Back To School

By Jason SobelOctober 10, 2011, 2:19 pm

Tiger Woods finished T-30 at the Open and carded three consecutive rounds under par. senior writers Randall Mell, Jason Sobel and Rex Hoggard grade Woods' performance in his first ever Fall Series event.


Give him a D.

It’s hard to imagine Woods giving himself anything more when he said he went to the Open looking to win, when he spoke so excitedly about the upturn in his game with the practice-round 62 at the Medalist and with his growing comfort with his new swing.

If I were grading Woods on a curve against the field, he would get a C. He tied for 30th, middle of the pack, in a Fall Series event that featured just three of the top 50 players in the world rankings. He finished 10 shots back and never got himself into contention to win an event that came down to a playoff between two players who had never won a PGA Tour event before.

But Woods is graded on a steeper curve. That’s why the story I read in my local newspaper about Sunday’s finish featured Woods in the headline and led with Woods and didn’t even mention the tournament winner (Bryce Molder) until the latter half of the story.

My grade is harsh because I’m grading Woods against the standard he set himself, against Jack Nicklaus and the record 18 professional major championships that make Nicklaus the greatest player who ever lived. Woods is chasing history. That’s what every tournament is still about, we think. It’s why he is still the most compelling figure entering any tournament today. It’s the grander game within today’s game and why we focus so much attention upon him.

Woods won’t challenge Nicklaus’ record by putting as erratically as he did at CordeValle Golf Club. His once magic wand could erase so many mistakes. The guy didn’t lead the PGA Tour in scoring all those years because he made more birdies than anyone else. He led the Tour in scoring because he could make so many great saves for pars. That’s more the pressing challenge now than a wayward driver. Woods won’t win another major making as many mistakes as he’s making.

Yes, Woods made progress at CordeValle with three consecutive 68s to close. That’s what he needs to focus on, to build upon, improvements that will bring back the confidence he needs to catch Nicklaus. He won’t get there with his D game.


There were six players who tied for 30th place at the Open this past weekend. If you asked me to produce a letter grade for five of them – John Merrick, Nate Smith, Vaughn Taylor, Nathan Green and Roland Thatcher – I’d probably give each about a B- or so.

After all, those players all took four turns around the difficult CordeValle course in a collective 7-under, earning $30,375 for the effort. It was hardly the stuff of greatness, but they did beat 97 other competitors in the 132-man field.

As for the other guy in the T-30 sextet, a B- feels like empathetic grading. For so long, Tiger Woods not only dominated this game at the highest level, but was always results-oriented. Even when he didn’t have his best stuff, the Tiger of old would usually sneak his way into a backdoor top-10 finish.

That isn’t the case anymore. Whether it says more about Woods or the competition, his B game – or even B- game – is no longer enough to persevere over 95 percent of the field.

When we assess his results now, we tend to hold him to the same standards that we had for the first 14 years of his professional career. But perhaps the current problem is more with us than him. Rather than compare Woods to his competitors, we compare him to the player who used to triumph more than one-quarter of the time.

Maybe it’s time to lower that bar. Maybe it’s time to treat him the same way every other 30th-place finisher is treated. In my book, that’s a B- – even if it still doesn’t feel quite right for Woods.


If one resists the urge to grade on a scale, ignoring the realities of a new swing and an old injury, Tiger Woods’ week at the Open was, at best, a C effort.

Sure, just making it 72 holes was a victory of sorts for a player that had withdrawn (Players Championship) and missed the cut (PGA Championship) in half of his last four starts. And those 19 birdies were a reason for U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples to celebrate his early selection.

Woods, however, doesn’t show up with pitch counts, doesn’t fist pump symbolic victories and doesn’t view a tie for 30th as an acceptable result at a Fall Series event or a major championship.

In this the former alpha male is every bit the victim of his own success. Jack Nicklaus, the benchmark for all things Tiger, won 73 of his 594 Tour starts (.122 average) and missed 81 cuts (.136). Woods has a .259 winning clip in his career and has missed just 15 cuts in 274 starts (.054).

Given the extenuating circumstances, Woods’ T-30 looks better on paper. But when that page is bound into a record book alongside 14 Grand Slam titles, his performance at CordeValle, despite all of his signs of progress, was pedestrian.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''