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.”

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.