Woods still in hunt, despite putting issues

By Jason SobelJune 2, 2012, 11:33 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Well, I’ve got some good news for you, Tiger Nation, and I’ve got some bad news for you. It’s your choice which you’d like to hear first.

What’s that? Always start with the bad news? OK, the bad news is that Tiger Woods looked extraordinarily ordinary on Saturday. Don’t get me wrong. Ordinary isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just that it’s becoming a recurring theme for a guy who used to leave ordinary on the driving range.

Check that: He was actually a bit better than ordinary – or at least better than average. Woods posted a 1-over 73 that dropped him from a share of second place before the round to solo fourth when it was over, but on a blustery afternoon at Muirfield Village Golf Club, with Mother Nature once again baring her teeth at Jack’s place, it still exceeded the field stroke average of 74.32.

Even so, for someone who used to turn Moving Day into his own personal holiday, Tiger’s inability to go predictably low as of late on Saturdays should be cause for alarm. He’s now failed to break 71 in his last four third rounds, his scoring average of 72.00 the very definition of ordinary, independent of conditions.

On this particular Saturday, he continued his sublime ball-striking performance this week, finding 10 of 14 fairways and 13 greens in regulation. It was the putter that let him down on this occasion, as he took 32 putts for the day, including five misses from inside 10 feet.

Such stories have become a recurring theme for Woods, whose play often conjures images of a real-life Whack-A-Mole carnival game. Every time one of those undesirable little moles rears its ugly head, Woods is forced to whack it back down into the hole, only to see another spring up, ready to pounce. It’s just that in Tiger’s case, the moles represent things like driving accuracy and distance control and, yes, even putting.

Tiger Tracker: Hole-by-hole

Video: Woods’ 73 keeps him in contention

You Oughta Know: Previewing Memorial final round

“I had a difficult time adjusting to the pace today,” said Woods, who opened his round by making a 21-foot putt from off the green on the first hole, then didn’t make anything longer than 4 feet the rest of the round. “I know they're faster than what they were yesterday. But they just didn't look that fast and I ran a couple putts by, also left a few short. And also I was trying to stay steady in this wind, which is a task in itself, too. I did the best I could today.”

I know what you’re thinking. And yes, there really is some good news to this story. Actually, for those reading this while cozily lounging in Tiger Woods pajamas, it’s great news.

He still has an excellent chance of winning this tournament.

After posting a Saturday round that he called “the highest score I could have shot,” Woods will find himself in the penultimate pairing on Sunday, just four strokes off the lead at a venue where furious leaderboard shifting is commonplace.

It’s certainly not a bad position from which to attack. Those in front of him include leader Spencer Levin, most widely known for blowing a six-stroke 54-hole lead in Phoenix earlier this year; second-place Rory Sabbatini, who entering this week had missed more cuts than he’d made; and third-place Rickie Fowler, who breaks the trend of potential optimism by serving as this week’s unofficial Hottest Golfer on the Planet with top-five finishes in each of his last three starts.

It is commonly known that Woods has never won any of his 14 major championship titles when coming from behind entering the final round, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t proficient at the task. Of his 68 career PGA Tour stroke-play victories, 20 have come when faced with that situation, including two of his four wins here at the Memorial.

“The winning score may not change from what it's at right now, or it may go higher, may go lower,” Woods mused. “We don't know. That's the hard part about this golf course is there's so many demanding holes that anything can happen.”

What we do know is that Tiger has always owned a flair for the dramatic. With the odometer currently at 72 wins – good for third place all time – his next would tie Jack Nicklaus, which is significant not only for the historic value itself, but because he could reach the mark at the tournament hosted by his hero, the man whose poster adorned his bedroom wall as a child.

If Woods is to claim his 73rd triumph on Sunday, he will ostensibly need to defeat that Whack-A-Mole game, beating down any major issues with any major components of his game.

The bad news is that he once again was forced to play that game in the third round, a balky putting stroke repeatedly popping up to make itself known. The good news is that he’s still very much in contention to win this event with 18 holes left to play.

Going into the final round, the good should outweigh the bad for Tiger Nation. It means there’s still a chance for a 73rd celebratory Sunday.

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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.