Tiger Woods A Cut Above Part 1
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tiger Woods needed a par.
He stood on the tee box, four swings and 444 yards from salvation.
But his first shot went left; his second shot right. His third shot landed 20 feet short of the hole; and his final gasp proved an exhalation of air that left him dead, by inches, for the weekend.
Tiger Woods had missed the cut.
It had to happen, he said at the time. I cant play my entire career without missing a cut.
Maybe just the remainder of his career.
When Woods bogeyed three of his final four holes and shot 76 in the second round of the 1997 Bell Canadian Open, the then 21-year-old had the weekend off.
It was his first such failure as a professional. And to this date his last ' at least as he sees it.
Woods enters this weeks Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort having played 112 consecutive PGA Tour events without missing a cut. Thats one shy of Byron Nelsons all-time record.
It should be noted - and this is important and sometimes overlooked fact - that this is not a cuts-made streak. This is a consecutive-events-played-without-a-missed-cut streak.
He would have reached that mark four tournaments ago ' dating back to the 97 Bell Canadian ' were it not for the 1998 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
When the event was weather-delayed for seven months, Woods opted not to make a return trip to the Monterey Peninsula in August and, consequently, withdrew. He would have had to shoot 65 in order to make the cut.
Though Tiger does not recognize this as a missed cut, the tour does. They gave him credit for the 14 tournaments between the start and finish of the AT&T, meaning the cuts-made meter reverted to zero at Pebble Beach and has been running ever since.
But that number is at 89. This one, the one that is officially recognized by the tour, is at 112. He has played in 23 tournaments that did not have a cut during that stretch.
Making the cut this week outside of his adopted hometown of Orlando would guarantee him of both tying and eventually breaking golfs mark of model consistency.
Tigers next event is the Tour Championship, where there is no cut.
Cutting it Close
If Woods had it his way, hed win every event convincingly and without distress. Hed jump quickly out of the starting blocks, blow past everyone in turn 2, accelerate through turn 3, and coast to victory coming home.
Domination sans drama. A nice leisurely stroll up 18 and into the winners circle.
Of course, Tiger doesnt always play like the No. 1 player in the world, and things dont always go according to what he ' or even we ' expects.
Form can elude even the greatest player on the planet. And over the last five years Woods has had a few close calls and narrow escapes. Yet more often than not, he has found the steel to brush aside the nagging touch of failure when it taps him on the shoulder:
1999 Buick Invitational: Woods made two double bogeys on the back nine and survived the cut by two strokes. He then shot 62-65 over the weekend to win by two.
2000 Buick Invitational: Woods was two below the cut line until he made five birdies and one incredible par save on the back nine for a 68. He tied for the lead Sunday before finishing four strokes back, tied for second.
2000 Canadian Open: Woods was one shot clear of the cut line with four holes to play when he went birdie-eagle-birdie-eagle. He went on to produce a dramatic fairway bunker shot on the 72nd hole to win by a shot over Grant Waite.
2001 U.S. Open: Woods shot 74-71, and at one point was 11 strokes behind the leader. The U.S. Open cut is top 60 and everyone within 10 shots of the lead. He finished eight back to make the cut, then had two 69s to tie for 12th.
2001 Buick Classic: Woods played 35 holes Friday because of a rain delay. He opened with a 75, but managed a 66 in the afternoon. He drove the par-4 10th green and made birdie, holed a bunker shot for another birdie and secured his weekend status with a birdie on his 16th hole. He shot 68-71 on the weekend and tied for 16th.
2001 PGA Championship: Woods, the two-time defending champion, was two below the projected cut when he holed a 40-foot birdie putt from off the 15th green, then a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 16. He wound up making the cut by one, had 69-70 on the weekend and tied for 29th.
2002 Pebble Beach: Woods was one stroke better than the cut and facing a 15-foot par putt on No. 12. He made his par, and then added an insurance birdie on No. 16 to make it by two shots. He had 71-68 on the weekend to tie for 12th.
2002 Buick Invitational: Coming off double bogey on No. 17, Woods needed a birdie on the final hole to make the cut. He holed a six-footer for birdie to make it on the number, and then closed with rounds of 69-65 to tie for fifth.
Woods started this season with Nelsons streak in his crosshairs; though, Tigers run could have come to an untimely halt late last year, as the excruciating pain he experienced in his knee nearly drove him off the course on more than one occasion.
Id get up in the morning and just feel, I dont know if I can go. I've got to see how I warm up. And when I got to my driver, some of the days were just brutal. I just had to somehow go out there and walk it through it, get it done, Woods said.
Late in the year was not a whole lot of fun.
December surgery helped alleviate the pain, but it did nothing to guard his streak from annoying encounters with the dreaded missed cut.
Woods stepped onto the grounds of Augusta National seeking an unprecedented third consecutive Masters title, and instead found himself struggling to hang around long enough to slip the green jacket onto someone elses shoulders.
He was on the cut line, at 5 over par, when he birdied the seventh hole, his 16th of the day.
Seemingly safe, he shockingly three-putted from 25 feet for bogey at the eighth. The tension peaked after he drove his tee shot at the last behind a pine tree. After dumping his approach shot into the bunker, he blasted out to three feet and drilled the putt into the right side for par to make the cut on the number.
Four months later he found himself in a similarly unenviable position at Oak Hill.
Having run his streak to 108, Woods opened in 4-over 74 at the PGA Championship. He then bogeyed two of his final three holes Friday to shoot 72 and make the cut by two strokes. He ended with a pair of 73s to finish 16 back of winner Shaun Micheel.
His most recent escape was at the Deutsche Bank Championship, a tournament that, ironically, benefits his Tiger Woods Foundation.
Woods made three early bogeys in the second round and was three strokes over the cut line when he made six birdies in nine holes to secure safe haven.
When it comes to making the cut, Woods has been down but never out. Whether closer to the summit or nearer Ground Zero, he keeps climbing.
You might hear a few four-letter words coming from his mouth, but quit is not one of them.
When I look back on my career, I will say I didnt dog it, Woods has said, adding that hes never thought about quitting and never wanted to.
There have been times when youre not playing well, not feeling well, youre hurt, times when your game is lost and you can think of other places to be, he said. But while youre competing, you might as well give it everything youve got.
Read Part 2 Thursday, which will compare and contrast the two streaks, and look into the legitimacy of Woods' mark. Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs at firstname.lastname@example.org
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
'Putting Stroke Whisperer' helps get McIlroy on track
AUSTIN, Texas – During a charity event a few years ago Brad Faxon was asked what he’s thinking about when he putts. A hush fell across the green as everyone within earshot eagerly awaited the answer.
Imagine having the chance to quiz Leonardo da Vinci about the creative process, or Ben Hogan on the finer points of ball-striking. Arguably the best putter of his generation, if anyone could crack the complicated code of speed, line and pace, it would be Faxon.
Faxon mulled the question for a moment, shrugged and finally said, “Rhythm and tempo.”
If Faxon’s take seems a tad underwhelming, and it did that day to everyone in his group, the genius of his simplicity was on display last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Before arriving at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy ranked 124th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting, losing .1 strokes per round to the field. In fact, he’d missed the cut a week earlier at the Valspar Championship when he needed 58 putts for two days and made just a single attempt over 10 feet.
It’s one of those competitive ironies that having the weekend off turned out to be just what McIlroy needed. He went home to South Florida to work on his game and ran across Faxon at The Bear’s Club.
Although Faxon’s take on the art of putting was probably more involved than it had been a few years earlier, he seemed to have touched on all the right points.
“Freed up my head more than my stroke,” McIlroy explained. “I sort of felt like maybe complicating things a bit and thinking a little bit too much about it and maybe a little bogged down by technical or mechanical thoughts.”
Earlier in the week McIlroy had a slightly different take on his putting turnaround at Bay Hill, where he led the field in strokes gained: putting, picking up 10 shots for the week, and rolled in 49 feet of putts over his last five holes to end a victory drought that had stretched back to the 2016 Tour Championship.
“Just playing around with it. Seeing balls go in in the front edge, trying to hit them in the left edge, the right edge, hit them off the back of the cup,” he said on Thursday. “Just trying to get a little bit more feel into it and a little more flow.”
If that doesn’t exactly sound like an exact science, welcome to the Faxon way. In recent years, he’s become something of F which is no huge surprise considering his status as one of the game’s best on the greens.
Between 1991, the year he won the first of eight Tour titles, through 2005, the year he won his last, Faxon ranked outside the top 20 in putting average just four times, and he led the circuit in that category three of those years. But in recent years he’s come into his own as a putting guru.
“The first clinic I attended that a Tour player gave, it was Hale Irwin, and he talked about rhythm and tempo, I was disappointed because I wanted to hear more than that,” Faxon explained. “I thought there would be more technical stuff. I thought it was the default phrase to take pressure off the player, but the more I’ve learned about teaching the best players in the world don’t have many complicated thoughts.”
Faxon’s career has been nothing short of impressive, his eight Tour titles spanning two decades; but it’s his work with players like McIlroy and Gary Woodland that has inspired him in recent years.
A man who has spent his life studying the nuances of the golf swing and putting stroke has created a teaching philosophy as simple, or complicated depending on the player, as rhythm and tempo.
“He teaches me, which is a good thing. He doesn’t have a philosophy,” Woodland said. “I was around him a lot in 2011, 2010, it’s unbelievable how well he can relay it now. He has video of a million guys putting and he’s one of the best to do it, but he can show you that you don’t have to do it one certain way and that was good for me.”
For Woodland, Faxon keyed in on his background as a college basketball player and compared the putting stroke to how he shoots free-throws. For McIlroy, it was a different sport but the concept remained the same.
“We were talking about other sports where you have to create your own motion, a free-throw shooter, a baseball pitcher, but what related to him was a free-kicker in soccer, he mentioned Wayne Rooney,” Faxon said. “You have to have something to kick start your motion, maybe it’s a trigger, some might use a forward press, or tapping the putter like Steve Stricker, sometimes it’s finding the trigger like that for a player.”
Faxon spent “a good two hours” with McIlroy last weekend at The Bear’s Club, not talking technique or method, but instead tapping into the intuitive nature of what makes someone a good putter. Midway through that session Faxon said he didn’t need to say another word.
The duo ended the session with a putting contest. Putting 30-footers to different holes, the goal was to make five “aces.” Leading the contest 4-2, Faxon couldn’t resist.
“Hey Rory, after you win Bay Hill this week you’ll have to tell the world you lost to Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” Faxon joked.
McIlroy proceeded to hole three of his next four attempts to win the contest. “I’m going to tell everyone I beat Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” McIlroy laughed.
Maybe it’s the way he’s able to so easily simplify an exceedingly complicated game, maybe it’s a resume filled with more clutch putts than one could count. Whatever it is, Faxon is good at teaching. More importantly, he’s having fun and doing something he loves.
“I have a hard time being called a teacher or a coach, it was more of a conversation with Rory, being able to work with someone like Rory is as excited as I’ve ever been in my career,” Faxon said. “It meant much more to me than it did Rory.”
Frittelli fulfilled promise by making Match Play field
AUSTIN, Texas – Dylan Frittelli attended the University of Texas and still maintains a residence in Austin, so in an odd way this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is a home game for the South African who plays the European Tour.
Frittelli actually attended the event last year as a spectator, when he watched the quarterfinal matches on Saturday afternoon, and made a promise to himself.
“I told a lot of people, I was running into them. I said, ‘I'll be here next year, I'll be playing in this tournament,’” said Frittelli, who climbed to 45th in the world ranking after two victories last year in Europe. “People looked at me, you're 190 in the world, that's hard to get to 64. It was a goal I set myself.”
Frittelli’s next goal may be a little payback for a loss he suffered in college when he was a teammate of Jordan Spieth’s. Frittelli is making his first start at the Match Play and could face his old Longhorn stable mate this week depending on how the brackets work out and his play.
“We had the UT inter-team championship. Coach switched it to match play my senior year, and Jordan beat me in the final at UT Golf Club. It was 3 and 2,” Frittelli said. “So I'm not too keen to face him again.
Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings
AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.
The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.
“I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”
In a statement, the PGA Tour said, “While we do not comment specifically on security measures, the safety and security of our players and fans is, and always will be, our top priority. Our security advisors at the Tour are working in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to monitor, review and evaluate the situation and implement procedures as needed. We encourage all spectators to review the PGA Tour's bag policy and prohibited items list, available at www.dellmatchplay.com, prior to arriving at the tournament."
Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.
“It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”
Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke
With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.
Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.
The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.
The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.
As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”
“There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”
Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.
“You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”
All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.
“It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”
Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.
Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.
“It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”
Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.