Bethpage Primer

By Rex HoggardJune 7, 2009, 4:00 pm
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DUBLIN, Ohio ' The comeback everybody hoped for at Augusta National and leveraged the house on at The Players arrived on a breezy Sunday afternoon in central Ohio.
 
Tiger Woods said he needed some time to sort things out. Times up. Now the clock starts for Bethpage Black and the U.S. Open.
 
With a slightly shorter driver with slightly more loft he slighted the field at the Memorial with a fairways-and-greens exhibition and a hint of what awaits in two weeks on Long Island.
 
Tiger Woods
We all know what happened the last time Tiger teed it up at Bethpage. (Getty Images)
Yet ballstriking brilliance and a one-stroke, come-from-behind, white-knuckle victory aside, the comeback is not over. Not for Woods.
 
Not with three turns still left in the Grand Slam season and favored-layout status waiting at the U.S. Open (Bethpage) and PGA Championshp (Hazeltine National). The Memorial victory was nice, historic actually, but one-half of the single-season legends slam ' Memorial and his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March ' is not what sends Woods to the gym and the practice tee and back to the gym.
 
If the Memorial is any measure, the event Jim Furyk dubbed a mini-major, Woods could become the first player to win, place and show at Americas national championship.
 
This is how you have to hit it to win the U.S. Open, Woods said.
 
He should know, only Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Willie Anderson have more Open hardware on the mantle and perhaps only Woods has the mettle to overpower a brutish layout like Muirfield from the middle of the fairway, of all places.
 
For the week, Woods put on a ballsriking clinic. On Sunday he went 14-for-14 from the tee, the first time hes done that since 2003, and connected with the short grass a Kreskin-like 49 times out of 56 attempts for four rounds, tying the best driving week of his career.
 
Woods was second in driving accuracy, third in greens in regulation (73 percent) and 12th in driving distance. His 25 putts in Round 4 ' including a 38 footer at the second that was his longest of the week and third-longest of the year ' were notable, particularly on greens most players dubbed the fastest they will play all year, but were more a byproduct of superior ballstriking.
 
I really controlled my flight and felt in control with shaping the ball both ways. I didn't really have a problem hitting it either way. That's when you know you feel like you're in control of what you're doing, said Woods, who added that he hadnt hit the ball this well since the 2006 British Open when he brought Hoylake and the worlds best to their knees with a cleek. I didn't hit any surprises out there.
 
Yet perhaps his most impressive feat of the week is that he saved his best for last.
 
Woods teed off for the final round four-strokes adrift of Mark Wilson and someone named Matt Bettencourt and paired with a dead ringer for Cosmo Kramer, otherwise known as the hard-swinging Michael Letzig. He needed just 30 minutes to pull within one shot of the lead.
 
By the turn he was atop a congested leaderboard and he closed with consecutive birdies at Nos. 17 and 18 to make the final three two-balls a formality.
 
I didnt say much to him all day, just nice, shot. Nice shot. Nice shot, Letzig said. I dont know what everyone is talking about how he drives it. He was perfect all day. Ive never seen iron shots like that. Its unreal.
 
There was a foreshadowing to the entire affair when the day dawned just as Nike stablemate and good friend Roger Federer was clearing his mental attic at Roland Garros, Woods followed the lead but he was eyeing a contenders-by-committee gathering much more fearsome than Federers French Open ghosts.
 
Even with his swinging show, the outcome remained curiously in doubt until Muirfield Villages grueling closing stretch. A leaderboard with more traffic than a Dublin ' Ohio, not Ireland ' roundabout and more moving parts than an economic stimulus plan featured as many as five co-leaders at one time, many of them with major championship pedigrees.
 
Bettencourt ' a former college flamethrower for the Modesto Junior College baseball team turned journeyman pro making his first Memorial start and first cameo on a Tour leaderboard ' grinded to an even-par start through eight holes before rinsing his title chances at the ninth. Apologies to the likeable rookie, but with the stars aligned behind him a Bettencourt victory was about as probable as a run on Arnold Palmers in the Muirfield Village clubhouse.
 
In order Davis Love III, Jim Furyk and Jonathan Byrd tilted at the games preeminent windmill before crashing into statistical reality.
 
Byrd, whose work with swing coach Mike Bender and sports psychologist Dr. Morris Pickens has produced a player on the cusp of a breakthrough, went from 2 up on the field and cruising to a 2 down contender in less time than it takes to watch a sitcom. He followed a three-putt bogey at the 13th with an unsightly double at No. 14 to finish tied for third.
 
Love moved into a share of the lead with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 13 and 14, but squandered his title chances, and a chance to avoid U.S. Open qualifying, with a 3-over-par finish.
 
While Furyk, an Open player rounding into form in time for Bethpage, held on the longest thanks to one-putting Muirfields closing three, but couldnt match Woods and finished alone in second place.
 
For Woods it was a text book back nine. Three birdies, an oak-shaking chip-in eagle at the 11th and a wind-gust bogey at 17 added up to a closing 65 and 12-under 276 total. The kind of round Woods has said was coming since he reintroduced himself to the fold back in February at the WGC-Match Play Championship.
 
There is no secret to Woods march back into the history books other than Hogans famed elixir ' practice.
 
At Augusta National, Woods fumed because he couldnt cover the final two holes in anything resembling par, but ostensibly because he couldnt work out the kinks on the practice tee afterward. The knee just wouldnt cooperate.
 
Things started getting better at Quail Hollow and continued to improve through The Players.
 
My practice sessions started getting longer at home. Hit more balls, play more golf, all these things. People don't realize you need to do that. You need to have that ability, said Woods, who became the first player to win Jacks gem four times. You can't just think about your swing and how to be great the next day. I needed to do the reps.
 
Dont underestimate the power of practice. Or Woods chances at Bethpage in a fortnight, where he won the second of his three U.S. Open titles in 2002.
 
Just ask Nicklaus, perhaps the only man alive who can relate to Woods brilliance.
 
If he drives the ball like that it wont be a contest, Nicklaus said. Can you imagine, 14 of 14 fairways (hit) today, seven (missed) fairways all week. Thats pretty good...
 
It seems the only thing that can leave a legend speechless is a legendary performance.
 

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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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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.''