Tiger's desire to win majors may be crippling

By Doug FergusonJune 19, 2012, 7:24 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – He was sure Tiger Woods was going to win the U.S. Open.

All it took was one glimpse of The Olympic Club for this longtime observer of golf - especially when it comes to Woods - to reach this conclusion. The tight turns in the canted fairways, putting a premium on accuracy instead of sheer length. The thick, mangled rough around so many collars of the firm, small greens.

He figured if Woods played anywhere near the level when he won the Memorial two weeks earlier, the tournament was over.


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And if Woods was anywhere near the lead after the first couple of rounds at Olympic, forget it.

This was two days before the tournament.

Considering the source and his keen insight over the years, it was enough to get one's attention. It also raised a question. What if Woods played well and didn't win?

This was met with a long stare but no answer.

A week later, it remains a mystery.

Woods loves the toughest tests, and nothing stacks up to a U.S. Open unless nasty weather is involved. And yet he closed with rounds of 75-73 at Olympic, one shy of his worst weekend at a U.S. Open. Woods had a 73-76 at Shinnecock Hills in 2004, although there were some notable differences.

Only 12 of the 72 players who made the cut at Olympic had a higher score than Woods on the weekend.

Shinnecock was brutal enough to produce 31 rounds in the 80s on the weekend, including 28 on the final day. No one who made the cut at Olympic shot in the 80s, and more than one major champion suggested that Saturday was the easiest the course played all week.

And the biggest difference? Woods was not tied for the lead going into the weekend at Shinnecock.

So what happened?

How did he go from near the lead to a share of the lead to a tie for 21st?

Woods attributed his 75 in the third round to being fooled by the speed of the greens, to being ''just a touch off'' at a major that exaggerates mistakes and to being caught between clubs on so many of his shots into the greens.

Everyone faced the same greens. Everyone gets a yardage that makes him choose between taking something off and hitting it hard.

''I made a living hitting half clubs,'' two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange said while analyzing the round on ESPN.

Five shots behind going into the final round, Woods said he simply didn't play well on the opening six holes. Hard to dispute that. He played them in 6 over, and when he finally made his first birdie, he was already 11 shots out of the lead.

Halfway through the season, this is shaping up a lot like 2009. That was the year Woods won his tuneup event for every major - Bay Hill, Memorial, AT&T National and the Bridgestone Invitational - without winning a major. Already this year, he won by five shots at Bay Hill and then was an also-ran at the Masters. He rallied from four shots behind to win the Memorial only to lay an egg on the weekend at the U.S. Open.

That's just a coincidence. Even before the 2009 season, Woods had won 11 times in his last start before a major, and he failed seven times to win the big one. In the immortal hash tag of Bubba Watson on Twitter, golf is hard.

More relevant were the words of Webb Simpson after he won the U.S. Open for his first major. ''I had a peace all day,'' he said.Woods used that word - peace - a lot when he was winning majors with regularity. He probably could use some now.

Butch Harmon, who spent a decade as Woods' coach before getting fired in 2002, saw Woods tie for 40th at the Masters and wondered if he had lost his nerve.

Brandel Chamblee, a Golf Channel analyst known for his biting remarks about Woods, said the 14-time major champion ''choked'' in the third round at Olympic.

''He wants to win another major championship so bad to shut everybody up,'' Chamblee said on air during the Open. ''I honestly believe the pressure got to him, and he choked. He was tangled up with some technical issues. I don't think he is able to correct things like he used to be able to.''

For one thing, the trophy isn't awarded Saturday. It's also dubious to attribute his U.S. Open to technical issues. If anything, Woods struggled with the distance control of his short irons, which haunted him earlier in the year. And while Woods is increasingly bothered by what is written and said about him, he cares more about getting back on track toward Jack Nicklaus' record in the majors than any payback against the media.

The desire to win a major - Woods has been stuck on No. 14 for four full years now - is greater than ever.

Maybe too great.

Woods was on the cusp of understanding the swing changes under Hank Haney late in 2004 when he won the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan by eight shots. In his next event, the Target World Challenge, he was two shots behind going into the third round when he bogeyed three of his opening four holes.

His caddie at the time, Steve Williams, expected a start like that. Williams said after that round Woods had felt better about his game than he had in a long time, and ''he can't wait to get to the first tee.''

''He's just got to settle down and let the round come to him,'' Williams said.

The next day, Woods shot 66 and won.

Two years later at Augusta National, knowing it would be the last Masters his dying father could watch on TV, Woods tried so hard to win that he couldn't buy a putt and finished three shots behind Phil Mickelson. He missed two eagle putts inside 15 feet on the back nine and had six three-putts for the week.

Even this year, paired with Mickelson at Pebble Beach, Woods badly missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the second hole, and it looked as though he was desperate to make putts instead of letting the round unfold as he has done so many times.

The first two majors are alarming only because this sort of thing had never happened to Woods. It was his worst performance as a pro at the Masters. It was the first time he was in front at a major going into Saturday and teed off an hour before the leaders on a Sunday.

If it's a trend, the question is how long it will last.

Moments after the U.S. Open ended, the longtime observer sent a text message about Woods.

''Wow,'' it said. ''I was wrong.''

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee: