Press Pass Bigger Disappointment Tiger or Jim

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 20, 2007, 4:00 pm
Press PassEach week, GOLF CHANNEL experts and analysts offer their thoughts and opinions on hot topics in the world of golf with the Press Pass.
Hot Topic
Who should be more disappointed in not winning the U.S. Open: Tiger Woods or Jim Furyk?
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Columnist,
Nobody hates not winning more than Woods so he's probably the more disappointed. Furyk, on the other hand, has had excellent chances to win U.S. Opens each of the last two years. Both made big putts down the stretch. Neither did what they needed to do on the 17th Sunday. I'd say Furyk (the last American to win a U.S. Open) should be the most disappointed because he bogeyed the 71st hole.
Steve Sands Steve Sands - Reporter, GOLF CHANNEL:
Tiger. He hit the ball beautifully Saturday and put himself in position Sunday but could only manage three birdies on the weekend. My guess is he feels like this one was his and it's an opportunity lost.
Mark Rolfing Mark Rolfing - Analyst, GOLF CHANNEL:
Jim Furyk. Not just because of his Pennsylvania ties but also because of the bogey at the 71st hole. Tiger just didnt hole any putts. He had one birdie in the last 32 holes.
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer,
Furyk. While Tiger has 12 majors to comfort this loss, Furyk has but one. Winning a second major would have placed his career in a whole new light. When you consider how he lost it and the fact that he blew a chance to win last year as well, he's probably taking this defeat harder than Tiger.
Hot Topic
After the last two majors has Tiger lost any of his 'mystique?'
Tiger has lost none of his mystique. And anybody who thinks he'll never come from behind to win a major championship is not in touch with the reality of how good this guy is. Jeff Brehaut called Tiger the best player who ever lived 'by far.' The fact that Woods hasn't won either of the last two majors demonstrates again, to me, how difficult it is to master the game of golf.
No, I don't think so. He's won two and finished runner-up in two in the last four majors. He still is the most intimidating player in the game.
Definitely not. He is still the best player in the world by far. Also, Aaron Baddeley shot 80 with him on Sunday.
Players, I think, have plenty of reverence for Tiger, but the fear factor seems to have decreased considerably. Guys have seen that he is not invincible. They know that just because he is in the hunt doesn't mean that he's guaranteed victory. Of course, they're also aware that they stand a much better chance of beating him from another group than playing in his on Sunday.
Hot Topic
How will fatherhood affect Tiger Woods professionally?
My sense is that Tiger Woods, a highly-organized human being, has planned for this day. And that includes how being a father will affect his golf. He will need to be even more organized in budgeting his time. And there may be times when quality will have to replace quantity as a goal in his practice and preparation for tournaments.
I think it will affect Tiger's personal life at home but not deter him from doing anything professionally. Tiger is a driven athlete who wants to be considered the best of all time. And he's not the first man to become a father and then go back to work. I don't think he'll miss a beat. His priorities might change off the course but on it they'll remain the same.
I dont think it will affect him much other than maybe playing a few less tournaments each year. Tiger is the best I have ever seen at being able to focus when he needs to.
It would seem to have to have some effect, if only in relation to his schedule; though, it doesn't really seem possible that he could actually play less than he already does. Tiger has won multiple majors upon getting married and multiple majors in the wake of his father's death. He'll probably now win both the British and PGA.
Who or what impressed you the most at the U.S. Open?
Actually, Phil Mickelson impressed. He played hurt. He tried on every shot. And he didn't complain as much as you might have expected
Angel Cabrera. After sliding a bit near the end, Angel, who is not known for his closing ability, drove the ball with confidence on 18 and finished with a strong par. He went out and won the U.S. Open. No one lost it this time.
I was totally inspired by the golf fans at Oakmont and the TV ratings on NBC.
Angel Cabrera's par on the 72nd hole. I don't think I've ever seen a player that visibly jumpy down the stretch. After bogeys on 16 and 17 wiped away a three-stroke advantage, he crushed a drive down the center of the fairway on 18, hit the green and made a solid two-putt. It might not appear overly impressive, but given the circumstances it most certainly was -- especially when you consider that 18 played as the hardest hole at Oakmont for the week.
Hot Topic
Who or what was the biggest surprise of the week?
Cabrera is the obvious choice here. Oakmont didn't figure to be the place for a long, but sometimes erratic, driver to break through and win his first major. I'm still digesting the notion that he is our national champion. It took me a long time to accept Orville Moody. I do respect Cabrera's talent and there was nothing flukish about the the way he won. That said, I don't see him stringing together majors any time soon.
Angel Cabrera. Again, not known for his closing ability, Angel, in the biggest spot in his career, stayed focused and finished off a final round to win his first major. And he held off Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk! Awfully impressive.
The biggest surprise to me was Bubba Watson. When the longest driver in golf can do as well as Bubba did on the most penal course in America, that is impressive.
Tiger's putting. Woods has had a few poor putting performances in majors, but after such an awful display on Saturday, you were just waiting for him to start dropping some in on Sunday. And waiting. And waiting. Never happened. I was very surprised that given how many opportunties he had to win this major, he didn't get it done on the greens -- and he's the best clutch putter I've ever seen.
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    Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

    By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

    PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

    At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

    “The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

    Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

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    Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

    Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

    “Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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    Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

    The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

    “Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

    And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

    After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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    Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

    “Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”

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    Rory almost channels Tiger with 72nd-hole celebration

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:11 am

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy’s final putt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational felt awfully familiar.

    He rolled in the 25-footer for birdie and wildly pumped his fist, immediately calling to mind Woods’ heroics on Bay Hill’s 18th green.

    Three times Woods holed a putt on the final green to win this event by a stroke.

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    McIlroy was just happy to provide a little extra cushion as the final group played the finishing hole.

    “I’ve seen Tiger do that enough times to know what it does,” McIlroy said. “So I just wanted to try and emulate that. I didn’t quite give it the hat toss – I was thinking about doing that. But to be able to create my own little bit of history on the 18th green here is pretty special.”

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    A performance fit for a King

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:08 am

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Five hundred and 40 days had passed since Rory McIlroy last won, and since golf lost one of its most iconic players.

    So much has transpired in McIlroy’s life since then – marriage, injury, adversity – but even now he vividly recalls the awkward end to the 2016 Tour Championship. He had just captured the FedExCup and $11 million bonus, but afterward, in the scrum, he was asked instead to reflect on the passing earlier that day of Arnold Palmer, at age 87.

    “Obviously I had a great win and it was a great day for me, but in the big scheme of things, that didn’t matter,” he said. “The game of golf had lost an icon, a legend, an inspiration to so many of us. I probably wasn’t as ecstatic as maybe I would have been if Arnie hadn’t passed away.”

    But there was McIlroy on Sunday at Bay Hill, at Arnie’s Florida home, summoning the kind of charge that would have made the King proud. With five birdies in his last six holes, he broke away from a stacked leaderboard to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first victory on Tour in 18 months, since that bittersweet evening at East Lake.

    “Kind of ironic,” he said Sunday.

    But the connection between McIlroy and Palmer runs deeper than that.

    Palmer and McIlroy’s wife, Erica, shared a birthday – Sept. 10.

    Palmer wrote letters to McIlroy after each of his many victories.

    Palmer had lobbied for years to get McIlroy to play this event, even threatening him. “If he doesn’t come and play Bay Hill,” Palmer said in 2012, “he might have a broken arm and he won’t have to worry about where he’s going to play next.”

    McIlroy kept all of his limbs intact but didn’t add the event until 2015, when Palmer’s health was beginning to deteriorate. That week he sat for a two-hour dinner with Palmer in the Bay Hill clubhouse, and the memories still bring a smile to his face.

    “I was mesmerized,” McIlroy said.

    And entertained, of course.

    Palmer ordered fish for dinner. “And I remember him asking the server, ‘Can I get some A.1. Sauce?’” McIlroy said.

    “And the server said, ‘For your fish, Mr. Palmer?’ And he said, ‘No, for me!’"

    McIlroy chuckled at the exchange, then added somberly: “I was very fortunate to spend that time with him.”

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    McIlroy has been telling anyone who will listen that he’s close to playing his best golf, but even he was surprised by the drastic turn of events over the past 10 days.

    During that 18-month winless drought, he endured an onslaught of questions about his wedge play, his putting, his health and his motivation. Burnt out by the intense spotlight, and needing to rehab a nagging rib injury, he shut it down for four months last fall, a mental and physical reset.

    But after an encouraging start to his 2018 campaign in the Middle East, McIlroy was a non-factor in each of his first four Tour starts. That included a missed cut last week in Tampa, where he was admittedly searching.

    “The best missed cut I’ve ever had,” he said.

    McIlroy grinded all last weekend, stumbling upon a swing thought, a feeling, like he was making a three-quarter swing. Then he met for a few hours Monday in South Florida with former PGA Tour winner and putting savant Brad Faxon. They focused on being more instinctive and reactionary over the ball.

    “He just freed me up,” McIlroy said.

    Freed up his stroke, which had gotten too rigid.

    And freed up his mind, which was bogged down with technical thoughts and self-doubt.

    “The objective is to get the ball in the hole,” he said, “and I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

    All McIlroy did at Bay Hill was produce the best putting week of his career.  

    Starting the final round two shots back of Henrik Stenson, McIlroy made the turn in 33 and then grabbed a share of the lead on the 11th hole.

    Tiger Woods was making a run, moving within a shot of the lead, but McIlroy answered with a charge of his own, rattling off four consecutive birdies – a 16-footer on 13, a 21-footer on 14, a chip-in on 15 and a two-putt birdie after a 373-yard drive on 16 – that left Woods and everyone else in the dust.

    Then McIlroy finished it off in style, rolling in a 25-footer on the last that was eerily similar to the putt that Woods has holed so many times at his personal playground.

    “I know what the putt does,” McIlroy said, “so it was nice to make my own little bit of history.”

    Justin Rose has played plenty of meaningful golf with McIlroy over the years, but he’d never seen him roll it like he did Sunday.

    “He turned on the burners on the back nine,” he said. “He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

    It’s little wonder McIlroy pulled ahead of a star-studded leaderboard, closing with a bogey-free 64 and winning by three shots at 18-under 270 – he led the field in driving distance, proximity to the hole, scrambling and strokes gained-putting.

    “It’s so nice that everything finally came together,” he said.

    Over the next two weeks, there figures to be plenty of conversation about whether McIlroy can channel that fearlessness into the major he covets most. The Masters is the only piece missing from a career Grand Slam, and now, thanks to Faxon’s tips, he’s never been in a better position.

    But after a turbulent 18 months, McIlroy needed no reminder to savor a victory that felt like a long time coming.

    There was a hug for his parents, Gerry and Rosie.

    A kiss for his wife, Erica.

    A handshake for Palmer’s grandson, Sam Saunders, and then a fitting into the champion’s alpaca cardigan.

    The only thing missing was the King himself, waiting atop the hill behind 18 with his huge smile and vice-grip handshake.

    “Hopefully he’s up there smiling,” McIlroy said, “and hopefully he’s proud of me with the way I played that back nine.”