One Slip And Tiger Has You

By George WhiteOctober 11, 2005, 4:00 pm
His game has changed, there is no question about it. So has the glitz factor ' he doesnt win by just bombing the daylights out of the field anymore.
 
But the results are just like the Woods of old ' time after time after time, just like a monotonous alarm clock that keeps pestering you when you try to sleep, he is the only one left standing when it comes time to pass out the hardware.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods improved to 8-1 in playoffs following his win at Harding Park.
He doesnt just obliterate fields like he used to, a la 1999-2001. Tiger Woods has learned something much more important ' how to win when you dont play at your maximum. For the sixth time this year, he won on Sunday. And for the fourth time this year, he may not have been the best player on the course.
 
But ' he was the best thinker on the course. And, for sure, he was the most patient.
 
Tiger just hangs around and hangs around, always managing to get himself in position should anyone fail on Sunday. You think this doesnt make him a great player? What does six wins in one season make him, six wins when he probably should have won only at Doral and at the British Open? Once again at the AmEx, he was waiting, patiently, for somebody to fumble the ball. And when John Daly missed the two-footer, sure enough, Woods was standing there, ready to fair-catch the tournament victory.
 
Remember his first win at San Diego this year, when he started his 31-hole trek on Sunday with three straight bogeys? Remember how hit the 2-iron at 18 so poorly that it squirted out to the right, but onto a narrow peninsula in front of the green? And remember the 18-foot putt that slammed the door on the deal, sending Charles Howell, Tom Lehman and Luke Donald away losers?
 
'I didn't know whether to laugh or cry,' Howell said. 'Obviously, it's a crazy game.'
 
'He whipped the field playing lousy,' Lehman said. 'I give him a lot of credit.'
 
And Tiger didnt deny anything. I didn't play it my best - there's no doubt about that, he said. I felt good enough where my mechanics were sound enough now that I could place my misses. That's the difference, is I can place my misses.
 
He hooked up with Phil Mickelson at Doral and just flat out-played him. Ditto the British Open, where he wasnt in any danger of losing the lead once he gained it. But the Masters was very tense with Tiger making bogeys at the 71st and 72nd holes, then hitting two perfect shots and sinking a clutch putt at the 18th to win in a playoff. He played well at the WCG-NEC, but he never could nail down the win until he made a 17-foot birdie putt at No. 16 to subdue a stubborn Chris DiMarco.
 
And then there was the win Sunday. Obviously you saw I didn't really have any best stuff this week, Tiger said, but I still hung in there with my mind and putted beautifully and hit good shots when I really had to.
 
Its easy to get blas about it, to wonder how Woods gets so lucky sometimes. But six wins in one year isnt luck. He has deserved every one of them, just like he used to deserve every one of the wins back when he was winning eight, nine times a year. Tiger this year is, once again, easily the best player on the planet.
 
What gives? What happens to him when he sees players ahead of him?
 
It's not that complicated, I guess, Woods says, trying once again to low-key it.
 
Maybe it's just because I feel like I focus more. I try and make the same mental approach going into each and every shot. But for some reason when it really matters, I seem to hit higher golf shots. I don't know why. but it seems like I've hit some of my best golf shots when I've been struggling and needed to turn it around.
 
Of course, much of this is a perception problem. We tend to think about today only, about this hole only, instead of considering what hes done over the entire year. We forget sometimes that he plays only in the best tournaments, with the exception of an occasional Disney near his home.
 
Two of his wins this year came in majors, another two came in World Championship of Golf events. Those are tournaments where just about the best players in golf are competing. Woods rarely plays in lesser events ' much to the chagrin of those he snubs. How many more wins would he have if he played, say, 28 events a year as opposed to just 20? Ten more? Obviously, its not all about the number of wins ' its the quality of the wins.
 
And the guys who play against him know that mentality, even though the shots sometimes aren't quite as precise as they once were. Tiger may occasionally hit it offline, but he never thinks 'offline'. He may lose, but when he does, it's because he just hasn't executed the shot that he envisioned.
 
You know, he's a champion, said a somber Daly, and he's won so many golf tournaments. I was probably feeling a lit bit more heat than he was.
 
And he was right. Sunday was classic Woods golf. He hit a few remarkable shots, hit a few indifferent shots. But he was always around, always just waiting, waiting, waiting. And when Daly gave him a crack, it was all he needed. Daly was feeling more heat. Tiger was feeling more confidence. Thats all it took for No. 6.
 
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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”