Woods Not About to Change Strategy

By Golf Channel NewsroomJune 14, 2003, 4:00 pm
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. (AP) -- Tiger Woods has to believe he knows more about winning the U.S. Open than anyone else on the leaderboard at Olympia Fields. He did, lest anyone forget, win the last one and two of the last three.
The rest of the top 10 after 36 holes in this Chicago suburb? Forget about it, there's not one U.S. Open trophy among them.
So when someone suggested to Woods that his strategy of playing it safe wasn't going to work in the lowest-scoring Open of the last decade, the best player in the world could only smile and promise nothing will change.
'There's nothing wrong with making pars in the U.S. Open,' Woods said.
Maybe not. But in this Open people are making birdies in bunches, and for a short time Friday it looked like Woods might be left with a weekend hurdle even he would be hard-pressed to overcome if he wanted to become only the second player in the last 50 years to win consecutive Opens.
After Woods put the finishing touches on a ho-hum 4-under 66, though, he was only three shots off the lead through 36 holes and liking his chances to win his ninth major championship.
It was his second-best Open round ever, just behind the 65 Woods shot in the first round at Pebble Beach in 2000, where he blew away the rest of the field to win his first Open. This one merely kept him in contention, tied for fifth with the likes of Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson.
'Anytime you're under par in the U.S. Open after two days you've got a chance,' Woods said. 'I'm where I want to be.'
Compared to where he was when he teed off Friday afternoon, yes.
Woods began his day at even-par, about the same time Jim Furyk was putting the finishing touches on a second-round 66 that put him at 7-under for the tournament.
Woods promptly hit his first shot deep in the trees to the right, and, as the massive gallery parted, he walked quickly to the ball with a frown on his face.
A moment later, he had the crowd cheering wildly when he slashed a 3-wood through an opening in the trees into the left bunker, where he then got up-and-down for an opening birdie on the par-5 that set the tone for the rest of his round.
Over the next 17 holes, Woods would hit a spectacular cut 3-wood, make a long curling birdie putt and, finally, just miss a greenside chip on the 18th hole that would have gotten him to 5-under.
It was a lot more entertaining than his grind-it-out first round of 70, but he insisted nothing had changed about either his game or his approach to the soft and accommodating greens at Olympia Fields.
That approach is one of erring on the side of caution, and not allowing himself to be lured into attacking pins hidden behind bunkers.
'The only flag I really fired at was 18,' Woods said. 'If you get too aggressive you go out there and hit it on the short side and make a couple bogeys, you put yourself right out of it.'
Woods used precisely the same strategy last year at Bethpage Black in New York, where he led from the first round on and was the only player to break par at 3-under.
At Olympia Fields, though, 3-under barely gets you in the top 10 after 36 holes. If the sun doesn't come out and dry out the greens, this could end up being the lowest-scoring Open ever.
Woods understands the usually brutal Open conditions have changed, but insists he won't.
'This particular tournament has been more fair than we've seen before as far as its setup,' he said. 'It's not as severe. But a lot of that is because of the weather. It's playing soft.'
Besides, Woods said, he doesn't see the low scoring continuing on the weekend. The greens should get firmer, and the U.S. Golf Association staff may try to protect par by putting pins in places players will cringe at.
'You're going to see it get tougher,' he said.
And what if it takes score lower than the record 12-under he shot at Pebble Beach to win?
'If the USGA has their way, I don't think you're going to see that,' Woods said.
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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.

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    Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

    Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

    At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

    Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time Web.com winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

    Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

    “Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

    In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

    “I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

    Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.