Tiger rallies for dramatic win at the Memorial

By Doug FergusonJune 7, 2009, 4:00 pm
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DUBLIN, Ohio ' Two holes, two towering shots, two clutch birdies.
 
Just like that, Tiger Woods broke out of a four-way tie and won the Memorial on Sunday with a 7-under 65 to cap off a high-charged comeback. And just as suddenly, he silenced the skeptics who wondered if he was ready to defend his title in the U.S. Open in two weeks at Bethpage Black.
 
I knew I could do this, Woods said after birdies on the final two holes gave him a one-shot victory. I was close to winning, but the game wasnt quite there when I really needed it on Sunday. I rectified that.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods won for the second time this season. (Getty Images)
First came a 9-iron at No. 17 that Woods launched as high as he could, allowing the ball to land softly on the top shelf of a rock-hard green for a 9-foot birdie putt. More brilliance followed on the 18th, when Woods hit a 7-iron from 183 yards that stopped a foot from the hole, wrapping up his fourth title at Muirfield Village.
 
Then came a bold observation by tournament host Jack Nicklaus. He had said earlier in the week that Woods, with 14 career majors, would probably break his record of 18 majors in a couple of years.
 
I suspect No. 15 will come for Tiger Woods in about two weeks, Nicklaus said at the trophy presentation. If he drives the ball this way, and plays this way, Im sure it will. And if not, it will surprise me greatly.
 
There were no surprises Sunday for Woods, the best sign of all.
 
He hit the ball where he was aiming and found every fairway in the final round, the first time he had done that on the PGA Tour in more than five years. He missed only five fairways all week, his best performance off the tee since the 1998 Masters.
 
It was nice to play this well going into the U.S. Open, Woods said. This is how you have to hit it in order to win U.S. Opens.
 
He managed to work in some of Muirfield Village magic along the way, surging into contention by chipping in for eagle from a nasty lie in thick rough behind the 11th green.
 
I dont even know how to describe it, said Michael Letzig, who played with Woods. It was the best golf Id ever seen.
 
Jim Furyk, part of the four-way tie on the back nine, made a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole that gave him a 69 and allowed him to finish alone in second. Furyk is close friends in Woods, and had been hearing the speculation that Woods was not the same.
 
I just wish you all would just quick (ticking) him off so he has to come back and keep proving stuff, Furyk said. I think he answered a lot of questions today.
 
Woods finished at 12-under 276 and won for the 67th time in his career. The timing could not have been better. He was within one shot of the lead going in to the back nine at Quail Hollow and made nothing better than par for a 72. He played in the final group at The Players Championship, couldnt find a fairway and closed with a 73.
 
On a firm, fast course under steamy sunshine at Muirfield Village, he was close to perfect.
 
It wasnt just the last two holes, it was all week, Woods said. I felt comfortable hitting it left-to-right, right-to-left. Didnt have a problem taking the ball up in the air or bringing it down. Thats what I was looking for. Thats what I was able to do at home in my practice sessions, and now its just a matter of carrying it out here onto a tournament venue and doing it.
 
After a bogey from the bunker on the 16th, Woods was tied with Furyk, Jonathan Byrd and Davis Love III.
 
But not for long.
 
His two final birdies gave him a cushion, and no one could catch him.
 
Byrd had the best chance to catch Woods. Two shots behind, he hit his approach to 4 feet on the 17th, but missed the birdie putt. Byrd finished with a meaningless double bogey for a 72 and tied for third with Mark Wilson (73).
 
Love, who could have avoided 36-hole U.S. Open qualifying Monday with a victory, got into contention with consecutive birdie putts of about 50 feet, only to miss an 8-foot birdie try on the 15th. He fell out of the hunt with a bogey from the fairway bunker on the 17th, then hitting his tee shot into the water on the 18th and closing with a triple bogey.
 
Matt Bettencourt, the PGA Tour rookie who started the final round tied with Wilson, held his own for seven holes until a three-putt bogey, followed by a chunked wedge into the water for a double bogey. He closed with a 75 and tied for fifth.
 
Letzig had never experienced such an environment as playing with Woods in the final round.
 
Ive never seen anyone hit irons like that, Letzig said. I tried not to watch him, but some of those shots were unreal.
 
Woods driving set up those iron shots. The fairways at Muirfield Village are among the most generous, but he wasnt close to missing them and often set himself up on the right side to attack the pins.
 
I dont know why everyone talks about how bad he drives it, Letzig said. Every drive I saw was perfect.
 
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.