Slump Buster

By Golf Channel NewsroomJuly 3, 2003, 4:00 pm
LEMONT, Ill. (AP) -- Over and over, Tiger Woods insisted he wasn't in a slump.
He was just working on his game, he said, and it was taking some time to come together. Golf, as every hacker can attest, is a fickle game.
But the longer he went without winning a tournament, the more that 'S' word came up. It's been almost four months since he won, after all, and he doesn't own a major championship title for the first time in four years.
Woods finally had an answer for all those doubters. A 9-under 63 Thursday that matched the course and tournament record in the 100th Western Open.
'If you've been following what I've been saying the last few tournaments I've played in, I'm very close,' Woods said after taking a one-stroke lead.
'Golf is very fickle, as we all know, and the things I've been working on are starting to come together. It's nice to be able to get that consistency of finding my swing, my path, starting to make consistent, solid shots.'
The 63 is Woods' lowest round of the year, and his best since he shot a 63 in the final round of the Disney Golf Classic last October.
He hit 10 of 14 fairways, and 15 of 18 greens. And that putter that's given him so much trouble these last few months? He needed only 27 putts for the day.
'I hit a lot of good shots today,' he said. 'Most of them were right there, flag-high. And that's the key to golf.'
Woods has already won three times this season, and has two other top-five finishes in his nine starts on the PGA Tour. For anyone else, that would be a career year.
But Woods isn't everybody else. After his incredible run in 2000 - nine victories, 17 top-10 finishes in 20 starts - he's expected to contend in every tournament he enters. So when he wasn't a factor at either the Masters or the U.S. Open, the assumption was that Woods HAD to be in a slump.
'He is not in a slump,' said Jerry Kelly, the defending Western Open champion. 'He is not going to be perfect every week. He is perfect very often. He is as close to perfect as anybody has ever seen golfing.'
He wasn't perfect Thursday, but he was as good as he's been in a long while.
Starting on the back nine, he made a 24-footer for eagle on the par-5 11th. The ball slowed the closer it got to the hole, and it looked as if it would stop just short of the cup. But it kept going, and the crowd erupted with cheers of 'Eagle! Eagle!' when the ball dropped in.
Woods pointed at the ball and broke into a grin, and he and caddie Stevie Williams bumped fists.
A few minutes later, though, those old frustrations were back. His 2-foot par putt on the par-3 12th banged off the back edge of the cup and caromed out. Woods tapped in for a bogey, and was clearly disgusted as he walked off the green.
But it would be his only bogey of the day. He came right back with a big birdie on the par-4 13th, making a tough 12-foot putt. He added birdies on 15 and 16, almost holing an 8-iron from 148 yards.
He got out of his rhythm when rain chased him off the course after he'd teed off on the 18th. When play resumed, Woods flared his second shot and then chipped from the fringe of one side of the green to the other.
But he made a spectacular save, holing his second chip shot for par.
'If there was any hole I got away with one,' he said, 'it was 18.'
Woods made three straight birdies on his final nine, then capped his round with one more, a 2-footer to match the course record.
He's one stroke in front of Vance Veazey, and two ahead of David Toms. Kelly had a 66.
While his round is sure to quiet many of his critics, Woods said he didn't take any added satisfaction from that.
'It's because of the fact that the things I've been working on came together today. That's what you have to keep in mind,' he said. 'If you get caught up in the roller-coaster ride of the media - how good you are, how terrible you are, how good you are, how terrible you are - you're not going to have a very happy career.'
Divots: Since the Western Open moved to Cog Hill in 1991, Nick Price is the only wire-to-wire winner. Price opened the 1993 tournament with a 64. ... Jim Furyk, back in the Chicago area three weeks after winning the U.S. Open, shot a 71. ... This is the second straight year the first round was delayed by rain.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage of the 100th Western Open
  • 100th Western Open Leaderboard
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.