Putting it All Together

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2011, 12:39 pm

API LogoORLANDO, Fla. – The images are burned in the brain.

Memories of Tiger Woods at his best, when he looked most like a golf warrior, have a common denominator.

Woods was connected to his putter.

Has he ever looked fiercer than when he rocked back on his heels and roared to the heavens after making that long birdie putt to tie Rocco Mediate and force a playoff at the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008?

How about when he holed that 24-foot putt at the 72nd hole at the Arnold Palmer Invitational to beat Brad Bryant and spiked his hat with another raucous roar two years ago?

Or all those trademark uppercuts he used to throw after holing putts in his youth?
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods Wednesday at Bay Hill, where he has won six times. (Getty Images)
Woods’ putter was like Excalibur over his best years.

While a lot is made of swing changes Woods is making with Sean Foley, Woods has shown us over the years he can win when his swing’s not quite right.

But he’s got no shot when his putting stroke’s not right.

That’s what intrigues about Woods’ return to the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week in a bid to win his seventh PGA Tour title at Bay Hill.

Woods used his new Nike Method putter again in Wednesday’s pro-am. The course seems a perfect place for the magic to return to his putting stroke. There are so many good memories for him with his putter here.

In his last two appearances at Bay Hill, Woods ended victories with dramatic tournament-winning putts.

There was the 24-foot birdie putt to beat Bryant in ’08 and the 12-foot birdie putt to beat Sean O'Hair in ’09.

Woods' triumph against O'Hair was good for what ailed him back then. It was his first taste of victory in nine months in the wake of his return from knee surgery.

The memories have to be enervating with Woods saying he’s feeling better about his putting stroke after a bout of lackluster putting the past year. He believes when his putting form returns, you can expect his entire game to begin to follow.

“The putting will come,” Woods said after Wednesday's pro-am. “The chipping will come.

“Because I’m learning a new release, that’s going to take time. But I know I can do that. I’ve done it before . . . I know from the work I’ve done it starts with the putting stroke and it works its way out. Once I get the release dialed in with the putting and the chipping and the irons, then eventually the driver just falls into place.”

When Woods said he was changing the release of his putter as part of his swing makeover with Foley, it got people’s attention. Woods’ putting stroke, after all, might have been the finest under pressure the game’s ever seen.

Notably, Woods said the release he’s working on with Foley is more a return to the release his father taught him. Earl Woods was Tiger’s putting coach until Earl’s death five years ago.

Tiger was asked Wednesday what he thought his father might have him working on as he tries to break out of his putting funk.

“It’s funny you say that,” Woods said. “I went back to all my old stuff that my dad and I used to work on. That’s when I felt that my stroke started becoming more sound, more solid. My speed became better.

“I don’t know what the dude saw in my game, but he really knew putting, and he knew my stroke. I miss him for a lot more reasons than just the putting, but as far as bouncing ideas off of him and what I was feeling and what he would say, I do miss that, certainly.”

Woods said what Foley’s teaching him doesn’t conflict with what his father taught.

“It’s exactly the same, what Foley is trying to get me to do with my full swing, and how he wants me to release it, and how I used to release my putter,” Woods said. “That’s one of the reasons I’ve gone back to my old stuff that my dad and I used to work on. It feels natural, because I’ve done it so long. I just got away from it, and now I’m going back to it.”

As athletic moves go, Woods’ slight rocking of his shoulders in his putting stroke in his prime didn’t thrill the way a Muhammad Ali combination did or Reggie Jackson corkscrew swing did, but it was one of sport’s marvels just the same. That gentle little pendulum swing could make the earth move.

If that returns, you know Woods’ confidence will follow and help every dimension of his game.

The challenge this week will come on green complexes that have changed since Woods last won here two years ago.

Palmer made considerable changes before last year’s tournament, an event Woods missed as he worked his way back from personal woes.

The course alternations aren’t enough, however, to lead Palmer to believe Woods can’t master these greens the way he did in six other victories at Bay Hill.

“I feel like Tiger has the golf game that he can come to the surface at anytime, and I think there’s certainly a possibility here,” Palmer said. “He likes this golf course, and what we’ve done. I’m just not counting him out at all.”

Ian Poulter believes Woods’ powers could return quickly with the putter.

“I think it’s a confidence thing,” Ian Poulter said. “I think as soon as he puts himself in a position of being in contention, I really mean being up there, I think it would be very easy for him to see his lines again, very quickly.

“If you start missing putts and you start missing your lines, and if everything is on top of you, you are kind of putting more pressure on yourself to putt well. I think if he puts himself in the mix, I would know where my money is going.”

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.