Woods embraces new swing
Tiger Woods figured he could only deal with one problem at a time. In this case, golf had to wait its turn.
“Let’s just say I’ve been through a lot lately, and I didn’t want to have any more information,” Woods said Wednesday at the BMW Championship. “I was trying to get adjusted to my new life and what that entailed, and it was enough as it was. I didn’t have time to work on my game. I was dealing with a lot of other things.”
In what turned out to be a lost summer in the majors, Woods tried to patch together what he could with his golf swing. His only teacher was a video camera and his memory, and that wasn’t nearly enough to get him through four rounds at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, or the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
The do-it-yourself approach gave way to working with Sean Foley, the Canadian-born swing coach who again was with Woods for an hour during his pro-am at Cog Hill for the BMW Championship.
Foley first took video of Woods a month ago at the PGA Championship. Woods already is seeing results. He opened with a season-best 65 at The Barclays and wound up with a tie for 12th.Player Name: First | Laste Bank Championship, Woods had three rounds in the 60s for the first time this year and tied for 11th.
A top 10 for Woods used to be called a slump. Now it’s progress.
He needed both results just to keep playing in the FedEx Cup playoffs, which have reached the third round and perhaps the most critical. Woods went from 112th to 65th after the first round, and to 51st after the second round.
That at least got him to Cog Hill with the rest of the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings.
Woods is the defending champion and a five-time winner at this public course in the Chicago suburbs, winning last year with a 62-68 weekend to finish eight shots ahead of the field.
“It’s good to be back,” Woods said, pausing to smile before adding, “It’s even better to be in the event.”
He thrives on this kind of course, although he already has shown this year that past performance is meaningless without a swing he can trust and a good putting stroke. A two-time winner at St. Andrews, he tied for 23rd. A seven-time winner at Firestone, he had the worst tournament of his career and finished at 18-over par.
Now that Woods appears to be on an upward trend, this week could be interesting.
“I’m headed in the right direction,” Woods said when asked what a victory would mean at this stage in his season. “It obviously would be a good step in the right direction, but we’ve got four days, and I’ve just got to keep plodding along.”
Matt Kuchar remains atop the FedEx Cup standings with a win and a tie for 11th in the two playoff events. Kuchar also has fond memories and one big victory at Cog Hill, even if he didn’t earn a dime. He won the 1997 U.S. Amateur here.
“The people in the locker room still remember me, still get big smiles on their face,” Kuchar said. “It’s kind of a fun homecoming for me to see those old faces.”
It’s also a homecoming of sorts for Steve Stricker, who grew up a few hours away from Cog Hill. But this is no time to wave to the gallery. Stricker not only is No. 3 in the FedEx Cup standings, he is tied with Kuchar for the lowest adjusted scoring average on the PGA Tour, and the next two weeks could decide the Vardon Trophy.
The top 30 after the BMW Championship advance to the Tour Championship and a shot at the $10 million bonus, which Woods has won twice in two attempts.
His goal is to get to Atlanta. Woods has missed the Tour Championship before, but not because he wasn’t eligible. Even so, his primary goal has never changed. He was asked if he would play differently down the stretch if he were a long shot to win the tournament, when playing safe meant finishing high enough to get to the Tour Championship.
“Win,” Woods said. “Did I answer that too fast?”
Not so fast were answers pertaining to Foley. Woods has been saying that previous swing changes with Butch Harmon and Hank Haney took some 18 months to register. He is pleased with the instant feedback he has received from Foley, although he stopped short of saying he would dive in and revamp his swing.
“I understand what he’s trying to teach, so that’s the biggest thing,” Woods said. “And then when you’re out on the golf course playing, it’s understanding how to fix it. that’s the hardest part.”
So is Foley his coach?
“He’s coaching me,” Woods said with a smile, showing that his two years at Stanford were enough to master semantics.
Someone asked he were paying Foley?
“That’s none of your business,” Woods said.
He smiled at that answer, too, recalling the same words—far more terse— that he used at the U.S. Open when a reporter asked if there had been any resolution to his marriage.
The divorce became official on Aug. 23, and Woods is trying to move on. How quickly he adjusts to his swing could depend whether he gets to play one more tournament before the Ryder Cup.
McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.
It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.
McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).
Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).
Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.
Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award
The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.
The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.
Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.
The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.
Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.
Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.
The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout
It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.
Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.
Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.
"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."
Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.