Woods thrives on big moments

By Jason SobelJune 4, 2012, 1:59 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – Tiger Woods is staring at his ball nestled in a thick patch of bentgrass behind the 16th green. No, he’s stalking it. Examining the lie, contemplating his options.

Multiple permutations are running through his mind. Five. Ten. Hell, it could be a hundred. If he uses too much loft and too much strength, the ball will hit the green and keep on rolling off the other side. If he uses too little loft and too little strength, it’ll never even get there. Every single maneuver in the swing must be absolutely perfect in order to achieve the desired result.

As he prepares to hit the shot, Woods’ inimitable frame, draped in his familiar Sunday red and black, is bordered by a large scoreboard nearby. Maybe he looks, maybe he doesn’t. It shows him one stroke off the lead, but it almost doesn’t matter.

What matters is this shot. Right now. He can’t control the other contenders, can’t play defense to prevent them from winning. He can only control the ball sitting at his feet and where it will wind up seconds later.

Tiger Tracker: Hole-by-hole

Discussion: Will Woods win U.S. Open?

There are some who may claim this is just a golf shot. Just one in what will turn out to be 279 times this week that one of his 14 clubs will make impact with the ball.

But they would be wrong. This isn’t just another golf shot. This is a moment.

Tiger Woods thrives on moments.

Performance and talent are what separate the good from the great. We know this much. It’s written into record books, reflected in every statistic.

What separates the great from the greatest, though, is something more intangible. It can’t be proven by money earned or public adoration or even victory totals.

It’s the ability to live in the moment. Not simply withstand it or persevere, but the ability to embrace all aspects of the situation, assess the importance of the result and succeed to the highest possible degree.

Just ask Jack Nicklaus. The cherished host of this Memorial Tournament knows a thing or two about living in the moment. He won 73 career PGA Tour titles and an all-time-best 18 major championships, but the mystical numbers are superseded by the magical moments.

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Video: Woods, in his own words

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There was the 1-iron on the final hole of the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, 238 yards uphill and into a breeze, that was the icing on the cake in a victory over rival Arnold Palmer. Another 1-iron in the same event five years later, this one soaring toward the flagstick at Pebble Beach’s exquisite penultimate hole, landing just 3 inches from its intended target. The 18-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole at Augusta National in 1986, when he raised his putter in celebration with the ball halfway there, the lasting image of his sixth Masters win at the age of 46.

So yeah, Nicklaus knows a moment when he sees one. And with Woods’ ball in such a precarious position behind the green, he understands the gravity of the situation, knows the importance of the moment.

“It was either fish or cut bait,” Jack would later say. “He had one place to land the ball. He's playing a shot that if he leaves it short, he's going to leave himself again a very difficult shot; if he hits it long, he's going to probably lose the tournament.”

Wedged somewhere in the back of Woods’ mind, as he is assessing the lie and selecting a club and deciding on the proper trajectory and reading the green is the knowledge that if this shot is absolutely perfect, he has the opportunity to tie Nicklaus’ mark of 73 career wins, second only to Sam Snead on the all-time list.

For Tiger, it isn’t simply a chance to tie a legend, but to equal his hero, the golfer whose likeness adorned his bedroom walls as a child. To accomplish the feat in Jack’s own house, with the man himself watching his every movement, only adds to the significance of the moment.

And so with all of those permutations rattling around in his head, all of the thoughts about trying to win and trying to equal his hero, Woods stands over the ball and sets himself for the shot. In a week marred by cell phone distractions from outside the ropes, thousands of fans remain eerily silent. Teeth are gritted, fists are clenched, nails are bitten.

Woods makes his swing and the hush continues, every observer holding their breath in unison. The ball lands on the very back part of the green and catches the slope. It rolls toward the hole and the silence becomes deafening anticipation, the hair on the back of thousands of necks collectively standing on end.

It keeps rolling until it finds the right edge of the cup and drops inside. Mayhem ensues. Woods pumps his fist, an instinctual yet passionate reaction. Fans scream uncontrollably at the top of their lungs. Scoreboard operators quickly scurry to update his total.

The shot helps separate the great from the good. It propels Woods past his fellow contenders, leading to victory. His 73rd, tying the man who hosted the tournament, the man who served as Woods’ hero throughout his childhood.

It is about more than that, though. It is about the moment.

This is what separates the great from the greatest. The ability to live in the moment, to embrace it, to find the highest possible degree of success when it absolutely matters the most.

Tiger Woods thrives on moments.

Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 4:30 am

Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.

Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

“I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.

Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.

“Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.

Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.

“Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.


Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET

Images and footage from Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson's round Friday at Trump National in Jupiter, Fla., alongside President Donald Trump:

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.