Woods' driver on Day 1 as solid as it's been in years

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2013, 8:10 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – In over a decade of observation, the one absolute truth about Tiger Woods is that there will always be a perpetrator or panacea, depending on how the numbers add up after 18 holes.

“I didn’t drive it well, didn’t hit my irons well and didn’t control my distances well or my trajectory,” Woods figured after a breezy 69 at Bay Hill on Thursday that left him four strokes adrift of pacesetter Justin Rose.

As it applies to Woods’ Day 1 card the statistics would suggest he missed the primary culprit – putting.

Cue Steve Stricker and his Zen putting secrets.

For the day, the world No. 2 hit 12 of 18 greens in regulation, eight of 14 fairways and needed 28 putts. You do the math.

However, for analyst, be they armchair or otherwise, whenever Woods has failed to meet expectations, it has often been his wayward driver that has been deemed deficient after a cursory study of the statistics.

It’s an understandable theme given Woods’ ability to overpower golf courses if he can find the short stuff off the tee, but scientifically misguided. Just ask Sean Foley, Woods’ mercurial swing coach who has dissected the geometry of the golf swing like an MIT scientist.

“Statistically, with Tiger, with his clubhead speed he is actually the most accurate driver in the world,” Foley said recently. “People don’t recognize that. If you look at Fred Funk (one of the most accurate drivers of the golf ball of his generation), he had 150 mph ball speed (compared with Woods’ 176-mph average ball speed).”

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, videos and photos

Video: Woods discusses opening 69 at Bay Hill

Photos: Tiger Woods through the years

For those who may think Foley’s take is a tad defensive, know that Hank Haney before him made a similar claim for years and that the science of clubhead and golf ball support the theory of diminishing returns when you add distance.

Consider that Woods ranked eighth last year on the PGA Tour in clubhead speed (120.94 mph), but more importantly he was No. 175 in spin rate (2,391 rpm average).

Let Professor Foley explain, “When you lower spin a ball can really go off line. That’s why drivers go the most right or left.”

All of which makes Woods’ improvement off the tee under Foley – he finished 55th in driving accuracy last season, his best showing since he was 54th in 2000 – meaningful, particularly at Bay Hill.

The idea is that if he can drive the ball well at Arnie’s place . . . well, you know the rest.

On the five occasions Woods hit driver on Thursday at Bay Hill, he connected with fairway four times, including a towering 350-yard downwind effort at the par-5 16th that set up a 9-iron approach shot and 5-foot eagle putt that he converted.

In practical terms, that combination of power and precision led to a 5-under day on the par 5s, a benchmark statistic that suggests the key parts of his game are, if not fully engaged, trending in the right direction.

“I took care of the par 5s,” Woods said. “I didn’t birdie them the way I’d like to. Except for the eagle on 16, the other ones were not very good shots. Hitting it up on the green and making a putt.”

Still, Woods’ play on the par 5s – and specifically the drives that set the stage for his three-birdie, one-eagle line – might explain the relaxed vibe he had when he walked off the course just after lunch.

Or maybe it was his track record on the Central Florida layout that had Woods looking like a man who just clipped his playing partners for a $5 press on the last hole.

In his seven victories at Bay Hill, Woods has opened with rounds better than 69 just twice and was at the same 3-under mark at this stage last year when he went on to a five-stroke triumph.

So forgive the defending champion if a “stubbed toe” at Nos. 17 and 18 (bogeys), followed by a “bad mistake” from the bunker right of the green at the par-3 seventh hole (bogey) didn’t prompt a panicky trip to the practice tee after his round.

The truth is that despite what the misleading statistics suggest, the science of swing shows that he’s driving the golf ball as well as he has in over decade, which is a chilling thought considering his track record through the early 2000s.

If he needed any fine tuning heading into Friday’s round, it was on the putting green. Now where is Stricker when you need him?

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Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. 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.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Cart on the green

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Trump golf properties


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Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

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Reportedly fake TIME covers

Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover

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Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.