Tiger Woods A Cut Above Part 2

By Mercer BaggsOctober 23, 2003, 4:00 pm
This is the second in a two-part series on Tiger Woods trying to tie Byron Nelsons PGA Tour record for consecutive cuts made. Read Part 1
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. ' Assuming Tiger Woods does this week what he has done 112 straight times before, he will tie Byron Nelsons PGA Tour record of consecutive events played without missing a cut.
This would be No. 113, and No. 114 would be assured as Tigers next scheduled tournament is the Tour Championship, where there is no cut.
Officially, Woods is one away from tying Nelson ' in terms of most consecutive events played without missing a cut. But in terms of consecutive events played in which he has made the cut, he ranks third in tour history.
Woods has actually made 89 consecutive cuts on tour, in events that actually have a cut to be made.
Jack Nicklaus is second at 105 (from the Sahara Open in November of 1970 through the World Series of Golf in September, 1976). His streak included 10 tournaments that didnt have a cut.
And, of course, Nelson is No. 1.
It has been speculated that Ben Hogan may have made 177 consecutive cuts. But the tour cannot confirm this and, therefore, does not recognize it.
For the record, Tiger has already surpassed Nicklaus and is now on a numbers collision course with Nelson. The two paths, separated by nearly six decades, appear destined to meet at a crossroad, and they are as fundamentally different as they are equally impressive.
It's so difficult to compare the three eras, Woods said in reference to his, Nelsons and Nicklaus times. You're going to have bad tournaments, bad weeks where you just don't hit the ball well, and they somehow figured out a way to score and get it done. That's what makes them champions.
Nelsons streak started with the 1941 Bing Crosby Pro-Am and almost never came to an end. He stopped playing a full schedule in 1946, and competed only three times over the next two seasons.
The run officially concluded when he returned to Pebble Beach in 1949 and finished out of the money. In Nelsons day, making the cut meant making money. And making money meant finishing inside the top 20, or thereabouts, in most events.
Where Woods could finish tied for 56th in the 1999 Bay Hill Invitational and keep alive his streak, Nelson had no such opportunity. In fact, during his run Nelson never finished lower than a tie for 17th.
Nelson needed such high finishes, sometimes just to offset travel expenses. He certainly didnt have Tigers luxury to pick and choose tournaments. And he certainly didnt have Tigers good fortune not to need the money.
But, by contrast, Woods streak, while it may include tournaments without cuts and events where he snuck inside the top 70 after two rounds, was fostered against stronger and deeper fields.
Sam Snead and Ben Hogan were serving in the military during much of Nelsons streak.
Woods has also faced greater media scrutiny. And dont forget the fact that hes never missed the cut overseas either.
Whether you view Tigers mark at 89 or 112, it is still far and away greater than anything else any of his peers have been able to produce.
Vijay Singh has been Woods closest modern-day counterpart when it comes to consistency. After finally missing the cut in the 1998 Masters to end his streak at 53, he followed with 18 straight cuts made.
Over the last seven years, he has averaged only two missed cuts per season. This year hes missed but one (Players Championship), which is still one more than Woods.
If you start thinking about it, its hard, said Singh. If youre playing well you dont think about the cut. And Tigers been playing well for a while.
Ernie Els is currently second behind Woods in events played on tour without missing a cut. He is 15-for-15 this season, and hasnt missed a cut in 26 straight tournaments, dating back to 2002.
He once went 28 straight events, from late 1999 to early 2001, without missing a weekend round on the tour. He has made 156 cuts in 182 career events, good for an 85.7-percent success rate.
Jim Furyk is another modern model of consistency. He has cashed a paycheck in over 80 percent of the events he has played on tour, making 23 of 25 cuts this season.
I think what Tiger has done is fantastic considering that hes played against very deep, very big fields, he said. It only takes a bad day, one bad round of 75, 76 to push you out of the cut line, and he just seems to be very consistent and seems to fight through it when hes playing poorly and gets it done.
He doesnt quit, Furyk added. It is important for him to show up and play his best every week, even when hes not playing well.
Singhs career cuts-made percentage on tour is 89.8; Davis Love III 80.9 percent; Phil Mickelson 80.1 percent; Sergio Garcia 77.9 percent; Mike Weir 71.4 percent.
David Duvals career cuts-made percentage was at 80.3 prior to the last two seasons. It is now at 73.4.
Greg Norman made 204 cuts in 221 tour starts, from 1979 to 1995, for a 92.3 percentage. He averaged about one missed cut per season during that stretch.
Jack Nicklaus made 425 cuts in 442 events, from his rookie season of 1962 to 1985, for a 96.1 percentage during that time.
These are all remarkable numbers, but, based solely on percentages, Woods is King Cut.
As a professional, he has played in 143 events and made 141 cuts ' a 98.6 percent success rate. Of course, that includes tournaments like the three World Golf Championship events, the Mercedes Championships and the Tour Championship ' events without a cut.
That makes it a little different, said Bob Burns, the defending champion of this weeks Disney event. I am not taking anything away from him. Obviously he doesnt have any trouble making cuts in the full-field tournaments either.
But even without the credit of those events, he is still good for 113 cuts made out of 115 events with a cut. That decreases his success rate to all of 98.2 percent.
Burns, who has been playing the tour regularly the last five years, has never gone longer than eight straight tournaments without missing a cut. He knows how difficult consistency is to maintain on the PGA Tour, and laughed when asked if he could comprehend someone making 113 consecutive cuts.
I cant, he said. Thats pretty amazing.
Amazing is exactly how Nelson perceives what he and Woods have accomplished. He has said that he holds this particular streak in higher regard than winning 11 consecutive tournaments in 1945.
Woods, too, will speak of pride in the accomplishment, but the true expression is seen on the Fridays of those select events where he didnt have it, but managed to survive to another day.
I dont ever bag it. You have to fight. There are days when you feel terrible and you wish you were in other places, because youre playing so poorly. You have to somehow figure out a way to score, and thats the name of the game, he said.
If you can just get to the weekend, you can still go low and win.
Woods has twice won at Disney, but that doesnt guarantee him a spot in the weekend rotation this time around.
Last year, Chris DiMarco held the 36-hole lead at 17-under par; the cut line fell at 6 under. Woods loathes a shoot-out, and would much rather grind his way into weekend position.
I do not like them. Ive never liked them, never will, he said of low-scoring tournaments. It doesnt really reward good ball striking; its just a putting contest.
But this is home, and his track record in this track meet is quite impressive. And while he never enters an event thinking about just making the cut, it is on his mind this week. He respects the significance of this record, and knows that it will likely be his for even longer than it belonged to Nelson.
All it takes is one bad day, or inclement weather, injury, a WD (withdrawal), and youre out of there, all of a sudden the cut (streak) is over, he said.
Its consistency. You have to be consistent. And thats what Im most proud of.
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs at mbaggs@golfchannel.com
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G-Mac has Ryder Cup on mind with Genesis in grasp

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 2:12 am

LOS ANGELES – Graeme McDowell is four years removed from his last start in a Ryder Cup and golf is more than seven months away from this year’s matches, but then it’s never too early to start daydreaming.

Following a third-round 70 that left him tied for third place and just two strokes off the lead at the Genesis Open, McDowell was asked if the matches are on his mind.

“I feel like I've got a lot of things to do between now and getting on that team,” he said. “Standing here right now it's probably not a realistic goal, but if I continue to play the way I'm playing for the next few months, it may start to become a realistic goal.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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McDowell began his week at Riviera Country Club fresh off four consecutive missed cuts and has drifted to 219th in the Official World Golf Ranking. But his play this week has been encouraging and the Northern Irishman has always relished the opportunity to play for Europe.

“Deep down I know I'm good enough, but I've got to show, I've got to put some results on the board, I've got to take care of my business,” he said. “The greatest experience of my career bar none, and I would love to play another couple Ryder Cup matches before it's all said and done.”

McDowell does have a potential advantage this year having won the French Open twice at Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches.

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Bubba on McGrady block: 'Just trying not to get hurt'

By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2018, 1:56 am

LOS ANGELES – A detour to the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game didn’t keep Bubba Watson from leading this week’s Genesis Open, although an on-court brush with Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady nearly derailed his chances for a third tournament win.

Watson enters the final round at Riviera with a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay after firing a 6-under 65 in the third round. The day before, the southpaw left the course around lunch time and headed across town to participate in the All-Star festivities, where during the celebrity game he tried to score 1-on-1 over McGrady.

Watson’s move into the lane went about as well as you’d expect given their five-inch height disparity, with McGrady easily blocking the ball into the stands. According to Watson, he had only one thought as McGrady came barreling towards him across the lane.

“When I saw him, all I saw was, ‘This is my moment to get hurt,’” Watson said. “This big tank is about to hit me, and I was like, ‘Just knock it into the stands. Just don’t touch me.’ So it worked out, he didn’t touch me so it was good.”

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Watson’s attempt went against his wife Angie’s advice to avoid the paint area, but it provided a fun moment for a player used to carving up fairways and greens – not to mention the guy who played 15 seasons in the NBA.

“Well, he’s got like just under 800 blocks for his career, so I gave him one more, you know?” Watson said. “It was just, it was a blast. I wanted to see how good he was, see if he could miss it. He hasn’t played in a while.”

Watson took some heat on Twitter from his PGA Tour peers for the rejection, but few were still laughing as he rocketed up the leaderboard Saturday with five birdies and an eagle. Now he has a chance to win this event for the third time since 2014 – even if he doesn’t plan to go toe-to-toe with McGrady again anytime soon.

“Some guys wanted to try to win MVP, so I was trying to pass it and let them have their fun and their moment,” Watson said. “I was just trying not to get hurt.”

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Spieth on third-round 69: 'Putter saved me'

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:37 am

LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth has spent the last few weeks talking about his putting for all the wrong reasons.

Two weeks ago when he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open he lost 3.76 shots to the field in strokes-gained putting, and last week he wasn’t much better.

It looked like more of the same at the Genesis Open when he lost about a half stroke to the field on Day 1 with 29 putts, but since then his fortunes on the greens have gotten progressively better.

“I thought each day last week I progressed,” said Spieth, who needed just 24 putts on Friday and moved into a tie for 20th after taking 26 putts on Day 3.

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Spieth said he started to feel things turn around at Pebble Beach after working with his swing coach Cameron McCormick and Steve Stricker, who has become something of a putting sounding board for players on Tour.

“I got set up really nice. I got really comfortable on the greens even though they were very difficult to putt last week and this week,” said Spieth, who rolled in a birdie putt of 14 feet at No. 12 and a par putt of 35 feet at No. 14. “Any putt, I either made it or I left it just short today. It was one of those days that with the way I struck the ball, it was an off day, but that putter saved me and allowed me to shoot the lowest score so far this week.”

Spieth’s third-round 69 is his best of the week and moved him to within seven strokes of the lead, which is held by Bubba Watson.

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Bouncing back: Watson seeks a third Riviera win

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:25 am

LOS ANGELES – Yeah, but can Tracy McGrady smoke a 7-iron from 203 yards to kick-in range for eagle on Riviera Country Club’s opening hole?

The way Bubba Watson’s mind drifts there’s no telling if, as he began his day at the Genesis Open, he revisited his play from Friday night at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. If he did, it would have been an apropos conclusion after McGrady sent his weak floater into the cheap seats midway through the second quarter.

Either way, Watson made it clear playtime was over on Saturday. The eagle at the opening par 4 ½ sent Watson on his way to a third-round 65 and the outright lead at the Left Coast event that’s starting to feel like a second home for the lefthander.

In 11 starts at Riviera, Watson already has two victories. A third on Sunday could get folks talking about renaming the layout Bubba’s Alley. Or not.

What is certain is that Watson has emerged from a funk that sent him tumbling outside the top 100 in the world ranking and he’s done it in quintessential Bubba style.

If Friday’s detour to the celebrity game received worldwide attention it was only a snapshot of Watson’s Tinseltown itinerary. He taped a segment for Jay Leno’s Garage show, visited with Ellen DeGeneres and watched a taping of The Big Bang Theory. You know, L.A. stuff.

Oh, and he’s curved and carved his way around Riviera with signature abandon.

“You've got to hit shots from every different angle, you've got to move it right to left and left to right, so it's just fun,” said Watson, who also led by one stroke when he won here in 2016, his last victory on the PGA Tour. “Then the greens are the equalizer so it makes me look like I putt as good as the other guys.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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He “hammered” a 7-iron from 203 yards at the first to 1 ½ feet for his opening eagle, chipped in at the sixth to begin a run of four birdies in five holes and played the three par 5s in 3 under to move into a familiar spot after enduring his worst season on Tour in 2017 when he failed to advance past the second playoff event.

That he’s turned the tide in Los Angeles is as predictable as it is peculiar. Despite Watson’s record at the Genesis Open, Riviera wouldn’t seem to be the tonic for all that ails Bubba.

Ask a player - any player will do - the keys to playing Riviera and the answers range wildly from it being a bomber’s course to the need for ball-striking precision. But the word that comes up with regularity is "patience."

“Patience and pretty much just not being stupid, to be honest,” Justin Thomas said when asked the key to his third-round 67 that left him tied for eighth place. “Just stop trying to hit at pins with 5-irons and 6-irons, and when I hit in the rough, realize just try to make a par. When I get in places, when I'm out of position, realize that sometimes even bogey is what I need to make.”

While that thought dovetails with conventional wisdom, Watson’s not exactly known for his patience.

“Oh, for sure I do. Haven't you seen me in the last 12 years?” Watson laughed when asked if he had patience on the course. “The tougher the golf course, the more focus I have. The tougher the shot, I've been able to focus better. When I get my mind on something, I can focus and do pretty well at the game of golf.”

While Bubba drifts between artist and antagonist with ease, both on and off the golf course, his primary challenge on Sunday is the picture of thoughtful composure.

Patrick Cantlay, who returned to the Tour last season after struggling with back issues for years, began the third round with a share of the lead but quickly faded on the front nine. He rallied on the closing loop with birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 18, where he capped his day with a 54-footer that assured him a spot in Sunday’s final threesome. Although he’s just 25 and playing his first full season on Tour, Cantlay’s approach to the game is patently different from Watson’s.

“I feel like if I can just engage and not worry about where I am on a particular hole or what's going on and I just engage and stay present in whatever I'm doing at that particular time, it all turns out better than what you would expect,” explained Cantlay, who attended nearby UCLA and played dozens of practice rounds at Riviera. “Making sure you stay present and having that confidence in yourself that if you just click in and focus, it all will be good and that's kind of the head space I'm in.”

It will be a clash of wildly contrasting styles on Sunday – Watson, who admitted he “(doesn’t) focus very well,” and Cantlay, whose approach to the mental side of the game borders on the clinical.

One player relishes the challenge of hyper-focus, the other is Bubba, but that’s not to say Watson is void of patience, only that he needs to be properly motivated.

“Like last night when Tracy McGrady was coming at me, I was focused on not getting hurt and I didn't, so it worked out,” Watson smiled.

And besides, T-Mac can’t bomb it like Bubba.