You Say Hello I Say Goodbye

By Mercer BaggsJuly 12, 2005, 4:00 pm
When Tiger Woods finally gets bored of golf and decides to become a professional fly-fisherman or a Senator or just wants to see how much of the world he can purchase, he will be linked historically to one other player.
Oddly enough that one player will be a man whom Woods has thus far competed against only 29 times as a professional. And one against whom he holds a 26-2-1 record in head-to-head performance.
Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus pauses on the Swilcan Bridge during a practice round with old rival and friend Tom Watson.
This weeks Open Championship at St. Andrews will mark Jack Nicklaus final appearance in golfs oldest tournament. And, it may well mark his final competitive event.
Perhaps. Maybe.
This may or may not be Jacks last stand on the whole. But it is most certainly his final performance on golfs most worldly stage. At age 65, this is his last year of eligibility to compete in the championship.
The Golden Bears goodbye could mean another coronation for Woods.
Ive been pretty good on Jacks farewells, Woods joked to the media while in Ireland for last weeks J. P. McManus Pro-Am.
Pretty good is an understatement. When Nicklaus walks away from a major, Tiger wins said major. There have been no exceptions.
Nicklaus last U.S. Open was in 2000 at Pebble Beach. He missed the cut; Tiger won. His last PGA Championship was also in 2000 at Valhalla. He missed the cut; Tiger won.
After missing the cut at this years Masters Tournament, Nicklaus declared himself finished at Augusta. Tiger then went on to win.
'And I won at St. Andrews (in 2000) last time, which was supposed to be his farewell,' Wood added.
Nicklaus decided to play the Open Championship for a 38th time because the tournaments governing body, the Royal & Ancient, moved this years site to St. Andrews.
Nicklaus has always had a fondness for the Old Course, as two of his three Open victories (1970, 78) came at the home of golf.
Augusta and St. Andrews are my two favorite places in the game of golf, and I thought it was appropriate to end it at one of those two, Nicklaus said earlier this year. And, being what the R & A did in changing their date ' frankly, they weren't going there until 2006, and they just announced it a year earlier, which I thought was a pretty nice compliment. I thought that would be a pretty good place to stop.
Woods also has quite an affinity for the historic links layout.
Its one of the greatest venues youll ever play because its so dependent on the weather, he said at the Cialis Western Open two weeks ago. The golf course is not that hard when the wind doesnt blow, as we saw the last time at the British Open. We all took it deep.
We is more like me. Woods set a major championship record by finishing the 2000 Open at 19-under-par 269. He won by eight strokes over Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els.
That victory completed the career Grand Slam for Woods. He has since won another PGA Championship (2000), another U.S. Open (2002), and three more Masters Tournaments (2001, 02, 05).
But not yet another Open Championship.
Should he repeat his performance from five years ago, he will join ' who else? ' Nicklaus as the only two men to win every major championship at least twice.
Woods will return to St. Andrews with a swing that is dissimilar to the one that was so effective in his 2000 demolition. After suffering through a 10 major winless stretch, that new motion finally paid major dividends at this years Masters, which he won in a playoff over Chris DiMarco.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods looked relaxed during his Tuesday practice round at St. Andrews.
That triumph evoked thoughts of a possible seasonal Slam for Woods. But that dream died prematurely when he finished runner-up to Michael Campbell in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
I dont want to be like I was in 2000; thats why I made the swing changes ' I wanted to be better, he said. I was satisfied when I won the first major this year, but I felt I should have won the other. At the U.S. Open I finished second-to-last on the putting stats, so that tells you how well I hit the ball. My confidence is building at the right time.
Woods was quite confident five years ago. And his ball-striking was as good then, if not better than it is now.
He didnt find a single one of the Old Courses 112 bunkers on the last occasion it hosted the Open. That may be a more difficult feat to accomplish this time around.
While Woods has a new swing of attack, the Old Course has a new line of defense.
The layout now measures 7,279 yards, compared to 7,115 in 2000. Five new, longer tees have been added, which should bring some of those penal pot bunkers back into play. That includes the infamous Hell bunker at the par-5 14th, which was upped from 581 to 618 yards.
Woods isnt a big fan of the changes.
I dont understand why they would do it, he said. They are so dependant on the weather. If the wind blows and you get bad weather, the guys are going to shoot high scores.
Woods, of course, has the good reason to like the old Old Course. So does Nicklaus.
Its just another thing the two happen to have in common.
One is of mixed heritage, was groomed for this game, has a chiseled physique, and is the sports current Superman. The other is a white Midwesterner, whose father hoped he would one day play football, who was referred to as Fat Jack, who once was kryptonite to the sports then Superman.
Theyre separated by 36 years and nine professional major championships. And yet they have so very much in common.
A perfect script would have one raising his hands over his head, bidding adieu Sunday afternoon, while the other raises his hands above his head in triumph later that evening.
But life is not a script that we can always write to our liking. And, for that matter, not everyone would like to see this script conclude in such a manner.
Then again, there may still be one more chapter left to write ' St. Andrews may not be the end. Nicklaus denouement may yet come at Augusta. And that would be just fine with Woods.
He just needs to keep retiring, Woods said with a big smile.
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

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    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

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    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

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    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''