Woods back ... at least for now

By Doug FergusonJune 4, 2012, 9:19 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio - Tiger Woods needed only two words to explain where the Memorial fits in on his road back from wherever he was to wherever he is going.

''I won,'' he said.

When trying to chart his progress, golf becomes a lot like watching tennis.

He wins at Sherwood, and then can't shake Robert Rock in Abu Dhabi. Phil Mickelson blows him away at Pebble Beach, and then Woods shoots a career-best final round of 62 to put a scare into Rory McIlroy. He withdraws from Doral with a sore Achilles tendon, and then wins by five at Bay Hill. He has the worst three-tournament stretch of his career, and then goes through a week at Muirfield Village where he hardly misses a shot.

He's back. He's finished. He's back. And on it goes.

''I'm sure by Tuesday I'll be retired and done,'' Woods said Sunday. ''And then by the time I tee it up at the U.S. Open, it might be something different.''

He was smiling at his own exaggeration, though there was a weariness to his tone that became even more pronounced when he concluded, ''But I'll let you guys figure it out.''

His remarkable rally at the Memorial makes the temptation greater than ever to proclaim that he has turned the corner and is picking up speed.

Woods said he hit just about every shot exactly how he wanted to, with the exception of his second shot on the 10th that he pulled slightly while trying to play a fade. It found a bunker and led to bogey. He missed only one fairway, and that was only by a few inches into the first cut of rough.

''I had it all today,'' Woods said. ''Whatever club I wanted to hit, I could hit. That was fun to have it when I needed it.''

Equally impressive was his score, which ultimately is what matters.

Not only did Woods overcome a four-shot deficit going into the final round, he was two shots behind with four holes to play as he posed in the fairway urging - begging - his 3-iron into the par-5 15th hole to carry beyond the false front of the green. It did, and he two-putted for birdie.

Woods figured if he could make one more birdie over the closing stretch, it might be enough for him to get into a playoff. Minutes later, he was praying for par when his 8-iron bounced over the green at the par-3 16th into a horrible spot. The ball was nestled in the rough, and the path 50 feet to the hole looked impossible. Too short, and it would turn down a slope and leave a difficult two-putt bogey. Too strong, and it would race past the cup and into the water.

With a full swing and a flop shot, the ball rode the crown of a ridge with just the right speed and dropped in for birdie not even he saw coming.

''It was one of the hardest ones I've pulled off,'' Woods said when asked to rank it among his best shots, which is a long list. ''That was a pretty sweet shot.''

He made one last birdie for good measure, a 9-iron into the 18th green that was played by a guy who looked as though he had won here before. It caught the ridge at the back of the green and rolled down to just inside 10 feet, giving him a 5-under 67 and a two-shot fit.

It was his fifth win at Muirfield Village, the fifth golf course on which he has won at least five times. And it was the 73rd win of his PGA Tour career, tying him with Jack Nicklaus, the tournament host who was there, as always, to greet Woods when he came off the 18th green.

''He had to rub it in my face here, didn't he?'' Nicklaus later said with a laugh.

Nicklaus was gushing over the flop shot that Woods holed on the 16th, and it truly was magic.

''I don't think under the circumstances I've ever seen a better shot,'' Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus isn't always right.

The last time Woods won the Memorial was in 2009, when he also rallied from a four-shot deficit on the final day with a 65. It was his second win of the year, and the U.S. Open was two weeks away at Bethpage Black, where Woods had won wire-to-wire seven years earlier. Woods had 14 majors, as he does now.

''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, I'm sure it will. And if not, it will surprise me greatly.''

That year was full of so many surprises.

Woods won every tournament he played before the majors, and failed to win any of them. By the end of the year, his problems were off the golf course and he hasn't seriously challenged in the final hour of another major since then.

He won at Bay Hill, and then had his worst performance ever at the Masters as a pro when he tied for 40th.

Woods never broke par the last time the U.S. Open was played at The Olympic Club in 1998, though he was in the middle of changing his swing. He played the golf course last Tuesday and found it to be difficult, which it is. It is short by U.S. Open standards, though it plays long.

If nothing else, Olympic served as the perfect tuneup for Muirfield Village.

''Last week I did some good things, good work at home, and really got comfortable with the things that Sean (Foley) and I have been working on the last few tournaments and months,'' Woods said. ''As soon as they felt comfortable, I was good to go. And when I went out and played Olympic, I hit the ball well there. I said, 'Hey, that's as good a prep as any for this event if I can hit the ball well there.'

''I just basically carried that into this event and hit it great all week.''

Does this make him a failure if he doesn't win the U.S. Open? Is he done?

Woods talked about his game being good in spurts at other tournaments, though it was clear - at least by how he hit the ball - that he had his fastball all week. The process is to put good rounds together. Maybe the next step is putting good tournaments together.

In tennis terms, this would be a good time for a changeover. It's best to wait until the end of the year - or at least until August, the end of the majors - to figure out where Woods stands.

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Watch: Daly makes an ace at the Chubb Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

John Daly won't walk from the Chubb Classic with the trophy, but he certainly deserves recogition for his Sunday scorecard, which came complete with a hole-in-one.

Daly aced the 154-yard par-3 16th on the Talon Course at TwinEagles, when his ball carried the froont bunker and tracked right to the hole.

Two holes later, Daly signed for a final-round 67 that included four birdies, three bogeys and two eagles, which both in the span of four holes on the back nine.

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Gustafson shares stuttering success video

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 8:31 pm

Sophie Gustafson shared a breakthrough Sunday morning on YouTube.

Gustafson, a five-time LPGA winner and 16-time Ladies European Tour winner, shared her news in a 4-minute and 15-second video.

She did so without stuttering.

And that’s the nature of her breakthrough, something she is sharing in hopes that it will help others who stutter.

“I’m certainly not perfect, and the next time you see me, I am going to stutter, there is no question about that,” she says in the video. “But I am excited, because I am going in the right direction, and I believe I have found the solution that works for me.”

For someone who has struggled with stuttering all of her life, Gustafson has touched so many with her ability to communicate. She has entertained her legion of Twitter followers with her sense of humor. She also has written articles.

Back in 2011, Gustafson touched Golf Channel viewers when she opened up about her stuttering in an interview that was aired during the Solheim Cup. Her courage in sharing her challenges was recognized the following year, when the Golf Writers Association of American presented her its Ben Hogan Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has persevered through physical ailment. She also won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award that year.

Gustafson, 44, left the game as a player three years ago to become Beth Allen’s full-time caddie on the Ladies European Tour. She explains in the YouTube video that she is making her breakthrough with the help of Steve Gill, a team member with Tony Robbins’ life and business strategy group.

Gustafson said Gill led her to breathing, meditation and incantation exercises that have helped her since they began working together eight months ago.

“If you know anyone who stutters, tell them to breathe in and then speak,” Gustafson said. “I tried it the other way for 44 years, and it's just not working.” 

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J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

Make way for Jin Young Ko.

The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.


Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open


Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

“I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

Ko finished at 14 under overall.

It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

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Luiten takes title at inaugural Oman Open

By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:25 pm

MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten of the Netherlands won the inaugural Oman Open on Sunday to break a title drought of nearly 17 months.

The 32-year-old Dutchman shot a 4-under 68 to finish on 16-under 272, two shots ahead of his friend, England's Chris Wood (69).

It was Luiten's sixth European Tour title and the first since the 2016 KLM Open.

Frenchman Julien Guerrier (71) virtually assured that he would not have to go to qualifying school for the 12th time with a third-place finish after a 13-under 275.

Luiten started with three birdies in his first four holes, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth set him back. On the back nine, he made three birdies, including a key one on the 16th, where he made a 30-foot putt.

''It feels great. I didn't know what to expect when I came here but to play a course like this which is in great condition - it's a great technical golf course as well - it was beyond my expectation and to hold the trophy is even better,'' said Luiten, who is expected to rise to No. 65 in the new rankings on Monday.

''I had a great start, that's what I was hoping for. I hit some nice ones in close and rolled in a couple of nice putts and that gets you in the right position, where you want to be.


Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic


''Unfortunately, I had a couple of bogeys as well on the front nine, but I recovered from that with a couple of nice birdies on the back nine and it was a good battle with Woody.''

Playing one group ahead, England's Wood was right in the mix and tied with Luiten at 15-under when their fortunes went in opposite directions almost at the same time. On the 17th hole, Wood drove his tee shot into the hazard left and could do no more than chip his ball out for a bogey. Luiten, meanwhile, drained his 30-footer birdie putt on the 16th for a two-shot swing.

Recovering his form after a series of disappointments, Wood was let down by the loss and said: ''It's golf isn't it? You are never happy.

''I played poorly for six or eight months. Would have never thought I would have put myself into contention. And when you do, you feel gutted when you don't win. I am pretty down really, but in the grand scheme of things, when I reflect after a couple of days, I will think it is a big step in the right direction.''

Luiten's win also got him into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, securing him a start at the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks.

Frenchman Alexander Levy (70), who was hoping to finish in the top five to push into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai and grab the WGC-Mexico spot himself, did manage a joint fourth place at 11 under, but Luiten's victory kept him 11th.

The European Tour next moves to Doha for the Qatar Masters starting on Thursday.