Woods the only one who can measure his progress

By Doug FergusonMay 22, 2012, 10:10 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The trouble with trying to measure the progress of Tiger Woods is that by his own definition, he never really gets there. Even when he was at his best, Woods always thought he could get better.

So while winning tournaments is the goal, that's not always the best gauge.

Woods preached patience two weeks ago at The Players Championship when he said, ''Guys, I've done this before. I've been through this. ... I had some pretty good runs after that, and this is no different.'' He then tied for 40th at Sawgrass for the worst three-tournament stretch of his PGA Tour career, which followed what some thought was a breakthrough victory at Bay Hill.

Puzzling? Yes.

Alarming? Not necessarily.

Go back to early 1999, when it looked as though Woods had finally figured out the swing overhaul under Butch Harmon with a 62-65 weekend at Torrey Pines for a two-shot victory. At his next tournament, Woods began a streak of 15 consecutive rounds without breaking 70. It wasn't until that epiphany on the range some three months later - ''Butchy, I've got it,'' he famously told his coach - that Woods was able to play by feel and went on a run for the ages.

The revamped swing under Hank Haney appeared to finally come together in 2005 when Woods outlasted Phil Mickelson in that dramatic duel at Doral, and then a month later he won the Masters with a birdie on the first extra hole. Mission accomplished? Not quite. Two tournaments later, Woods missed the cut for the first time in more than seven years.

Woods is finishing up what could be his last two-week break until October. Starting next week with the Memorial, he is scheduled to play seven tournaments in the next 11 weeks through the PGA Championship, which precedes the FedEx Cup playoffs.

To figure out his progress going into this pivotal stretch is more difficult than ever.

Consider his last six tournaments. Woods closed with a 62 and made Rory McIlroy sweat to win the Honda Classic. He withdrew midway through the final round of Doral with tightness in his left Achilles tendon. He won Bay Hill. He had his worst showing ever at the Masters as a pro. He missed the cut at Quail Hollow. He was never a factor at The Players Championship.

Woods was at Congressional on Monday to promote the AT&T National, which benefits his foundation, when the question came up again.

How will you know you're back?

''Well, I won a tournament already,'' Woods said with a laugh.

When he won the Chevron World Challenge in December for his first win since November 2009, he told of getting a text from a friend reminding him of the lyrics from an LL Cool J song: ''Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years.''

But it is a comeback. The old Tiger Woods, who averaged more than six wins a year for an entire decade, had gone MIA. And by now, Woods knows he will always be measured against his past.

''I remember I had a pretty good year in 2000,'' Woods said. ''And I didn't win for a couple months. And the word 'slump' came about. And that's basically the same thing that just happened here. I just played three events and, 'When are you back?' Well, I just won a tournament three tournaments ago.''

Looking back on his performance during the other two swing changes, there's room for skepticism.

Harmon said he and Woods began revamping his swing after the 1997 season. Based only on results, Woods' big run began with back-to-back wins in Germany and the Memorial at the end of May 1999. In the 35 tournaments he played while rebuilding his game, he still managed to finish in the top five in nearly half of his tournaments, and he was in the top 10 just over 65 percent of the time. He never missed a cut. Only five times did he finish out of the top 25. He won three times.

Haney said he formally began working with Woods before Bay Hill in 2004. In the 24 tournaments until he won the 2005 Masters, Woods finished in the top five 50 percent of the time, 63 percent of the time he was in the top 10, and he finished out of the top 25 just twice. He never missed a cut (he wound up missing two cuts later that year). He won three times.

The results are far different during his latest swing change.

In the 28 tournaments since Sean Foley first worked with him at the 2010 PGA Championship, Woods has finished in the top 10 only 36 percent of the time (10 tournaments), and he has finished out of the top 25 the same number of times. He has missed three cuts. He won twice.

Then again, Woods went nearly four months without completing a tournament because of leg injuries in 2011. It wasn't until last fall when he could work out and practice without restrictions. Even if the starting point more realistically is the Frys.com Open last October, Woods has five finishes in the top five (and top 10) compared with four finishes out of the top 25.

It's the number of tournaments where he was an also-ran that raises questions.

But so much is different under Foley, unrelated to what he is teaching. Unlike the previous two changes, Woods did not have to cope with physical scars (four surgeries on his left knee) and emotional scars (public ridicule from serial adultery that led to divorce).

He began changing his swing with Harmon when he was 22. He was 28 when he revamped his swing under Haney. Woods is now 36.

It's not as easy, and it shows.

But if or when he goes on another big run, he shouldn't argue if someone calls it a comeback.

Getty Images

Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

Getty Images

Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

Getty Images

Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

Getty Images

Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.