For a second time Woods flinches in crunch time

By Doug FergusonAugust 31, 2009, 4:00 pm
The Barclays JERSEY CITY, N.J. ' Much to his chagrin, Tiger Woods has put some suspense back into golf.
Give him the lead going into the final round of the major, and victory is no longer as certain as death, taxes and Woods wearing a red shirt on Sunday. Watch him hit a clutch shot to the 18th green, and there is no guarantee hell make the putt.
Y.E. Yang delivered a shocker two weeks ago at the PGA Championship when he became the first player to beat golfs best closer, rallying from two shots behind Woods for a three-shot victory at Hazeltine.
Woods rarely looked so human. And then on Sunday at Liberty National, he bled a little more.
He was on the cusp of contention for most of the final round at The Barclays until the bell rang for the final lap. Then, Woods made a 10-foot birdie on the 14th to move closer to the lead, a 15-foot par putt on the next hole to stay there, and a deft chip-and-run to 3 feet for birdie on the 16th that pulled him within one shot.
Needing a birdie on the final hole to post the clubhouse lead ' at least force a playoff, maybe enough win ' he drilled a 6-iron from 189 yards to the back pin at the 18th and listened to those familiar roars as the ball settled 7 feet from the cup.
Heath Slocum and Steve Stricker, tied for the lead, were on the 18th tee as Woods stood over his birdie putt. Even from 467 yards away, it was not difficult to figure out what was going on. If the cheers werent enough, that red shirt is hard to miss.
Usually he makes it, Slocum said. Ho-hum for him.
The ball slid by on the left side of the cup, and they could hear the groans ' twice. Because the large video boards and TVs in corporate chalets had about a 10-second delay, the big news reached some people later than others.
Its kind of funny, actually, Slocum said, referring to the double dose of reaction. But I knew that he had missed it.
That wasnt the case for Slocum. Despite hitting a fairway bunker, playing short of the green and hitting a wedge to 20 feet, he rolled in the best par putt of his life for a one-shot victory. Stricker had a chance to tie, but missed from 10 feet.
I guess you cant make em all, Slocum said.
Yang was the first to see for himself when he took down the biggest name in golf.
Slocum beat a bunch of stars. The group one shot behind featured Woods, Stricker, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington, who have combined to win 20 majors. All of them have been at least No. 3 in the world at some point.
The common thread in both tournaments was Woods having a chance to win, and Woods finishing second.
Thats the way it goes sometimes, he said.
Along with his 81 victories worldwide, he has finished second 32 times in tournaments recognized by the world golf rankings.
Even so, this was only the fifth time in his career that Woods has finished runner-up in consecutive tournaments. The last time it happened was at the end of his 2006 season, when he was second to Yang at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, then surrendered a lead on the back nine to Harrington and lost to him in a playoff at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan.
Go back to 2005 to find the last time it happened in America. Woods was runner-up to Michael Campbell in the U.S. Open, then tied for second at the Western Open in Chicago.
Unlike the other four occasions, Woods had a realistic chance of winning both times as he stood on the 18th tee.
And the reason failure stands out so much is that it rarely happened before.
No other greens confounded Woods quite like the ones at Liberty National. It was only fitting that he missed a 7-foot putt at the end because he had done that all week. On his first hole of the tournament, Woods hit a pure 5-iron to 10 feet behind the hole at No. 10 and looked perplexed when it broke away from the cup.
Even as he tried to make a move Saturday, his 67 was slowed by missing an 8-foot eagle putt at No. 6 that stunned even one his playing partners, Zach Johnson. He missed from 5 feet later in the third round on No. 15 and was spewing expletives all the way to the next tee.
It happens, Woods said Sunday. Not too many golf courses that you misread putts that badly. This golf course is one.
Another course he mentioned was Fancourt in South Africa for the Presidents Cup in 2003. But thats where Woods made a putt he called one of the most nerve-racking of his career. He was on the third playoff hole against Els, in near darkness, facing a 15-foot par putt that broke both ways, right up the ridge, then left as it moved down toward the hole.
The most famous putt was his 6-foot birdie on the 72nd hole of the 2000 PGA Championship which he made to force a playoff that he won against Bob May on his way to four consecutive majors.
This year, Woods won his first PGA Tour event since returning from reconstructive knee surgery by making a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole at Bay Hill. It was the same green where he made a 25-foot birdie putt a year earlier to win by one shot, where he made a 15-footer to beat Phil Mickelson in 2001.
The list is long.
It will take more than two tournaments to put a dent in Woods mystique.
Besides, his loss is golfs gain, for it now puts some doubt into the outcome ' if not in Woods head, then the people watching, and even those trying to beat him.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Barclays
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

    Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

    That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

    Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

    From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

    Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

    She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

    She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

    “Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

    Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

    With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

    The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

    She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

    The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

    Getty Images

    One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

    Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

    Log on to to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

    Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

    Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

    Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

    Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

    Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

    David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

    Getty Images

    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

    Getty Images

    Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

    Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

    Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

    As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

    Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.