Woods Still The Man

By Mercer BaggsMarch 22, 2003, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- You could feel it. The anticipation was palpable. The top 2 players in the world parted a massive row of fans to where they were greeted with a standing ovation on the first tee.
When No. 2 birdied No. 1, the game was on. When No. 1 almost aced No. 2 it was all-but over. At least for No. 2.
Playing head-to-head, the challenger was no match for the three-time defending champion. Tiger Woods showed that while Ernie Els may have entered the week as the hottest player in the world, hes still not the best.
Woods made 12 birdies and one bogey over 29 holes to take a five-shot lead into the final round of the Bay Hill Invitational. He fired a bogey-free 6-under 66 in the third round to move to 15-under-par 201 for the tournament.
I didnt really do anything special. If you look at the round, I chipped in once, but I played the par-5s well. I played them in 4-under par, he said. I always knew the key to this golf course was the par-5s.
Meanwhile, Ernie Els, who had sports psychologist Jos Vanstiphout glued to his hip while practicing, could only muster an even-par 72. He is a full 10 shots back at 5-under.
Im a little disappointed, the conditions were perfect for scoring,' Els said. 'I enjoy playing with Tiger. He loves playing with me, I can tell you that.
Hopefully, it will go my way one of these days.
For the second time in five weeks, Brad Faxon will play in the final group with Woods on Sunday. He was one back of Tiger in the Buick Invitational before losing by five.
Faxon was looking at the Bay Hill record book Friday and realized he shot 64 here in the third round in 1995. He thought: That would be a good number to shoot. Not like I can go shoot them when I want.
He almost did. Faxon bogeyed the last, but shot 65 to get sole possession of second place at 10-under.
One of my goals this year was to play more with Tiger, and not in practice rounds, Faxon said. Its going to be tough. If I can go out and shoot another great round, well see what happens.
Stewart Cink is the next closest competitor. He shot 70 to get into third place at 8-under.
Woods is trying to become the first player since Walter Hagen (PGA Championship, 1924-27) to win the same PGA Tour event four straight years. He is 27-for-29 in converting 54-hole leads into victory on tour.
Due to the threat of thunderstorms, officials have moved up tee times in the final round. Groups of three will go off on the first and 10th tees beginning at 8:00 AM ET, with the final threesome at 9:48.
A near five-hour rain delay Friday forced 61 players to conclude their second rounds Saturday morning. Woods was among that group. He woke up at 4:30 AM, struggled on the range, and the proceeded to make six birdies in 11 holes to vault past Els, who had gone to sleep with the clubhouse lead.
It was a long day, Woods said. Thats when it helps to be in decent shape.
Els had finished his second-round 65 Friday night to get to 5-under. But when Woods was done ' playing in more ideal scoring conditions in the morning ' the South African was four back.
After about a three-hour break, Woods teed it up again with Cink as his nearest pursuer.
Cink birdied the first to get within two of Tiger, as did Els to move within three. Woods parred the first and then nearly jarred his tee shot on the 218-yard par-3 second. He converted the four-footer to get to double digits under par.
Els, on the other hand, never got lower than 6-under. He three-putted from 15 feet for bogey at the third, and dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he miss-hit his drive into the lake.
The four-time worldwide winner, in 2003, made four birdies and four bogeys for just his fourth round in the 70s this year.
Tiger did his thing; he was relentless today. But I made my fair share of mistakes. Things didnt quite go my way, said Els, who added that he was somewhat bothered by the wrist he sprained when hitting a punching bag last week.
Said Woods: You could tell he was struggling with his swing a little bit. He never really hit the ball as clean, as crisp, as he normally does. He was really fighting it a bit.
While Els never got out of first gear, Cink tried to keep pace with the roughshod Woods. He birdied 3 and 4, only to pick up a single stroke.
Woods got up and down for birdie on the par-5 fourth. He then chipped in from 30 feet at the next to extend his advantage to three. A third consecutive birdie at the par-5 sixth moved him to 13-under.
Cink then bogeyed the eighth and made 10 pars coming home.
Faxon was the last man left to try and keep Woods honest. He made five birdies in a six-hole stretch to get to 9-under. Despite a bogey at 13, he went on another birdie run making three-in-a-row starting at 14.
He got within two of Tiger, at 11-under. Woods, however, still had two par-5s to complete. He got up and down for birdie at the 580-yard 12th when his 80-foot pitch shot finished 18 inches from the hole. Following three pars, he two-putted from 15 feet for another birdie at the 517-yard 16th.
Faxon didnt help his cause with a bogey at the last. He pushed his tee shot so far right that it finished on the 16th tee box. He was able to hook a 6-iron from 188 yards around some trees and to the back fringe, 50 feet from the hole. He chipped to 10 feet, but couldnt convert the save.
This is the eighth time Woods has entered the final round of a tour event with at least a five-shot lead. Obviously, hes a perfect 5-0. Still, he offers a bit of caution.
If (Faxon) goes out and shoots another 8-under-par round, Ive still got to shoot under par in order to win the tournament, he said.
Related Links
  • Full-field scores from the Bay Hill Invitational
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    McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

    McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

    Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

    McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

    Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.