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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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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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.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

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.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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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.