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?

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee:

Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.