Woods in danger of going four years without a major

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2012, 7:08 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – In three short weeks we’ll know if this season was a success or failure for Tiger Woods.

Seems like an overstatement, but it’s a fact.

If Woods doesn’t capture the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, he will have gone four years without winning a major championship. The U.S. Open walk-off on one leg at Torrey Pines in 2008 was the last.

Woods, 36, is healthy for the first time in several years. That’s a positive. He’s won three times on the PGA Tour this year, more than anyone else. That’s a positive. But those are no consolation for major hiccups.

Since that historic Monday at Torrey Pines where Woods defeated Rocco Mediate in a playoff, he has played in 13 majors and collected seven top-six finishes. Top-six finishes don’t cut it when you’re Tiger Woods. He has 14 majors on his resume and 18 is the only number that interests him. He’s no closer now than he was at Torrey.

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“It's part of golf, we all go through these phases,” Woods said. “Some people it lasts entire careers. Others are a little bit shorter. Even the greatest players to ever play have all gone through little stretches like this. When you’re playing careers last 40 and 50 years, you're going to have stretches like this.”

The most recent of those Grand Slam gaffes came here Sunday at the Open Championship, where Woods was grilled all week for being conservative then lost the tournament on a hole where he decided to be aggressive.

In the end it was one of Royal Lytham & St. Annes’ infamous 205 bunkers that cost him. Go figure.

Woods shot 67-67-70-73 for a 3-under 277 total, good enough for a third-place tie with Brandt Snedeker, four shots behind winner Ernie Els.

The “game plan” all week for Woods received much criticism. He was content to hit iron off the tee and aim for a particular portion of the greens, a strategy that Woods thought was working well despite benign conditions.

Woods hit driver off the tee only four times in the first 54 holes and was five behind Adam Scott heading into the final round. Many believed if he had hit driver more that it would result in more birdies. But he stuck with his plan and refused to budge, despite being in chase mode during the last 18 holes.

After five straight pars to open the final round – hitting no drivers – Woods’ Waterloo came on the par-4 sixth hole when he said he was “one yard” short of his mark on his approach.

The ball ended close to the face of the bunker in a fried egg lie and many wondered why he didn’t opt to take an unplayable lie. In that situation, he would have had to add a stroke penalty and still hit from the bunker, but it would’ve been a much better chance to get up and down for bogey.

Instead Woods hit the shot, it hit the reveted face of the bunker and nearly hit him before landing on the left side of the sand. On the next shot Woods was in an awkward position where he was on his left knee but his right leg was fully extended out of the bunker. The ball barely got out of the sand and ended 40 feet. Woods three-putted for triple bogey, missing a 4-footer for double.

Afterward, Woods said that he would’ve aimed left out of the bunker but he wanted to make sure he could advance the ball into the gallery to get a free drop. When he didn’t think he could pull off that shot, he decided to go straight at the pin.

“The game plan was to fire it into the bank, have it ricochet to the right and then have an angle to come back at it,” Woods described. “Unfortunately it ricocheted to the left and almost hit me. Then I tried to play an interesting shot after that and ended up three-putting.”

At that point Woods was six shots behind and scrapped his game plan and hit driver four times in the final 11 holes, which he played in even par with four birdies and four bogeys to shoot 73.

The most recent version of Woods is more inconsistent than any of the previous versions. The old Woods could win majors with his B game, probably his C game. This Woods will win with something resembling an A game – like at Bay Hill, the Memorial and AT&T National – but nothing else.

The A game hasn’t showed up once in a major this year. The T-40 at the Masters was a clunky performance. Woods was in contention after 36 holes last month at the U.S. Open but could not dial in distances with his short irons and faltered over the weekend. Here at Royal Lytham was similar to The Olympic Club. Woods was in contention, but he just is not crisp enough to put four complete rounds together under major championship conditions.

Woods doesn’t seem worried.

“I’ve got my pop back in my swing,” he said. “I’m hitting the ball distances I know I can. Unfortunately when I get out here with a little bit of adrenalin, it goes a little bit further.

“It’s not that far off.”

The PGA Championship isn’t far off either. When it’s over, we’ll know if this was another wasted season.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

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It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.