Playing Favorites at Tigers Tournament

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 2, 2007, 4:00 pm
AT&T NationalBETHESDA, Md. -- If he hosts it, they will come.
Well, sort of.
Most of the world's best players will be on hand this week for Tiger Woods' new tournament -- including the world No. 1 himself, making his first start since the birth of his daughter -- but the leadup to the event has not unfolded without criticism.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods will try and improve on his putting after a woeful performance at the U.S. Open. (WireImage)
A handful of players voiced criticism over the invitational field of 120, approved by the PGA TOUR in March when the tournament was announced as a replacement for the International.
The good news for fans: Outside of the major championships, there are few better chances to see the world's best players in one place than there will be this weekend at venerable Congressional Country Club.
Five of the top six players in the world rankings are in the field, including Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Adam Scott and Vijay Singh. Recovering quicker than expected from a left wrist injury, Mickelson is playing for the first time since the U.S. Open.
The bad news for the fans: Well, there is none, really. Unless you were pining to see the likes of Cameron Beckman and John Merrick. They weren't among the 120.
The GOLF CHANNEL will have coverage of the first two rounds, while CBS will broadcast the weekend. Next week is the John Deere Classic, where John Senden won last year. Michelle Wie has withdrawn from the event.
As mentioned, this weeks AT&T National is an inaugural event. So instead of listing our Tour Trade 2 favorites based on their past performances in this particular tournament, we will look at their PGA TOUR season-to-date.
Tiger Woods
Starts: 9
Wins: 3
Top-10s: 6
Best finish: Win (Buick Invitational; WGC-CA Championship; Wachovia Championship)
TRADE Talk: Tiger is the tournament host and, as seemingly always, is the overall tournament favorite. This will be his first start since the U.S. Open, where he couldnt make enough birdies to catch Angel Cabrera. It will also be his first start since the birth of his daughter, Sam Alexis. Woods hasnt won in his last three starts, which is the longest hes gone on TOUR without a win since about a year ago this time, when he ended a five-tournament winless streak at the Open Championship. Tiger did not play the 2005 Booz Allen Classic which was contested at Congressional. He tied for 19th in the 1997 U.S. Open at the same site.
Adam Scott
Starts: 11
Wins: 1
Top-10s: 5
Best finish: Win (Shell Houston Open)
TRADE Talk: Scott missed the cut in his last event, but thats not much of a concern ' at least this week. Scott failed to make it to the weekend at the U.S. Open, but his major championship record has never been that good. He performed fairly well, however, leading up to Oakmont and has had some success in this area. Scott finished inside the top-10 in each of his three pre-Open events, and shared the lead through 54 holes of the St. Jude Championship. He also won the Booz Allen at Avenel in 2004 and tied for second at Congressional in 05.
Justin Rose
Starts: 8
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 5
Best finish: 3rd (Bob Hope Chrysler Classic)
TRADE Talk: Rose has been hampered by a back injury, but when hes played this year, hes played very well. The Englishman has four straight top-10s, which ranges from the WGC-Match Play in February to the Travelers Championship two weeks ago. He missed the cut in the 05 Booz Allen; though, he is a much better player now, as he had only three top-10s on TOUR in all of 05.
Geoff Ogilvy
Starts: 14
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 4
Best finish: 2nd (WGC-Accenture Match Play)
TRADE Talk: This will be Ogilvys first event since his reign as U.S. Open champion came to an end. The Aussie took some lumps ' like everyone else ' at Oakmont, and should be happy to see a course that has U.S. Open quality without all of the penalty. He tied for 29th in the 05 Booz Allen.
Jim Furyk
Starts: 15
Wins: 0
Top-10s: 6
Best finish: T2 (U.S. Open)
TRADE Talk: What would a favorites list be without Furyk? Furyk is a top-10 machine, having finished inside the top 10 a staggering 45 percent of the time over the last three years on TOUR. Winning, however, is another thing. Furyk has only three wins during the same period. Whether or not he wins this week, he will almost certainly be in contention.
Four more players to keep an eye on at Congressional Country Club:
Phil Mickelson:
Lefty returns and it will be quite interesting to see what kind of condition his injured left wrist is in. This will likely be his only event in between the U.S. Open and the Open Championship. He tied for 43rd in the 97 U.S. Open at Congressional and tied for 29th in the 05 Booz Allen.
Bubba Watson:
Bubba made some big noise at the U.S. Open, where he was in contention through three rounds. If he can handle a beast like Oakmont, then perhaps he can manage his game around this 7,204-yard, par-70 layout.
Ben Curtis:
Curtis won last years Booz Allen, in what turned out to be the final installment of that event. He missed the cut in 05 at Congressional, but this is as close to a title defense as he will get this year as the other event he won in 06, the 84 Lumber Classic, was also cancelled.
Frank Lickliter
Lickliter might not seem like an obvious choice, but this tournament honors American soldiers and few golfers are more Red, White and Blue than Lickliter. Lickliter has visited U.S. troops around the world and helps raise awareness and money with the Wounded Warrior Project.
Information from The Sports Network was used in this article.
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    Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

    The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

    “I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

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    The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.

    Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

    “It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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    Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

    By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

    With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

    Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

    The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

    The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

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    As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

    “There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

    Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

    “You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

    All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

    “It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

    Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

    Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

    “It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

    Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

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    Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

    According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

    The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

    The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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    Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption

    By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

    Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

    The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

    "As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

    Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

    Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.