Woods' 54-hole domination has disappeared

By Rex HoggardFebruary 8, 2012, 7:27 pm

For two years and counting the golf world has dissected the anatomy of a slump ad nauseam, swing types questioning the form and function of a new action, sports psychologist citing a loss of confidence and gym rats lamenting a body that has spent more time in an MRI machine than the Boston Celtics backcourt.

Still others pointed to distractions large and small, while more than one PGA Tour frat brother attributed Tiger Woods’ extended victory schneid to a balky putter that no longer rolled in clutch 5-footers with ease.

This much is certain: whatever the virus, the primary symptom has become increasingly clear over the last 24 months. The man who used to own Sundays has now become something of a spectator in red.

Complete coverage: Tiger Woods | AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

On this history is clear. Prior to the 2009 PGA Championship Woods was a perfect 14-for-14 with at least a share of the 54-hole lead in a major championship, and he is currently 55-for-64 with a three-lap advantage in worldwide starts in his career.

“Being a front runner, everyone's kind of chasing you,” Woods said on Tuesday at Pebble Beach where he will make his 2012 Tour debut. “You're in a position where if you do make a few mistakes, it's all right because obviously you have shots to play with.

“Throughout my career, I've shot some pretty good rounds when I've had the lead.  Not too often I've gone over par on the final round when I've had the lead.”

Call it the Mariano Rivera complex, a cold-blooded closer who relishes the role of front-runner and a line-of-sight view of the checkered flag. Yet through two winless seasons, that signature Sunday move has been largely AWOL.

The generic litmus test for Woods’ Sunday stranglehold is final-round scoring average. He’s ranked outside the top 10 on Tour in this category just five times since 1997 – and even those anomalies dovetail with the well-documented ebb and flow of swing changes in 1999, 2004 and 2010 – and averaged higher than 70 on only five occasions.

More detailed evidence of Woods’ final-round fortunes can be found in a contrived statistic called top-5 final round performance which the Tour began recording in 2001 and measures the percent of time a player’s finishing position improved or remained unchanged when entering the final lap inside the top 5.

This statistic, in a Billy Beane “Moneyball” sort of way, slices through the speculation and misplaced generalities of other measurements like putts per round and fairways hit and offers a glimpse into how dominant Woods was when he was able to nose ahead of the crowd.

In Woods’ eight complete seasons since 2001 he was perfect in “top 5 performance” four times, including ’07 when he was 10-for-10 on Sunday. And on the four occasions when he wasn’t batting 1.000, his performance was marred by no more than a single Sunday slip.

In short, red shirts were not his only Sunday tradition. By contrast, the post-2009 world has been anything but predictable.

Since the ’09 BMW Championship, his last Tour victory, Woods’ Sunday scoring has jumped to 71.40 and 69.67 in 2010 and ’11, respectively. Similarly, on the eight occasions he has started the final round within seven strokes of the lead since the ’09 BMW his final-round average is 70.28.

His Sunday spoils came into particular focus earlier this month when he entered the final turn tied with someone named Robert Rock at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Woods signed for a 72 and a tie for third, Rock was two strokes better and took his second European Tour title.

Still, Woods considered his Abu Dhabi finish a triumph of progress considering his recent Sunday struggles.

“I’m excited that my bad ballstriking day was on Sunday and it wasn’t that bad,” he told Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio on Tuesday. “That’s where I had been in the past where I would hit these foul balls and have to go find them. I didn’t hit a foul ball all week. My start lines are so much tighter.”

Part of Woods’ optimism is rooted in his victory at December’s Chevron World Challenge, where he began the final round a shot behind Zach Johnson, one-putted the final two greens and hoisted his first individual trophy, unofficial or otherwise, in 24 months.

Chevron Sunday was quintessential Woods – cool, clinical and the best sign to date that what was once old could be new.

“Personally, I've always been excited about being in that position (54-hole lead),” Woods said. “I know I've played well to get there, so just trying to do the same things I did to get there, and hopefully it will be enough.”

Whatever piece of the puzzle the pundits say has been missing for two years, it stands to reason that 54-hole aura and the Sunday showcases that defined him for over a decade will now determine how his career proceeds.

Watch first- and second-round coverage of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Thursday and Friday on Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET.

Getty Images

Snedeker starts slow in effort to snag Masters invite

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."