Tiger manages 71 despite driver, putter struggles

By Jason SobelAugust 1, 2014, 10:16 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Tiger Woods took a mighty lash with his driver on the 14th tee Friday morning and immediately dropped his head in disgust as the ball sailed left of the fairway and landed in an awaiting bunker. He then walked the 290 yards with that club in hand, looking like he was assessing a place to bury it.

Three holes later, he missed a birdie attempt from eight feet away, then stomped in the direction of the next teebox. About halfway there, he slammed the shaft of the putter into the palm of his outstretched left hand while muttering a few choice words to himself.

It’s been said that a good craftsman doesn’t blame his tools and while Woods took full responsibility for a 1-over 71 in the second round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, he wasn’t above doling out some punishment to his clubs in the process.

Those two clubs, in particular.

For the round, Woods used the driver nine times and found only one fairway. At least he was equitable, though, missing big to both the right and the left on multiple occasions.

Afterward, he didn’t single out his inability to drive it straight as the main reason for his struggles. No, this one was a bit of everything.

“It wasn't just the driver,” he explained. “It was just everything. I didn't hit it good in warmup. Sometimes it's just warmup and then you go out and hit it great on the golf course. That wasn't the case today.”

He also thwarted any notion that he would actually bury the big stick – or at least let caddie Joe LaCava leave it in the trunk of the courtesy car.

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Woods maintained that on a soft course, he needs the driver to give himself a chance.

“I've got to get it out there because it's so soft; it's just not running,” he said. “I picked up a couple of mud balls today. … It's going to only be worse on Sunday if we get the weather we're supposed to have tomorrow.”

It could be argued that on his best days, Woods could win golf tournaments with only 12 clubs in the bag. It would be difficult to argue, however, that those two excluded clubs could be the driver and putter.

One day after taking 28 swipes with the flat stick, he needed 29 total putts. That includes a mark of 1-for-10 from outside of 10 feet, nearly mirroring his driving accuracy percentage.

“Bad speed, bad line,” Woods smiled in explanation of his issues on the greens. “Other than that, it was alright.”

On a day when nothing seemed to go his way, when 71 felt like 66 or 67, it’s equal parts surprising and confusing that he actually could have scored much better.

His problems from outside of 10 feet are excusable, but Woods also missed three from inside that length.

“If I would have putted like I did yesterday, which is just normal, it's a 2-3 under round,” he said. “But I missed a bunch of putts under 15 feet, and they weren't even close – that's the problem. It's not like they had the ‘go‑in’ look. They just weren't very good.”

Not to add insult to a guy still returning from injury, but it should be noted that on this day a year ago, Woods posted a score 10 strokes lower, leading to a weekend that was nothing more than a 36-hole victory march.

If the driver and the putter and everything in between was the bad news on this Friday, the good news was that, at 1 under overall entering the weekend, Woods is still within shouting distance from a ninth career title here at Firestone.

And perhaps better news was that after the round, after spraying so many drives and mishitting so many putts, he still believes he can post a few low scores in the final two rounds to make that happen.

“Absolutely,” he said matter-of-factly. “You've just got to go ahead and do it. It's certainly getable out there. Right now it's soft and we're going to get weather coming in tomorrow, and that will soften it up even more. You’re going to see, the way this golf course is set up right now, a bunch of guys stacked up. It's going to be a varied bunch going into Sunday.”

From wayward drives to balky putts, Woods’ performance looked a lot worse than the scorecard showed. For many observers, “Old Tiger” was the guy who posted mercurial rounds of 61, like last year. Too often we forget, though, that his ability to grind a bad day into an acceptable score was just as much of a hallmark.

On this day, in his third event back from surgery, that was the biggest positive to take out of a round when he clearly didn’t have his best stuff.

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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.