Does Tiger actually believe he's improving?

By Randall MellAugust 15, 2015, 7:18 pm

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Tiger Woods doesn’t have to be honest with us, but if he’s going to break out of this slump he’s going to have to be honest with himself.

Does he really believe he’s finally moving in the right direction?

Moments after missing the cut Saturday at the PGA Championship, he insisted he is.

“The confidence is growing quickly,” Woods said. “That’s the fun part. I’m able to hit shots that I haven’t been able to hit in years, and that’s nice again. To have that control I need to have going forward, it’s starting to come back, which is nice.”

Does he really believe that? It’s a fair question to ask given his 2014-15 PGA Tour season might have ended here at Whistling Straits with his third consecutive missed cut in a major. If he doesn’t follow through on a commitment to play the Wyndham Championship next week – and he was uncertain Saturday morning whether he would – then he has no chance of qualifying for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. His PGA Tour season would be done. The majors, the events that always mattered most to him, are behind him, too.

Where does Woods go from here? It all depends on if he really believes what he’s telling us.

If Woods believes his swing’s coming around, his control and confidence are coming back, there’s no need to regroup yet again. There’s no need to scrap what he’s working on or who he’s working with. But if he doesn’t believe what he’s telling us, he’s at another crossroads. There’s yet another new direction to plot, another new beginning to make. There’s also failure to acknowledge in his work with Chris Como.

If Woods doesn’t believe he’s on the right path, he’s right back to square one.

He’s still lost.

At his best, what Woods believed always mattered more than what anybody else believed about his game. In his world, attitude was more important than facts. His will trumped them.

In the game’s biggest events, the facts have never stacked up so formidably against his beliefs.

What he believes to be true about his work with Como still isn’t showing up in his results.

Tiger posted a 75 Thursday in the opening round at Whistling Straits and finished up a 73 in Saturday’s conclusion of the suspended second round.

That’s three consecutive missed cuts in major championships. That’s four missed cuts in his last five majors. The man didn’t miss four cuts in majors through his first 17 years as a professional. He’s also now posted seven consecutive rounds without breaking par in the majors. That’s also a first in his career.

Woods is 22-over par in the majors this year. Jordan Spieth is 43 under so far.

That stat may rank as the most revealing in how far Woods is from where he wants to be.

In 10 starts this year, Woods has failed to finish half of them, missing the cut in four and withdrawing in another.

There hasn’t been a single top 10 this year.

From his battle at year’s start with serious chipping woes, to a back issue at the Farmers Insurance Open, there have been few bright moments to build upon, but Woods is seizing on what he says he’s feeling.

“So far, 10 events this year, obviously it's a very small sample, but I'm pleased at the way I'm starting to hit the golf ball,” Woods said before leaving Whistling Straits. “Now, if I can start putting like I did today, or what I did at Quicken Loans a couple weeks ago, start putting like that, then we got something.”

If Woods believes that, maybe we will see him at the Wyndham next week.

If Woods is going to make the FedEx Cup playoffs, he probably has to win in Greensboro, N.C., to have a chance. That’s a lot of pressure for a man searching for his game. The field there will be weak, and Sedgefield Country Club doesn’t seem to particularly suit him, but he will meet with his team over the next couple days to decide if he will play.

Woods doesn’t see this PGA Tour season marking an end to what he’s working toward.

“I think it's more just building,” Woods said. “People keep asking me this week: Is it your season? No, it's not really about the season, it's about the year.”

Bottom line, it’s about knowing what he believes is real.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.