Congressional feels like an Open test

By Rex HoggardJune 29, 2012, 12:01 am

BETHESDA, Md. – It’s been three years and what feels like a lifetime since Tiger Woods roamed the grounds of Congressional Country Club in a competitive manner.

Back then he was dominant and dour and the Blue Course was a spongy shell of what it would become. Way back then Woods opened with a 27-putt 64 on his way to a 13-under-par total and a victory.

The only thing similar between Woods’ opening-round 72 on Thursday just outside the Beltway and that ’09 masterpiece was the nagging thought that both cards were the worst he could have possibly signed for.

Changing times, I guess.

In 2010 the AT&T National moved north to Philadelphia for a two-year hiatus and Woods missed last year’s U.S. Open at Congressional with injury, so if he sounded a tad shell-shocked when he paused for a media Q&A after his round it seemed understandable.

“A little retribution for last year,” he smiled, referring to last year’s record scoring during the Open. “And I wasn’t even there last year.”

The golf course the U.S. Golf Association wanted last June arrived a year too late for this week’s AT&T National, complete with hard and fast fairways, bouncy greens and unforgiving rough.

Just 22 players managed under-par rounds on a hot and humid day and there were four rounds in the 80s, the same amount as on Day 1 at last year’s U.S. Open.

Of course, Congressional’s Black & Blue layout is not the only thing that has changed since Woods rolled to victory here in the summer of 2009. The new version of Woods, although much improved since returning from the DL, no longer turns over-par rounds into tournament savers.

The scrambling efforts that once bridged the gap between jaw-dropping performances continue to be elusive. Blue-collar cards that once gave Woods and his faithful hope are few and far between. Instead, when his swing goes sideways his score normally follows, like it did on Saturday at the U.S. Open when he struggled to a 75 to virtually end his title chances.

Thursday’s effort at Congressional could have been much worse, and given the day’s scoring average his 72 was probably closer to par than it looked. He connected on just 7 of 14 fairways and hit 12 of 18 greens in regulation. Missing, however, is that magical short game that once defied the percentages.

In practical terms on Thursday that added up to 28 putts and an 0-for-2 effort from Congressional’s greenside bunkers. He said it was an issue with the bounce on his 60-degree wedge, but it felt more like a bounce-back thing.

“Today was actually pretty good,” said Woods, who is tied for 30th. “The only thing, I just had a couple bad bunker shots. But otherwise it was actually pretty good. I had to get up and down quite a bit today.”

It is worth noting that when Woods was done talking with the media on Thursday he bolted to the chipping green to work with swing coach Sean Foley.

Given Congressional’s juiced-up condition, a “pretty good” short game won’t cut it this week. The Blue’s rough – which is thicker and, Woods pointed out, not graduated like it was at last year’s Open – is where title dreams go to die.

“Pretty good” may work in Hartford and Dallas, but not Washington, D.C.’s Faux Open – a reality that likely drove Woods into the afternoon haze to clip the short grass one chip shot at a time.

The marquee may read “AT&T National,” but this week’s stop is every bit the Open venue as The Olympic Club.

“We've played three U.S. Opens so far this year. We had Bay Hill, obviously Olympic and now one here,” Woods said. “A couple shots today, ball is bouncing as high as flags. It's an adjustment we have to make.”

Thursday’s 72 wasn’t about a wayward swing so much as it was a wanting short game and, at least from 30,000 feet, it has appeared that way for some time. As much as his critics cut apart Woods’ new action, it’s the 12-foot birdie putts that he leaves 6 inches short, like he did at No. 13 in Round 1, that now define the middle ground between good rounds and something that is memorable.

Unlike Congressional, which was manhandled into something mean by architect Rees Jones and the USGA in the years leading up to last year’s Open, the difference between the 2009 Tiger who won the AT&T and today’s version is subtle. It’s a distance measured by inches, like it was on the 13th hole, and, ultimately, the ground Woods still must cover to regain that greatness.

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Watch: Daly makes an ace at the Chubb Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

John Daly won't walk from the Chubb Classic with the trophy, but he certainly deserves recogition for his Sunday scorecard, which came complete with a hole-in-one.

Daly aced the 154-yard par-3 16th on the Talon Course at TwinEagles, when his ball carried the froont bunker and tracked right to the hole.

Two holes later, Daly signed for a final-round 67 that included four birdies, three bogeys and two eagles, which both in the span of four holes on the back nine.

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Gustafson shares stuttering success video

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 8:31 pm

Sophie Gustafson shared a breakthrough Sunday morning on YouTube.

Gustafson, a five-time LPGA winner and 16-time Ladies European Tour winner, shared her news in a 4-minute and 15-second video.

She did so without stuttering.

And that’s the nature of her breakthrough, something she is sharing in hopes that it will help others who stutter.

“I’m certainly not perfect, and the next time you see me, I am going to stutter, there is no question about that,” she says in the video. “But I am excited, because I am going in the right direction, and I believe I have found the solution that works for me.”

For someone who has struggled with stuttering all of her life, Gustafson has touched so many with her ability to communicate. She has entertained her legion of Twitter followers with her sense of humor. She also has written articles.

Back in 2011, Gustafson touched Golf Channel viewers when she opened up about her stuttering in an interview that was aired during the Solheim Cup. Her courage in sharing her challenges was recognized the following year, when the Golf Writers Association of American presented her its Ben Hogan Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has persevered through physical ailment. She also won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award that year.

Gustafson, 44, left the game as a player three years ago to become Beth Allen’s full-time caddie on the Ladies European Tour. She explains in the YouTube video that she is making her breakthrough with the help of Steve Gill, a team member with Tony Robbins’ life and business strategy group.

Gustafson said Gill led her to breathing, meditation and incantation exercises that have helped her since they began working together eight months ago.

“If you know anyone who stutters, tell them to breathe in and then speak,” Gustafson said. “I tried it the other way for 44 years, and it's just not working.” 

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J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

Make way for Jin Young Ko.

The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.

Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

“I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

Ko finished at 14 under overall.

It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

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Luiten takes title at inaugural Oman Open

By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:25 pm

MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten of the Netherlands won the inaugural Oman Open on Sunday to break a title drought of nearly 17 months.

The 32-year-old Dutchman shot a 4-under 68 to finish on 16-under 272, two shots ahead of his friend, England's Chris Wood (69).

It was Luiten's sixth European Tour title and the first since the 2016 KLM Open.

Frenchman Julien Guerrier (71) virtually assured that he would not have to go to qualifying school for the 12th time with a third-place finish after a 13-under 275.

Luiten started with three birdies in his first four holes, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth set him back. On the back nine, he made three birdies, including a key one on the 16th, where he made a 30-foot putt.

''It feels great. I didn't know what to expect when I came here but to play a course like this which is in great condition - it's a great technical golf course as well - it was beyond my expectation and to hold the trophy is even better,'' said Luiten, who is expected to rise to No. 65 in the new rankings on Monday.

''I had a great start, that's what I was hoping for. I hit some nice ones in close and rolled in a couple of nice putts and that gets you in the right position, where you want to be.

Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

''Unfortunately, I had a couple of bogeys as well on the front nine, but I recovered from that with a couple of nice birdies on the back nine and it was a good battle with Woody.''

Playing one group ahead, England's Wood was right in the mix and tied with Luiten at 15-under when their fortunes went in opposite directions almost at the same time. On the 17th hole, Wood drove his tee shot into the hazard left and could do no more than chip his ball out for a bogey. Luiten, meanwhile, drained his 30-footer birdie putt on the 16th for a two-shot swing.

Recovering his form after a series of disappointments, Wood was let down by the loss and said: ''It's golf isn't it? You are never happy.

''I played poorly for six or eight months. Would have never thought I would have put myself into contention. And when you do, you feel gutted when you don't win. I am pretty down really, but in the grand scheme of things, when I reflect after a couple of days, I will think it is a big step in the right direction.''

Luiten's win also got him into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, securing him a start at the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks.

Frenchman Alexander Levy (70), who was hoping to finish in the top five to push into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai and grab the WGC-Mexico spot himself, did manage a joint fourth place at 11 under, but Luiten's victory kept him 11th.

The European Tour next moves to Doha for the Qatar Masters starting on Thursday.