Tale of Two Swings

By Rex HoggardFebruary 24, 2011, 6:24 am
2005 WGC Accenture Match Play

MARANA, Ariz. – This is a tale of motor patterns, muscle memory and two vastly different outcomes, if not two sets of wildly divergent expectations.

When the frost finally burned off Dove Mountain, Stewart Cink set out into the unknown against an intimidating and known quantity. More than four hours later Tiger Woods stepped to the same tee with surprising optimism against an old enigma.

One is heading home after the shortest of PGA Tour workweeks, the other is Cink.

Both players are in the throes of a swing change, Woods’ transformation very much a work-in-progress following a pedestrian week in Dubai while Cink is just hoping to make progress.

For both the status quo remains unchanged.

Cink outdueled match-play magician and WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship defending champion Ian Poulter in 19 holes with an action that was a half beat off but a putter that rolled in putts from Pima to Picacho.

WGC-Match Play TV Schedule
(All times Eastern)

Golf Channel_new
Wed: Noon-6 p.m.

Thurs: 1-6 p.m.
Fri: 1-6 p.m.
Sat: Noon-2 p.m.
Sun: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

NBC Sports
Sat: 2-6 p.m.

Sun: 2-6 p.m.

Hours later on the same first tee Woods “blew it,” two words that have rarely been a part of the world No. 3’s lexicon. He’d squared the match against Thomas 'The Tank Engine' Bjorn, who started to look more and more like the Danish version of Nick O’Hern as a windy afternoon high in the Arizona hills turned to dusk, on the 18th hole with a dramatic birdie.

For the record, Woods fanned his drive at the first extra hole into the desert, needed two swings to reach the grass again and his 30-footer for bogey never threatened the hole.

For Woods it’s back to the Isleworth practice tee and more time with swing coach Sean Foley. On Tuesday – not long after Woods told the assembled scribes he “has a better understanding” of his new swing – Foley concurred with his newest charge but stressed the need for patience, if not more realistic expectations.

“I think he understands it so much more,” Foley said. “Can he do it every time? No. No one can.”

It was a bad omen for Woods when the winds began charging up Dove Mountain just as he was heading out for his first-round duel. Two weeks ago at the Dubai Desert Classic it was similar desert winds that doomed his chances.

“It blew 35 (mph) on the weekend in Dubai and he couldn’t keep it below the wind,” Foley said. “He had that stinger tee shot that is such a weapon in conditions like that, you can hit it 295 (yards) and low. He lost that.”

Foley said Woods is rediscovering the stinger, to say nothing of his confidence, but stressed that it’s a process not an instant product.

It’s also unknown waters. There was a time when a healthy zephyr and a late-to-the-dance Dane were of no concern to Woods. But those days, at least for now, are the stuff of legend.

There were times on Wednesday, particularly on the back nine, when Woods looked in control. He missed putts of 22 and 9 feet at the 16th and 17th holes, respectively, to square the match with Bjorn and roped his approach to 8 ½ feet at the last to force extra frames. A fist pump, a glare, but the old motor patterns played catch up on the 19th hole.

Those old habits are the hardest to break, just ask Cink who quickly conceded after his match that he’s probably a year away from being fully vested in his new action. But for Cink his opening-day victory over Poulter is the tonic that feeds change.

When Cink split with Butch Harmon and signed on with Pat O’Brien it was more than just a need for change it was a desire to fully fulfill his potential.

“At 37 this is the most important time in my career,” Cink said. “I don’t want to be an irrelevant player.”

Cink said his split with Harmon was more about geography than it was swing philosophy. “Me and Butch were together a long time and it came down to schedules. He is on the West Coast, I’m on the East Coast and I’m not willing to make that sacrifice for my family to always be on the go,” he said.

If Woods’ loss to Bjorn was a minor setback, Cink’s victory over Poulter was one giant leap forward. Under pressure his retooled swing held up, at least when it mattered the most like on the 19th hole when he carved a 6-iron to 4 feet for a winning birdie.

“It’s actually a big win for me and my confidence,” Cink said. “I don’t know if there is a better match play player in this field than Ian.”

Whether it was a blow to Woods’ confidence or just another building block remains to be seen, but if he was looking for a silver lining in the storm that is now his competitive life he needed to look no further than Cink’s stunner. It’s all about the small steps, Cink knows it, Foley knows it and Woods seems to be learning that inescapable truth one round at a time.


Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

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.

Getty Images

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.