Woods could use help to improve short game

By Rex HoggardJune 20, 2012, 7:23 pm

The problem with Monday morning quarterbacking is hindsight’s inevitable distortion of the facts. With retrospect, it’s far too easy to forget that real-time is no place for critical analysis.

But this isn’t about Tiger Woods’ tie for 21st at the U.S. Open so much as it is an attempt to avoid a similar fate next month at Royal Lytham & St. Annes or August’s PGA Championship.

Anyone with Internet access and a basic understanding of math can add this up, putting cost Woods his fourth U.S. Open title and Grand Slam No. 15, simple as that.


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He opened with rounds of 69-70 for a share of the halftime lead despite needing 60 putts to cover 36 holes (29-31) and when his ball-striking went sideways on Saturday his pedestrian putting (34 putts) led to a tournament-ending 75.

“Hit the ball really well. Unfortunately I just didn't have the speed of the greens until today,” Woods said on Sunday in San Francisco following a 29-putt final round. “The way I struck the golf ball, the way I controlled it all week is something that's very positive going forward and if I would have just hung in there a little bit better (on Saturday) and missed it on the correct side a couple times then I would have been in a better position going into today.”

Where some see denial in Woods’ postmortem we see a starting point.

For the week, Woods tied for sixth in fairways hit and tied for seventh in greens in regulation at The Olympic Club but was 61st, out of 72 players, in putting. Statistically that’s better than he hit the ball when he won the Open in 2000 (T-14 in fairways and first in GIR) and 2008 (T-56 in fairways and T-14 in GIR). Of course he ranked 33rd and 11th in putting, respectively, at those championships.

Only his 2002 U.S. Open victory – T-7 in fairways and first in GIR – was statistically superior to last week.

But this is not uncovered territory. Even his victories this year at Bay Hill and Muirfield Village were primarily ball-striking affairs, having finished T-59 and T-42, respectively, in putting.

Statistics might not be the answer, but when it comes to Woods’ newfound inability to turn 36-hole leads into trophies like he once did, the numbers should at least give him a few talking points.

Earlier this year, Sean Foley suggested Hunter Mahan, long considered one of the game’s top shot-makers, meet with Mark Roe, a European Tour player who is quickly becoming the sport’s newest short-game guru. Justin Rose, another of Foley’s students, gave Roe credit for his improved play around the greens following his victory at last year’s BMW Championship.

It may be time for Foley – who has endured a heightened level of scrutiny for his work with Woods, despite a litany of statistics that suggest Tiger’s swing is as solid as ever – to attempt a similar intervention with Woods.

Whether it is Earl Woods’ teachings, which guided Tiger’s putting earlier in his career, or a new set of eyes, it’s time for the game’s former alpha male to make a putting change.

With the exception of Steve Stricker, one of Woods’ closest confidants on Tour who has offered the occasional tidbit, Woods has eschewed putting advice. Whereas he’s on his third swing coach as a professional, when it comes to the short stick he has adhered to the less-is-more approach.

Even during tournament rounds, Woods has demonstrated a reluctance to seek advice from his caddie. Steve Williams was rarely called in to read a putt and last week Joe LaCava said his new boss may ask for his help once or twice a round.

Until recently there was no reason to look to others. For the better part of a decade it seemed Woods made every putt that counted. From 2004-09, he ranked outside the top 15 in total putting just once (2006 when he was 24th), but injuries – physical and otherwise – have taken a toll and it’s impossible not to consider last week’s Open an opportunity missed.

There are no guarantees that a new set of eyes will help, but after meat-handing his best chance at getting off the major schnied at Olympic this much is certain – it couldn’t hurt.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''