Woods comes full circle at Augusta

By Rex HoggardApril 3, 2012, 7:41 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Everything one needs to know about the current state of Tiger Woods could be gleaned from his 25-minute media meet-and-greet on Tuesday at Augusta National.

Two years ago an embattled man was peppered with 48 questions, none which were golf related. From blood spinning and auto accidents to therapy and police reports, nothing was out of bounds.

On Tuesday before another packed house in the Augusta National press center the same man faced a much different reality. Woods was asked and answered 22 questions, all golf related.

In short, people want to know how far he’s hitting his 7-iron, not how far he’d fallen.

Five-stroke drought busters at Bay Hill will do that. It was widely accepted that for Woods to change the conversation he had to win, the bigger the stage the better.

“It felt good to go out there and play as well as I did and under those conditions,” Woods said of his Bay Hill breakthrough that ended a 30-month title slide. “It wasn’t like it was easy that Sunday.”

If his Arnold Palmer Invitational win marked the beginning of a new era for Woods, then Tuesday’s Q&A was something close to a coronation. He has started over in his South Florida digs, has become comfortable in his own skin again and is satisfied that he’s on the correct path.

Predictably the last piece of the puzzle was his reinvented swing. Woods’ adaptation of Sean Foley’s action has produced a victory and plenty of accolades. The only thing that remains in the “process” is a major, which would be Woods’ first since his historic 2008 U.S. Open TKO.

“I’ve been putting together two good rounds, eventually three, and now four,” said Woods, who stayed with his Masters routine and played a nine-hole practice round with Sean O’Hair and Fred Couples on Tuesday.

It’s worth noting this Masters will be Woods’ 18th. There was a time when some toyed with the notion he could run down Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships based almost entirely on his play at Augusta National, a theme that was bolstered by Nicklaus himself.

Nicklaus once opined following a practice round with Woods that he would win more green jackets than the Golden Bear and Arnold Palmer combined, and when Woods won three of his first six Masters as a professional Nicklaus’ prognostication suddenly didn’t seem like hyperbole.

But in 2002 the layout was “Tiger proofed,” and Woods has won just once in his last nine starts. That Woods has finished inside the top 10 in his last six Masters suggests that the makeover may have been more of a “Tiger toughening,” and his status as the pre-tournament favorite this week is certainly justified.

Even among his higher-ranked contemporaries, Woods has come by his favored status honestly.

“Obviously Tiger is always the guy that pushes the needle the most,” said world No. 1 Luke Donald. “For me, that’s probably a good thing. I can kind of go about my business and just get on with things.”

That Woods is ranked among the Tour’s straightest players off the tee also is fueling his status as the man to beat and sparking comparisons to the historic runs he crafted in 2000 and 2006.

When asked on Tuesday to compare his game now to where it was in 2000 Woods’ response was chilling for his Tour frat brothers.

“I have more shots than I did in 2000,” Woods said. “I’m hitting the ball just as consistently day in and day out as I did then.”

2000? The year he stomped the field by 15 at the U.S. Open, won nearly half of his official Tour starts (nine of 20) and completed the front end of what became the Tiger Slam, that 2000?

But if the game is as good as, or better than it was in Y2K the supporting cast is not exactly . . . well, as supportive as they once were.

Rory McIlroy has been anointed the heir apparent, fueled by his Honda Classic victory that featured Woods at his Sunday best; Donald demonstrated an impressive level of moxie with his Transitions Championship victory to reclaim the top ranking; and Phil Mickelson has won three green jackets since the changes in ’02 and outplayed Woods mano a mano this year at Pebble Beach.

He may be back, but the others are certainly better.

“I’m just looking forward to hopefully getting myself in contention and giving myself a chance and maybe coming up against the best player of  . . . maybe the best player ever, definitely the best player of the last 20 years,” McIlroy said.

In some ways this week’s Masters brings Woods full circle. A chapter defined by trees – the one he hit in November 2009 that began the slide and the one he hit from under (Eisenhower Tree) during last year’s Masters that, although he tied for fourth place, landed him on the DL – is now driven by a singular climb to reach Nicklaus’ major landmark.

It’s an ascent that began at Augusta National in 1997 and appears destined to end there.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

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.