South Beach Breakthrough
The satisfaction in a 6-under-par 66 was written all over his face after he signed his scorecard at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
“Peaking at the right time . . . for the Tavistock Cup,” Woods said flashing a smile.
Woods needed a round like this. Yes, he needed it for the reinforcement in his swing change, but he needed it so much more for his confidence.
“No doubt,” Woods said. “Today, I hit a lot of good golf shots, and when I did miss-hit one, I knew what the fix was right away. Boom. And I got right back on my run of hitting good shots again. That feels good.”
Nobody’s going to declare that the vintage Woods is back, because we’ve seen other flashes like this in his winless 16 months. We saw his brilliant 66 in the third round of the U.S. Open last summer at Pebble Beach, his nearly flawless rout of Francesco Molinari in Ryder Cup singles last fall and his run into contention at the Chevron World Challenge in December.
But if Woods’ winning form returns, you get the feeling it won’t come all at once, but in building blocks.
After poor Sunday finishes in his only other starts this year, the 75 at the Farmers Insurance Open, the 75 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, this was something to build on. He actually tied for 10th at Doral with his 66 equaling the best round Sunday on the TPC Blue Monster.
There is evidence of progress over his three stroke-play starts this year. He's gone T-44 at the Farmers Insurance Open, T-20 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and T-10 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
“My trajectory is becoming better,” Woods said. “The shapes of my shots are getting tighter. The driver is still not quite there. I’m not quite shaping the golf ball like I want to yet, but I’m hitting it flush again, which is good. That’s just a matter of time before that comes around.”
The best part of Sunday for Woods may have been seeing so many putts finding the bottom of the cup.
Woods, who abandoned his Scotty Cameron putter for his backup Nike Method mid-mallet putter on Saturday and Sunday, made 5 putts of more than 10 feet all week at Doral, two of them on the back nine on Sunday. He needed just 25 putts in the final round, his fewest in any round all week. He also got up and down four of five times after missing greens.
“His distance control, Tiger gave himself a lot of opportunities,” said Thomas Bjorn, who played with Woods on Sunday two weeks after knocking Woods out of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship outside Tucson. “It just looks like he only needs to hit fairways. That’s all it is.
“He putted all right today. In Tucson, his short game was off for some reason. I think that was just an off day. It was good today, and I don’t think that’s going to leave him. There is still a little bit of work for him to do, but I think the Masters probably comes at a pretty good time for him.”
Woods needed a round like Sunday’s if only to fend off the negative energy dogging him.
With the scrutiny building over his swing changes, the intensity of the analysis of what’s wrong with him growing with those awful duck-hook and sky-ball pop-up drives on Friday, Woods needed a positive turn, even if it were in a Sunday round with no chance to win.
“Of course, it bothers me,” Woods said of not being in contention. “I want to win golf tournaments. That’s the whole idea of entering events is to win golf tournaments, and I didn’t do that this week. But I showed positive signs for the next time I play, which is a good thing.”
With Woods playing the Tavistock Cup at his Isleworth Country Club home on Monday and Tuesday, and a week later playing Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he’s won six times, this two-week run could be just what Woods needs going to Augusta National for the Masters.
Woods was asked if he thinks he’s “on track” for the Masters in a month.
“Oh yeah,” Woods said.
He was asked if he liked his chances.
“Mmmm-hmmm,” he said.
When he was his best and endured spells where his game was off, Woods always believed he was close to returning to form. He proved himself right so often, it was hard not to believe him, no matter how wayward he seemed.
It’s different now, but if Woods believes – if he really believes – then Sunday was a breakthrough. Because breaking out of this slump seems to be as much about Woods’ confidence and belief in himself as it does his swing.
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.
That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.
Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.
Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.
Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain
The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.
Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.
"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."
Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.
Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.
Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.
Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia
JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.
Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.
Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.
Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.