wasn't expecting to go in. The pace was perfect, 3 feet away, and he made his par. Mission accomplished.

Garcia, who two-putted for birdie on the 16th, was standing on the 17th tee watching Woods make his par.

The Spaniard won The Players Championship in 2008 in a playoff on the 17th hole. Paul Goydos came up short and in the water, Garcia found the green.

This wasn't a playoff.

Garcia, however, went at the flag and posed over the shot until he saw the splash.

''As the ball was in the air I was thinking, 'Please be right,' because it was straight at it,'' Garcia said. ''It was probably 3 feet left of the hole. When it splashed, you think, 'Well, hopefully I hit a good shot after this and make 4 and still have a chance on the next.' It's pretty much as simple as that.''

Only it wasn't that simple. His next shot bounced off the mound framing a bunker and caromed back into the water. He wound up with a quadruple-bogey 7. Adding to his misery, Garcia put his tee shot into the water on the 18th for a double bogey.

To say such mistakes never happen to Woods would be to ignore the final hole at Dubai in 2001, when he went for the green on the 18th hole and found water for a double bogey to lose by two shots. He has lost tournaments down the stretch. More often than not, the other guy beats him.

Back to Nicklaus, talking about Augusta National, though it can apply to other golf courses and situations.

''If you've got a 50-50 chance of doing it, I wouldn't be doing it,'' Nicklaus said about high-risk shots. ''If you've got a 90-10 chance, think real hard about it, and try to make sure you eliminate the 10.''

(Nicklaus said he has never talked to Phil Mickelson about this.)

Woods made a mistake on Sunday when he hit a pop-hook into the water on the 14th, leading to double bogey that gave hope to about a half-dozen players, at least for a short time. That was because of a bad swing, which is bound to happen over 18 holes of a final round. It's his head that kept him in the game.

''I stayed really patient,'' Woods said. ''I kept telling myself, 'That was your only bad swing you made all day. You can still win this tournament.'''

He figured if he could play the last four holes in 1 under, he would at least get into a playoff. He played the last four in 1 under and won The Players Championship. Of the four players tied for the lead, two went into the water on the 17th – Garcia and Jeff Maggert – while David Lingmerth made a gallant try. He missed an 8-foot birdie chance on the 17th and had to make a 70-foot putt down two ridges on the 18th to tie. He three-putted for bogey.

Woods now is 52-4 when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round on the PGA Tour, which does not count his playoff win over Tom Lehman in La Costa. They were tied for the lead when rain washed out the last round. Woods won in a playoff when Lehman hit into the water, and Woods hit his tee shot to a foot.

His four wins this year speak to why Woods is such a good closer. He has yet to break 70 in the final round in those four wins. He didn't need to.

Of the 52 times that Woods won with at least a share of the lead after 54 holes, his average score in the final round is 70.5. The 22 times he has won when trailing after 54 holes, his average score in the final round is 66.6.

It's all about doing whatever it takes to win. And when you don't, make sure it's because someone else beats you.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."