Jumping Cholla

By Rex HoggardFebruary 26, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureMARANA, Ariz. ' Its called Jumping Cholla, vicious, spiny stuff that flourishes in this corner of the Arizona desert and attacks anything unfortunate enough to move within its circle of influence.
 
Once dug in, the stuff is almost impossible to shake loose, leaving a painful scar in its wake.
 
Sometime around the turn of his second-round match at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Tiger Woods must have been thinking that the Jumping Cholla should have been named after Tim Clark, the scrappy South African who took down the games Goliath with a broom-handled slingshot and a mid-round birdie-birdie-birdie burst that stunned the Tucson masses more than it staggered Woods.
 
The world will want to know whats wrong with Tiger Woods on Friday morning, and the answer is match play. Its a bitter pill for Woods, a mean mistress he cant shake. He loves the format ' nurtures his hyper-competitive personality. But like pineapples on pizza, Woods and match play don't always go together.
 
The world will wonder if it was the knee or the rust or a rebuilt swing, but the truth is there is nothing wrong with Woods that 72 holes of stroke play cant fix.
 
Woods could be at his best mid-summer form and hed still be even money to cash at the games most intense one-and-done track meet.
 
Its not that he cant win the Match Play ' fact is hes done it three times, which given the statistical vagaries of the format is almost as impressive as those 14 Grand Slam mantel pieces ' its just that when it comes to the games oldest form of play the devil is in the details for Woods. It wasnt the knee, it was a needing format that favors the hottest hand.
 
You have to be on your game right away, Woods said earlier this week. It's not like you can build into it. You can go out there and shoot 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-under par and still go home, so you have to make sure that you bring the intensity and bring your game from the very first hole, because if you don't, then I'll be going home. That's the fickleness of match play.
 
Take nothing away from Clark, the Tours best player without a title. Hes bogey-free for the week and threw six birdies in 16 holes at the world No. 1. It wasnt an out-of-body experience, it was an inner peace, that lifted No. 33 in the world past the games alpha male.
 
I was obviously under pressure. Don't get me wrong, I was working really hard to keep myself calm and try and play my own game, said Clark, who entered the Match Play having not finished worse than 22nd in his first four events this year. I put a lot of iron shots pretty close, and I think perhaps he wasn't expecting that or not. But I don't think I'm ever going to intimidate Tiger, let's put it that way.
 
Blinders, almost as much as that smooth long putter and a steady driver that has found 16 of 24 fairways this week, was Clarks secret weapon. It wasnt easy. Never is. But thats the beauty of match play, give me 18 holes and the best Ive got and Ill take my chances.
 
Yet even when it appeared that Woods had let the 5-foot-7 dynamo hang around too long, he conjured up some magic on the 14th. Down three holes, Woods went from the sand to the sand, and not in that good desert way, and appeared bound for an even earlier exit. But the man has a flair for the dramatic (see 2008 U.S. Open) and he blasted his bunker shot from 18 yards away into the hole for an unlikely birdie.
 
But Clark is not J.B. Holmes, the bomber who had Woods in a similar three-down-with-five-to-play hole during Round 1 last year but couldnt finish the sentence, and the drivable par-4 15th, although fine theater, is no place for the weeks first wayward tee ball. Woods swung for the fences, and came up with a long out.
 
Itll be a long flight back to Orlando, Fla. As Woods is fond of saying, Second sucks. We can only imagine his unprintable reaction to a T-17.
 
There are on excuses on Planet Tiger, and he wasnt particularly sharp with his irons or have a handle on Dove Mountains sluggish greens, but he was pretty good considering hes played one event in 10 months and was getting around on the best left knee modern medicine can piece together.
 
Truth is, match play is such a moving target that Woods may want to give himself an internal get-out-of-jail-free card. Or maybe its best if he stews on his early Match Play exit for bit. Theres nothing better than an angry Tiger and last checked, Jumping Chollas dont grow at Doral.
 

Related Links:
  • Match Play Scoring
  • Full Coverage ' Tiger's Return
  • Full Coverage ' WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • 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.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    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.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    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.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''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.''