Can Tiger Slam

By Mercer BaggsDecember 30, 2006, 5:00 pm
2007 Big Questions Editor's Note: is counting down its top 5 stories from the world of golf in 2006 and looking ahead to the five 'Big Questions' on the PGA TOUR in 2007. This is our No. 2 question for the upcoming season.
Tiger Woods gets questioned in ways in which no other player does. For someone who has shown time and time again that most every move he makes is the right one for his career, we cant help but question why he does the things he does. Or, how he does the things he does. Or, can he do things that no one has ever done.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods' swing produced another remarkable season in 2006.
A few years ago, questions were raised as to why Woods would alter his swing. It was the second time in his career that he had done such, and both times came on the heels of phenomenal success ' and both times were met immediately with benign results.
Things managed to work out fairly well on both occasions. The first time, he went on to win eight PGA TOUR events in 1999, nine more in 2000, and five times each in 2001-03. He also managed to capture seven major titles in an 11-event span during that stretch.
And then he made another change, this time under the tutelage of Hank Haney. The two of them were criticized mercilessly by many as Woods won only once in 2004 and didnt win a major in 10 starts.
And then, just as it had done before under Butch Harmon, everything gelled.
Woods won six times on TOUR in 2005, eight more in 06. Both years he topped the money list. Both years he won two majors.
As Woods heads into 2007, there are still plenty of questions which we ask in relation to him. But instead of wondering why he is doing what he is doing; we must wonder if he can do things we once thought were impossible.
I think 07 is going to be scary, said Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo. As usual, well expect the unexpected from Tiger. Well want a Grand Slam ' at least two majors, nothing less. But the expectations will be so high; I dont even think Tiger Woods will be able to obtain them.
The first question we ask in regards to Tiger is: Will he match or break Byron Nelsons record of 11 consecutive PGA TOUR victories?
Despite having lost a few times overseas during the off-season, Woods still has a six-event winning streak intact on TOUR. His first chance to add to that run, since he opted out of the Mercedes-Benz Championship, will likely be at the Buick Invitational, which he has won three times in the last four years.
And, judging by his history of events played, he could have a chance to tie Nelson at the Masters Tournament, which he has won four times.
However it works out ' if it is to work out, he will most likely have to win the Nissan Open, which he has never done in his career, and win the unpredictable Match Play Championship on a new course in Arizona.
The next question we ask in regards to Tiger is: Will he duplicate his Tiger Slam?
Upon getting a firm grasp on his new swing back in 2000, Woods proceeded to win the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship. He then won the Masters in 2001 for four-in-a-row.
Since it wasnt four straight major victories in a calendar season, some didnt view it as a true Grand Slam triumph. Rather, it was dubbed the Tiger Slam.
Having won the Open Championship and PGA Championship in 2006, Woods enters 07 with a chance at matching that incredible accomplishment.
As long as hes in good health, he should be the overwhelming favorite to earn the third leg at Augusta. Then its on to Oakmont Country Club for the U.S. Open.
Tiger Woods
A fifth Masters title would keep alive Tiger's slam hopes.
Oakmont last hosted a U.S. Open in 1994, when Ernie Els defeated Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts in a playoff. Woods, still an amateur, didnt play that year.
Oakmont is also the site of Larry Nelsons 83 Open triumph; Johnny Millers closing 63 to win in 73; Jack Nicklaus over home favorite Arnold Palmer in 62; Ben Hogans victory in 53, a year in which he won three majors. Sam Parks, Jr. won in 35; Tommy Armour in 27.
Its not difficult to notice that nearly all of these victors are Hall of Fame members or an eventual inductee. Woods might fit well on that list of champions.
Question No. 3: If Tiger can complete the Tiger Slam, can he convert the traditional version?
The final two majors of the year are at Carnoustie and Southern Hills. These two could be big roadblocks in Tigers possible run at history.
Woods tied for seventh in the 1999 Open Championship, the last time Carnoustie played host. He tied for 12th when Southern Hills hosted the 2001 U.S. Open.
Carnoustie may be the biggest question mark, because it may well depend on how the course is set up and the weather conditions more so than how well Woods is playing at the time. In 99, the layout was considered to be among the most tricked-up in major championship history, complete with tall grass, narrow fairways and wicked weather. It was, of course, the one where Jean Van de Velde triple-bogeyed the final hole to blow a three-shot lead and then lost ' along with Justin Leonard ' in a play off to Paul Lawrie.
Southern Hills was where Retief Goosen three-putted from 12 feet on the final hole to fall into a Monday playoff, which he won over Mark Brooks. The looming question here may be if Woods can stand the heat ' the pressure of completing a seasonal Grand Slam and the temperatures of Tulsa, Okla., in August.
I wouldnt bet again him (winning all four majors in 2007), said Golf Channel and CBS analyst Peter Oosterhuis. Hes already proven that he can do it. With Tiger, it wouldnt be surprising at all to see him continue (to dominate) the way he has.
Said Nobilo: The scary thing is he didnt drive it as well in 06 as he did in 2000, so he can get even better.
There are other things we ponder in regards to Tiger: When, if ever, will anyone overtake him as No. 1 in the world? Who, whether individual or group, will challenge his dominance? Just what is Tiger capable of accomplishing? And is there anything beyond his abilities?
And just what does Tiger think about all of this?
I will say this: My overall game is stronger heading into 2007 than it was in 2000, just because I have a lot more knowledge and know how to get more out of my rounds, he said on his Web site. Ive won many times since 2000 and Ive done it different ways. Like Jack Nicklaus said, Winning breeds winning.
Overall, my swing is getting closer to where I want it. It might sound old, but I just need more repetitions and consistency. The game is fluid and always changing. Am I more consistent? Yes. In my opinion, only two players have ever owned their swings: Moe Norman and Ben Hogan. Will I ever own my swing? Well see. Im still somewhat young in my career. Hogan wasnt great until his late 30s.
Is Tiger intimating that he isnt yet great? If not, then it should be quite a show when he does achieve greatness.
Related Links:
  • Previewing 2006; Reviewing 2007
  • Woods Repeats at Open Championship
  • Woods Wins Going Away at PGA
  • Tiger Woods' Bio
  • Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

    By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

    At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

    Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

    In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.

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    Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

    Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

    Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

    ''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

    ''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

    Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

    ''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

    ''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

    Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

    Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

    ''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

    Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

    Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

    ''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

    The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

    ''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

    The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

    ''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

    Joel Dahmen had a 64.

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    ''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

    ''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

    ''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

    ''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

    Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

    ''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

    Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

    Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

    Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

    Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

    Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

    Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

    “At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

    Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.

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    With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

    “I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

    Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

    Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

    “As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

    Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

    Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

    Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

    Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

    Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.

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    Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

    There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

    “I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

    Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

    The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.