Woods closer to looking like 'the old Tiger'

By Doug FergusonNovember 21, 2011, 11:46 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – Tiger Woods hasn’t looked this good on the golf course in back-to-back weeks since he left Australia two years ago with his 82nd title and the indisputable No. 1 ranking.

OK, it’s a small sample.

The Australian Open and the Presidents Cup marked only the sixth time since the end of 2009 that Woods has even competed in consecutive weeks.

He finished third in Sydney, two shots out of the lead. He played just as well, if not better, at Royal Melbourne, even if his record will show him contributing only two points. Still to be determined is whether the last two weeks represent another tease or substantial progress that Woods really is on his way back. Nine rounds of solid play - mostly in windy conditions - would suggest the latter.

Next up for Woods is his season finale in the Chevron World Challenge next week in California.

It was a small coincidence that the decisive point in another American win in the Presidents Cup came down to Woods. U.S. captain Fred Couples put him in the 11th spot for the 12 singles matches on Sunday. Woods closed out Aaron Baddeley on the 15th hole with his sixth birdie, the most of any player on another tough day at Royal Melbourne.

The comments that followed were not so much of a coincidence.

Nothing irritates Woods more than people who either doubt or criticize him, and that list included International captain Greg Norman. Along with saying he thought Woods’ dominance in the majors was over, the Shark said he would not have picked Woods for the Presidents Cup, instead choosing PGA champion Keegan Bradley.

Couples not only used a captain’s pick on Woods, he announced it a month before his team was even decided.

“I’m thankful that he picked me,” Woods said. “Greg is probably not happy about it after I closed out the cup today.”

The Presidents Cup was a big step for Woods, and it ended with a small dig at Norman.

And there could be more to come.

Woods has spent a career wanting to prove the skeptics wrong. He was questioned for overhauling his swing under Butch Harmon after his watershed win at the 1997 Masters, but when he was finished, Woods reached incomparable levels. He won 28 times in a three-year span, and had a stretch of winning seven out of 11 majors.

Then came another change under Hank Haney, where everything was inspected except the number of trophies. Woods won a fourth green jacket at the Masters in 2005, was runner-up in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, then captured another British Open that showed he was back on top of his game, and his sport.

Woods couldn’t resist a shot at his skeptics.

“I’ve been criticized for the last couple of years. ‘Why would I change my game?’ This is why,” Woods said that summer day at St. Andrews. “First, second and first in the last three majors. That’s why.”

There are differences this time around.

Woods is 35, and five of the top 10 players in the world are in their 20s. That includes U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, former PGA champion Martin Kaymer and Dustin Johnson, the most talented American still in his 20s.

He had surgery for the fourth time on his left knee after winning the 2008 U.S. Open, his 14th and last major to date. He injured the left knee again at the Masters this year, and while he described it as “minor,” he hobbled off the TPC Sawgrass a month later and did not return to competition for three months.

When he came back, he looked ordinary at Firestone and missed the cut at the PGA Championship.

The excuses he offered were reasonable, even if not many people wanted to hear them. He had only been processing changes to his swing under Sean Foley for a year, and he couldn’t spend the proper amount of time on the range to work on them. He said his left leg was stronger than it had been in years, giving him time to practice. All he needed was competition, yet he wasn’t eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs, and he couldn’t play other events because of family commitments, set out in his divorce, that were not flexible.

As always, only Woods knows where he is in this “process.”

“This is the way I’ve been hitting it at home, “Woods said. “I’m very pleased with the progress I’ve made with Sean, and it’s finally paying off under pressure. It held up nicely last week at the Open, and it held up nicely this week.”

Questions remain about his putting. Woods used to make everything, or so it seemed, at the height of his powers. There are times it looks as though he makes nothing now. Making putts wasn’t easy for anyone at Royal Melbourne, especially with the wind. Even so, Woods missed his fair share at the Frys.com Open and at the Australian Open.

Woods once said he believed the yips were hereditary. When asked about his father - the best putting coach he ever had - about nine months before Earl Woods died, he smiled and said: “He still makes everything.”

That’s why John Cook shakes his head when people write off Woods.

“I watch and listen on TV and I cringe,” said Cook, perhaps Woods’ biggest supporter. “It doesn’t make any sense at all. A healthy Tiger Woods is trouble for a lot of people. He knows his place in history, and he wants his place in history. He just needed people to believe in him. I know Fred never stopped believing in him.”

Couples was the first to approach Woods after his win over Baddeley, shadow boxing with him on the 15th green.

Perhaps both of them shared a feeling on vindication.

“I felt like I was picking the greatest player I’ve ever seen,” Couples said. “I’ve never seen anyone play like Tiger.”

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose shot a 7-under 65 Saturday to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for an overall 15-under 201. The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is chasing his second Race to Dubai title but leading rival Tommy Fleetwood is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

U.S. Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit crown, is tied for 13th on 10 under.

Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”