Plan of attack

By Rex HoggardAugust 17, 2011, 5:46 pm

For 13 years it was hard, if not impossible, to question the means to Tiger Woods’ historic ends. His yearly schedule throughout his march to Jack Nicklaus’ major championship benchmark has been as productive as it has been virtually unchanged.

Since 1997, Woods’ first full year on the PGA Tour, he’s played more than 20 events just three times and hasn’t exceeded 17 events in a single calendar since 2006. It adds up to a 16.7-event average (nearly identical, interestingly enough, to Nicklaus’ career average of 16.8 events from 1962-1986). Although Woods’ yearly average was low by Tour standards, considering his career scorecard it’s a reality that has defied debate.

But that was before he signed for a front-nine 42 at May’s Players Championship, before he went on the “DL” for three months, before he finished tied for 37th at the WGC- Bridgestone Invitational and missed the cut at the PGA Championship with rounds of 77-73.

Since 2007 Woods has played a “full” dance card just once (2009) as a result of an assortment of injuries, both physical and personal. That his last major victory was in ’08 and he’s likely bound for his second consecutive season without a Tour title may simply be another symptom of the larger malaise. Or maybe it is the ailment.

“I need to get out there and get the reps in,” Woods said last Wednesday at Atlanta Athletic Club.

It is here where Woods’ actions and his anecdotal comments seem to diverge.

Woods’ tattered left Achilles’ tendon has relegated him to the bench for much of the season, but by all accounts the game’s most mysterious left leg is officially off the shelf and ready for prime time. Yet Woods remains on hiatus in south Florida.

He didn’t qualify for the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs, which means his next possible Tour start would be in Las Vegas in late September. Asked on Friday at the PGA Championship Woods said he “might” play a Fall Series or European Tour event, but stressed that his next “scheduled” start is currently November’s Australian Open, the week before the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

Woods’ retooled action may work in the south Florida lab with swing coach Sean Foley close by, but until it is tested on a Tour Sunday it remains a work in progress. So why not add a Fall Series start? He’s a two-time champion at Disney, is close enough to Sea Island (Ga.) Resort to commute to the McGladrey Classic via “Air Tiger” and, as we all know by now, he knows his way around Vegas.

Better yet, why not play an event on the European Tour?

For the first time in his career he can play the European circuit without having to request a “competing-event release” from the Tour because he’s not qualified for the playoffs, would likely be able to negotiate a healthy appearance fee and Colin Montgomerie recently said he has extended an invitation to Woods to play next week’s Johnnie Walker Championship in Scotland.

“It would be superb if he accepted,” Monty said. “I know he has his children to think about, and all that sort of stuff that goes with family commitments, but wouldn’t it be great if he did say yes to any of our European Tour events? If you don’t ask, you don’t get, so it’s worth a go.”

But this goes beyond “reps” or a perceived rehab start. Woods is on pace to fall outside of the top 50 in the World Golf Ranking by the end of the year, although he could stem that slide at the Australian Open and his own Chevron World Challenge, a silly-season event played in December that doles out ranking points.

At his current rate he could in theory drop outside the top 64, which would keep him out of the 2012 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, likely his second scheduled start next season after Torrey Pines.

Nor is he currently qualified for the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China at the end of October. Woods must crack the top 25 in the World Ranking by Oct. 17, the Monday after the McGladrey event, to qualify for the limited-field tournament which he has played the last two years. Currently, he would be the 14th alternate for the HSBC, just behind Brendan Steele.

Adding a stray event or two to his schedule could also help U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples, who has made it clear Woods will be one of his two captain’s picks, a decision that has everything to do with Woods’ stellar record in the matches (18-11-1) and not his pedestrian play this season.

Woods’ former swing coach Hank Haney recently tweeted a familiar line that seems to apply to the current schedule conundrum. “Golf doesn’t lend itself to instant analysis.” For 13 years that has certainly been the golden rule when it came to all things Woods.

But that reality has changed, and maybe it’s time Woods changed the way he looks at his schedule.

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow.”

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”

Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:24 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.

That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”

That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.

“Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.

“Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.