Perfect Match

By Rex HoggardJuly 12, 2010, 3:23 am

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – For Tiger Woods his quest for golf’s most elusive benchmark comes down to a familiar tenent – location, location, location.

If the 2010 major lineup was always going to be the Grand Slam equivalent of low-hanging fruit for the world No. 1 – with stops at Augusta National and Pebble Beach on the road to Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors – this week’s return to the storied links at St. Andrews was billed in pre-Nov. 27 terms as a formality if not a foregone conclusion.

And Woods knows it. Asked last month if he could pick one venue where he would like to play all four majors, Woods replied, “I'd probably pick St. Andrews all four times.”

Contain your surprise. In Woods’ two Open Championships at St. Andrews as a professional he has won by a combined 13 strokes, on his way to victory in 2000 he made just three bogeys over 72 championship holes and had just one three-putt, and nine one-putts on Thursday, in 2005. The Old Course is also the only major venue besides Medinah in Chicago (1999 and ’06 PGA Championship) and Augusta National where he has won multiple Grand Slam bottle caps. 

Tiger Woods
Woods won the 2000 and 2005 Open Championships at St. Andrews. (Getty Images)

“Of course he’s going to say that, if you asked me I’d pick Riviera,” said Robert Allenby, who has a victory (2001) and four top 10s in Los Angeles.

But then the “where” on Woods’ major championship wish list doesn’t necessarily explain the “why?”

Opinions vary and even Woods himself has a hard time quantifying his success on a golf course that rarely plays the same way on consecutive days, little lone consecutive championships.

Woods’ 2005 masterpiece was a statistical textbook, he tied for ninth in fairways hit (47 of 64), 53rd in greens in regulation and first in putting. Statistics from 2000 are not as complete, but all one needs to know about his first claret jug is that Woods was 5 under on the Old Course’s two par 5s (Nos. 5 and 14) and penciled in just three bogeys for the week.

The arm-chair reaction to Woods’ success at St. Andrews contends the layout’s sprawling fairways leave plenty of room for the occasional wayward drive, which Woods has been known to uncork from time to time.

Those critics, however, have never tried to hit their approach shot at the first hole from the wrong angle.

“Yeah, I thought it would be a little bit more narrow than it is. Getting on that first hole and seeing how wide it is, how wide every fairway is, but then again, once you start playing you realize it's not that wide,” Woods said.

“To get the angles you need to have into these flags, it narrows up very quickly. And then you add wind and where you need to put the golf ball to give yourself a chance of getting the ball close, it gets really narrow. You can hit every fairway there and still never have a shot at a flag. And I think that's a pretty neat feeling.”

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There is no doubt the Old Course brings out Woods’ inner-Picasso, the methodical arrangement requiring a decision on almost every shot. It’s a learning curve that is uniquely suited to a player that loves the plan almost as much as the execution.

Even in 1995 when he played the Open Championship as an amateur Woods savored the profound simplicity of the place. Although he finished tied for 68th following a final-round 78, he carded middle rounds of 71-72, a stroke better over that stretch than eventual champion John Daly, and acquired an immediate respect for the layout’s intricacies.

“That was my first introduction to links golf was Carnoustie, the Scottish Open the week before, and St. Andrews (in ’95). It doesn't get any better than that as your introduction to links golf,” Woods said.

“I fell in love with it the first time I ever played it because I played it on a very interesting day. I played it when the tide changed right when I was at the turn, so I played all 18 holes into the wind. Absolutely fell in love with the golf course.”

Woods’ success on St. Andrews’ humps and bumps also speaks to his uncanny attention to detail. Equipment, swings and conditions all change, but the Old Course has “fit” Woods’ eye since that nascent introduction at the ’95 championship.

“The golf course sets up well for good ballstriking,” Allenby said. “When I played with him in ’05 I think our group was 22 under par. We played the first two days unbelievable and it was all about knowing the (sight) lines off the tee.”

Allenby also attributes Woods’ Old Course success to his unrivaled imagination. A golf course that never plays the same from one day to the next is uniquely suited for a player that thrives on options.

Of course, some of Woods’ Old Course mojo can be chalked up to good timing. In both 2000 and ’05 he was in the middle of historic major championship runs, with his ’00 victory being the second leg of the historic “Tiger Slam” and in ’05 he was at the turn in a four-of-eight Grand Slam tear.

And there’s also something to be said for being on the right side of Mother Nature. In 2002 at Muirfield Woods got caught in a gale on Saturday, shot a career-high 81 and finished tied for 28th, while last year at Turnberry the weather turned ugly just as Woods made the turn on Friday and he missed the cut. Conversely, the 2005 and ’00 Opens were played under comparatively mild conditions that mitigated the potential for a bad weather draw.

“You never know, though, Scotland could get some rain,” Woods smiled last month in an ode to the Open obvious. “We've all played under different conditions there, and it's still a great golf course. It's one of the reasons why I love it so much.”

Whether Woods’ love affair with the Old Course continues may depend on a fickle forecast, and an even more fickle iron game, but in the Grand Slam conversation, it doesn’t get any better than St. Andrews. At least not for Woods.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm