Woods in contention, must battle weekend woes

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2013, 3:53 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – We liked this show the first time we saw it, when it was called the 2006 Open Championship and brown became the new green.

For everything that has changed since Hoylake, when Tiger Woods brilliantly bunted his way to his third and most recent claret jug, there is no ignoring the similarities – from the world No. 1’s flawless game plan and ball-striking to the brownish hue that is Muirfield.

He led after two rounds, seven years ago, at 12 under. He's only 2 under this time around, but just one back of front-runner Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Perhaps Woods is not the same player he was in ’06, but the Xerox looked refreshingly similar through two windswept days on the Firth of Forth.

Check the record, in ’06 at Royal Yellow Brick Road Woods connected with 23 of 28 fairways, 28 of 36 greens in regulation and needed 55 putts through 36 holes. On Friday, he’d hit 21 of 28 fairways, 24 of 36 greens in regulation and took 57 putts.

In fact, the only significant difference between Hoylake and Muirfield is that in ’06 Woods hit one driver. And this week, how many times has he let the big cat out?

“I’ve hit eight or 10 ... on the range,” Woods smiled.

Chart: Tiger's recent major weekend woes

142nd Open Championship: Articles, videos and photos

That’s right, zip, zero, nothing. There’s been no need, not when he’s hitting his irons so well and Muirfield is serving up fairways that are Stimping at a healthier clip than most putting surfaces in America.

“I had to double check with Joe (LaCava), his caddie, to make sure that his driver cover had a driver under it. The thing hasn’t seen the light of day for two days,” said Graeme McDowell, who was paired with Woods for the first two days at Muirfield.

Instead, Woods is “flighting” his shots with frightening precision and – other than a pair of unsightly three-putts on the front nine on Friday – lag putting like Old Tom Morris, or perhaps you prefer Young Tom Watson.

If the driver is Woods’ forgotten club this week, the Texas wedge may be the most valuable implement. On three occasions on Friday – Nos. 10, 13 and 14 – Woods found himself in a spot of bother just off the putting surface and scrambled to save par with his putter.

“It's tough out there right now with the wind blowing a little bit,” said Woods, who birdied the last for an even-par 71. “It's moving putts. We had to allow for some – we needed to hold it or to move it. And that's all feel. And hopefully you guess right.”

If world No. 2 Rory McIlroy is having a hard time thinking his way around and along the bouncy turf, Woods has proven himself adept on what is truly a thinking man’s golf course, particularly when Friday’s winds shifted out of the east and freshened.

“He’s not going to be far away this weekend if he continues to control his irons like he did,” McDowell said. “I’m not sure there’s a better player in the world right now with his irons.”

Regardless of those observations and the short-sightedness of the U.K. odds-makers, this isn’t over, not by a long shot. But it won’t be a Saturday hoolie like the tempest in ’02 at Muirfield that sends Woods off course this weekend (not even a Scottish weatherman can be that far afield with a forecast); it will be his normal weekend woes at a major.

Since 2008, the last time Woods collected Grand Slam glory for those who have spent the last half decade under Bass Rock (the towering craig just off the southeast Scottish coast), his weekend scoring average in majors is 71.6 and he’s broken par on the weekend just twice in his last dozen Grand Slam rounds.

Tiger 3.0 may have all the shots, and he certainly has the mind for this kind of links exam, but the record – like his staggering mark of 14 majors before 2008 – stands above all analysis.

Although he’s won four times this season and finished in the top 5 six times in his last 16 majors, the questions remain unchanged, like a bad LP. Is this the week?

“I’m not going to win every major I play in, but I’m going to continue to try,” Woods said.

Before his Grand Slump began, he just made it look like he was going to win them all, much like he did on Friday when he plodded his way to an even-par card and a late Saturday tee time. But then he found himself in similar spots at the ’12 Open Championship and the ’11 Masters and the ’09 PGA.

Each time, however, there was a weekend wobble. Last year at Royal Lytham it was a Sunday 73 that led to a tie for third, at Augusta National two years ago it was a Saturday 70 (T-4) and in ’09 at Hazeltine it was Y.E. Yang and a closing 75 (second).

While most players looked relieved to have survived the glassy greens and dry gusts on Friday, Woods knows the downwind portion of a major championship is the hardest.

“This is going to be a difficult one,” he figured.

He would know, but on Friday he certainly made it look easy, just like he did in ’06 at Hoylake.

Getty Images

API purse payout: What Rory, Tiger, field made

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 12:08 pm

Rory McIlroy won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and collected one of the biggest non-major paychecks of the year. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out at Bay Hill.

1 Rory McIlroy -18 $1,602,000
2 Bryson DeChambeau -15 $961,200
3 Justin Rose -14 $605,200
4 Henrik Stenson -13 $427,200
T5 Tiger Woods -10 $356,000
T5 Ryan Moore -10 $320,400
T7 Marc Leishman -8 $249,992
T7 Kevin Chappell -8 $249,992
T7 Luke List -8 $249,992
T7 Sean O'Hair -8 $249,992
T7 Patrick Rodgers -8 $249,992
T7 Patrick Reed -8 $249,992
13 Chris Kirk -7 $186,900
T14 Kyle Stanley -6 $137,950
T14 Charles Howell III -6 $137,950
T14 Sam Horsfield -6 $137,950
T14 Bud Cauley -6 $137,950
T14 Grayson Murray -6 $137,950
T14 Byeong Hun An -6 $137,950
T14 Rickie Fowler -6 $137,950
T14 Charley Hoffman -6 $137,950
T22 Brian Gay -5 $89,000
T22 Harris English -5 $89,000
T22 Jason Day -5 $89,000
T22 Graeme McDowell -5 $89,000
T26 Tom Hoge -4 $59,319
T26 Martin Laird -4 $59,319
T26 Emiliano Grillo -4 $59,319
T26 Tommy Fleetwood -4 $59,319
T26 Francesco Molinari -4 $59,319
T26 Keegan Bradley -4 $59,319
T26 Zach Johnson -4 $59,319
T26 William McGirt -4 $59,319
T26 John Huh -4 $59,319
T26 Talor Gooch -4 $59,319
T36 Alex Noren -3 $41,919
T36 Kevin Na -3 $41,919
T36 Brandon Harkins -3 $41,919
T36 Brian Stuard -3 $41,919
T36 Austin Cook -3 $41,919
T41 Ian Poulter -2 $30,305
T41 C.T. Pan -2 $30,305
T41 Adam Scott -2 $30,305
T41 Aaron Wise -2 $30,305
T41 Kevin Streelman -2 $30,305
T41 J.B. Holmes -2 $30,305
T41 Jamie Lovemark -2 $30,305
T41 Ollie Schniederjans -2 $30,305
T49 Lucas Glover -1 $21,965
T49 Ernie Els -1 $21,965
T49 Hideki Matsuyama -1 $21,965
T49 Chesson Hadley -1 $21,965
T49 Sam Burns -1 $21,965
T54 Li HaoTong E $20,470
T54 Mackenzie Hughes E $20,470
T54 Brian Harman E $20,470
T54 Billy Horschel E $20,114
Getty Images

After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

Getty Images

Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Getty Images

Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 19th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.