With end of winless streak, Woods can smile

By Rex HoggardDecember 5, 2011, 1:53 am

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – In the early moments of “The Adjustment Bureau,” leading man Matt Damon makes a speech that begins, “When you got in a fight, it wasn't whether or not you got knocked down. It's what you do when you get back up.”

Two years and 26 tournaments since taking his high-profile haymaker Tiger Woods finally had an answer for his critics, and maybe even himself, outdueling Zach Johnson on a postcard-perfect afternoon north of Los Angeles to at least begin closing the book on one of the most curious chapters in sports history.

On the extended resume that Woods has etched over a decade a one-stroke squeaker at a limited-field, silly-season event may not resonate as profound, or even particularly interesting, but after two stints on the DL, two swing coaches, two caddies and too many missed opportunities it was reason to crack the champagne – which he dutifully provided to the press corps as afternoon quickly turned to night.

Enter “Champagne Tiger Woods,” not exactly the dominant figure he once was but undoubtedly not ready for pasture, as many of his critics figured he was as his winless slump went from weeks to years.

What it lacked in depth Woods’ Chevron World Challenge triumph made up for in significance, the first “W” under swing coach Sean Foley’s watch, the first since Woods’ personal and professional life took a header in November 2009 and, maybe more importantly for Woods, the first since he started spending more time in doctor’s offices than on practice tees.

Not that the Chevron host was in much of a mood to dig deep into a guarded psyche following his shootout thriller at Sherwood Country Club, but the significance was not entirely lost on him.

“In the middle of the summer when I was on crutches and on the couch, that was tough,” said Woods, who closed with 69 for a 10-under 278 total. “I’ve been there before in my career and it’s probably more difficult than people can imagine.”

Imagine his relief following close calls at last month’s Australian Open and this year’s Masters. Even last year’s Chevron, where he lost a playoff to Graeme McDowell with a one-dimensional swing and a body that was, if not broken, then severely bent.

This wasn’t easy, didn’t even look that way in HD, and although Woods may have sidestepped the historical significance of this victory his fist pump and unrestrained yell on the 72nd hole spoke volumes.

One stroke down to Johnson with two holes to play, Woods rifled a 9-iron from 172 yards on the par-3 17th to 15 feet to square the match and walked the winner in from 6 feet following another 9-iron from 158 yards at the last for the victory.

“Poor guy couldn’t make a putt for three days and then made two coming in,” said Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava. “I told him, it wasn’t easy but it was a lot of fun.

None of this has been easy for Woods. Not the far-too-public divorce, the injuries and certainly not the losses, and when he started the final round one stroke back and locked in a putting contest with Johnson – the competitive equivalent of getting embroiled in a land war in Russia – he must have been pining for the days when players would peel off leaderboards at the sight of his name.

But Woods pulled even with Johnson on the third, went one clear at the fourth and was 2 up through 11 holes following a two-putt birdie. Like McDowell a year earlier, Johnson squared the match with a birdie at the 13th hole and pulled ahead with a 12-footer at the 16th hole.

The new Woods, the guy still learning the nuances of his swing and battling a balky putter, had shown a concerning inability to run uphill when the shot clock was winding down. On Sunday he closed with consecutive birdies to chants of “Let’s go Ti-Ger.”

Not all silly-season events are created equal, and Woods’ fifth Chevron title would certainly qualify as an object that is larger than it appears, building momentum for his 2012 campaign, which begins in about six weeks at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. The victory also propelled him to 21st in the World Golf Ranking, a confounding jump of 32 places following his plummet to 52nd.

Asked on Saturday which was more important, a win or the progress he’s shown dating back to last month’s Australian Open, Woods was predictably vague, suggesting it was the progress that was most rewarding.

In practical terms at Sherwood progress was 52 of 72 greens in regulation, a 72 percent clip that is five points better than his limited season average, a 1.58 putting average to rank third in the field and just three three-putts all week.

“They all feel good,” Woods said of the victory. “They’re not easy, people don’t realize that. I don’t think I’ve taken it for granted because I know how hard it is.”

For Woods victories may be like children, impossible to distinguish between the good and the great, but for those around him the Chevron was more than just another trophy for the mantel.

“Winning means everything to him whether it’s an 18-man field or Augusta National,” LaCava said. “He wants to win and get the crystal. He knows it’s not 144 guys, he knows it’s not the Masters, but still, winning is winning. It means a lot. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world if he lost and it’s not the end of the world since he won, but it still means a lot.”

Even Foley, who flew home Friday and was the one who suggested Woods try his old “poa annua” putting grip on Sherwood’s surfaces, embraced the progress over the perceived significance of the victory.

“I’m just glad for him,” Foley said. “He has been through a lot and I am extremely proud of him.”

For those waiting to see what Woods would do when he finally got back up, the answer came in a flurry of fist pumps and clutch putts on Sunday.

But it wasn’t the line from a movie that sent Woods out into the Sunday fray. Before he teed off for his final turn he received a text message from a friend with the lyrics from an old-school LL Cool J song: “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.”

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Veteran Golf Journalist Bradley S. Klein Joins Golf Channel Editorial Team

By Golf Channel Public RelationsFebruary 20, 2018, 4:15 pm

Klein to Lend 30-Plus Years in Golf Architecture, History and Travel Journalism to Golf Advisor, Golf Channel’s Digital Travel and Lifestyle Brand

Read Klein’s first column here

Veteran golf travel, history and architecture journalist Bradley S. Klein has joined Golf Channel’s editorial team as senior writer for Golf Advisor, the company’s ever-expanding digital destination for the traveling golfer, featuring more than 700,000 reviews of nearly 15,000 golf courses in 80 countries worldwide. Klein’s first column appears today and provides eight simple tips for becoming a golf course architecture junkie – how architecture can be more relevant to everyday golfers and design aspects to observe that can make a round of golf a more fulfilling experience.

With more than 40 years of varied experiences within the game of golf – a career that began as a caddie on the PGA Tour – Klein most recently served as the long-time architecture editor for Golfweek magazine and the founding editor of Superintendent News.

"I've been in love with golf course design since I was 11 years old and have been lucky over the years to find a platform where I can share that fascination with fellow golfers,” Klein said. “It's an amazing opportunity now for me to bring that passion and commitment to Golf Channel and its travel and lifestyle brand, Golf Advisor."

"We are extremely excited to have Brad join the Golf Advisor team. His unique contributions covering history and architecture will be an excellent complement to the travel content Matt Ginella brings to Golf Advisor and Golf Channel’s Morning Drive,” said Mike Lowe, vice president and general manager, Golf Advisor. “Brad’s reputation and experience in the industry make him a wonderful addition to our expanding golf travel and course design editorial team.”

Other members of Golf Advisor’s editorial team include: Brandon Tucker, Mike Bailey, Jason Deegan, Bill Irwin and Tim Gavrich.

Including assignments for Golfweek, Klein has written more than 1,500 feature articles on course architecture, resort travel, golf course development, golf history and the media for such other publications as Golf Digest, Financial Times, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. He has published seven books on golf architecture and history, including Discovering Donald Ross, winner of the USGA 2001 International Book Award. In 2015, Klein won the Donald Ross Award for lifetime achievement from the American Society of Golf Course Architects. He is well known within the golf industry and has served as a consultant on numerous golf course development and restoration projects, most recently the Old Macdonald course at acclaimed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon.

Golf Advisor now includes the integration of Golf Vacation Insider and Golf Odyssey, two leading travel newsletters with a combined reach of more than a half million subscribers. Both newsletters joined Golf Channel’s portfolio of businesses in 2017 as part of the acquisition of Revolution Golf, golf’s largest direct-to-consumer digital platform offering video-based instruction and integrated e-commerce.

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Stock Watch: Fans getting louder, rowdier

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 3:01 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Bubba (+9%): Half of his 10 Tour titles have come at Augusta National and Riviera – that’s pretty stout. Though he can be maddening to cover because of his personality quirks, an in-form Watson is a must-watch.

Phil (+5%): For the first time in 11 years, Mickelson put together three consecutive top-6 finishes on Tour. Suddenly, another green jacket or that elusive U.S. Open title doesn’t seem so far away.

Kevin Na (+3%): How much fun would this guy be on a Ryder Cup team? He hits it dead straight – which will be important at Le Golf National, where the home team will narrow the fairways – and would drive the Europeans absolutely bonkers.

West Coast swing (+2%): From Jason Day to Gary Woodland to Ted Potter to Watson, the best coast produced a series of memorable comeback stories. And that’s always good news for those of us who get paid to write about the game.

South Korean talent (+1%): They already represent nine of the top 16 players in the world, and that doesn’t even include Jin Young Ko, who just won in her first start as an LPGA member.



FALLING

Steve Stricker Domination (-1%): Those predicting that he would come out and mop up on the PGA Tour Champions – hi there! – will be surprised to learn that he’s now 0-for-7 on the senior circuit (with five top-3s), after Joe Durant sped past him on the final day in Naples. The quality of golf out there is strong.

Patrick Cantlay’s routine (-2%): Never really noticed it before, but Cantlay ground to a halt during the final round, often looking at the cup six or seven times before finally stroking his putt. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that his final-round scoring average is nearly four strokes higher than his openers.

Lydia Ko (-3%): Another wholesale change? Whatever is going on here – and it reeks of too much parental involvement – it’s not good for her short- or long-term future.

Tiger (-4%): It’s early, and he’s obviously savvy enough to figure it out, but nothing else in this comeback will matter if Woods can’t start driving it on the planet.

Fan behavior (-8%): Kudos to Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas for taking the Riviera spectators to task for their tiresome (and increasingly aggressive) calls after a player hits a shot. The only problem? PGA National’s par-3 17th could be even worse – the drunk fans are closer to the action, and the hole is infinitely more difficult than TPC Scottsdale’s 16th. Buckle up.

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USGA, R&A detail World Handicap System

By Randall MellFebruary 20, 2018, 2:00 pm

The USGA and the R&A released details Tuesday of a proposed new World Handicap System.

The WHS takes the six handicapping systems that exist worldwide and aligns them under a new single system.

The USGA and the R&A will govern the WHS with the six existing handicap authorities administering them locally. A two-year transition will begin to fully implement the new system in 2020.

The unified alignment is designed to make it easier to obtain and maintain a handicap and to make the handicap more equitable among golfers of differing abilities and genders around the world.

“For some time, we’ve heard golfers say, ‘I’m not good enough to have a handicap,’ or ‘I don’t play enough to have a handicap,’” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game.”

Davis said the effort is designed to both simplify and unify the handicap system.

“We’re excited to be taking another important step – along with modernizing golf’s rules – to provide a pathway into the sport, making golf easier to understand and more approachable and enjoyable for everyone to play,” he said.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said the new handicap system should make the game more inviting.

“We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the complexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers,” Slumbers said. “Having a handicap, which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make golf much more enjoyable and is one of the unique selling points of our sport.”

The new WHS system aims to more accurately gauge the score a golfer is “reasonably capable of achieving” on any course around the world under normal conditions.

Key features of the WHS include:

*Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability.

*A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; a recommendation that the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds, but with “some discretion available for handicapping authorities or national associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction.”

*A consistent handicap that “is portable” from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of the USGA course and slope rating system, already used in more than 80 countries.

*An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and “factoring in memory of previous demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control.”

*A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day.  

*Daily handicap revisions, taking account of the course and weather conditions calculation.

*A limit of net double bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only). 

*A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game.

The USGA and the R&A devised the WHS after a review of the handicap systems currently administered by six authorities around the world: Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the USGA. Those authorities, plus the Japan Golf Association and Golf Canada, collaborated in helping develop the new system.

The six handicapping authorities represent approximately 15 million golfers in 80 countries who currently maintain a golf handicap.  

“While the six existing handicap systems have generally worked very well locally, on a global basis, their different characteristics have sometimes resulted in inconsistency, with players of the same ability ending up with slightly different handicaps,” the USGA and the R&A stated in a joint release. “This has sometimes resulted in unnecessary difficulties and challenges for golfers competing in handicap events or for tournament administrators. A single WHS will pave the way to consistency and portability.”

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Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 11:44 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET


Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.


Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.


Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 


Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13).