Woods looks to continue passion for Old Course

By Rex HoggardJuly 9, 2010, 11:05 pm

For Tiger Woods his quest for golf’s most elusive benchmark comes down to a familiar tenent – location, location, location.

If the 2010 major lineup was always going to be the Grand Slam equivalent of low-hanging fruit for the world No. 1 – with stops at Augusta National and Pebble Beach on the road to Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors – this week’s return to the storied links at St. Andrews was billed in pre-Nov. 27 terms as a formality if not a foregone conclusion.

And Woods knows it. Asked last month if he could pick one venue where he would like to play all four majors, Woods replied, “I'd probably pick St. Andrews all four times.”

Contain your surprise. In Woods’ two Open Championships at St. Andrews as a professional he has won by a combined 13 strokes, on his way to victory in 2000 he made just three bogeys over 72 championship holes and had just one three-putt, and nine one-putts on Thursday, in 2005. The Old Course is also the only major venue besides Medinah in Chicago (1999 and ’06 PGA Championship) and Augusta National where he has won multiple Grand Slam bottle caps.

“Of course he’s going to say that, if you asked me I’d pick Riviera,” said Robert Allenby, who has a victory (2001) and four top 10s in Los Angeles.

But then the “where” on Woods’ major championship wish list doesn’t necessarily explain the “why?”

Opinions vary and even Woods himself has a hard time quantifying his success on a golf course that rarely plays the same way on consecutive days, little lone consecutive championships.

Woods’ 2005 masterpiece was a statistical textbook, he tied for ninth in fairways hit (47 of 64), 53rd in greens in regulation and first in putting. Statistics from 2000 are not as complete, but all one needs to know about his first claret jug is that Woods was 5 under on the Old Course’s two par 5s (Nos. 5 and 14) and penciled in just three bogeys for the week.

Tiger Woods
Woods' last British Open victory came in 2005 at St. Andrews. (Getty Images)

The arm-chair reaction to Woods’ success at St. Andrews contends the layout’s sprawling fairways leave plenty of room for the occasional wayward drive, which Woods has been known to uncork from time to time.

Those critics, however, have never tried to hit their approach shot at the first hole from the wrong angle.

“Yeah, I thought it would be a little bit more narrow than it is. Getting on that first hole and seeing how wide it is, how wide every fairway is, but then again, once you start playing you realize it's not that wide,” Woods said.

“To get the angles you need to have into these flags, it narrows up very quickly. And then you add wind and where you need to put the golf ball to give yourself a chance of getting the ball close, it gets really narrow. You can hit every fairway there and still never have a shot at a flag. And I think that's a pretty neat feeling.”

There is no doubt the Old Course brings out Woods’ inner-Picasso, the methodical arrangement requiring a decision on almost every shot. It’s a learning curve that is uniquely suited to a player that loves the plan almost as much as the execution.

Even in 1995 when he played the Open Championship as an amateur Woods savored the profound simplicity of the place. Although he finished tied for 68th following a final-round 78, he carded middle rounds of 71-72, a stroke better over that stretch than eventual champion John Daly, and acquired an immediate respect for the layout’s intricacies.

“That was my first introduction to links golf was Carnoustie, the Scottish Open the week before, and St. Andrews (in ’95). It doesn't get any better than that as your introduction to links golf,” Woods said.

“I fell in love with it the first time I ever played it because I played it on a very interesting day. I played it when the tide changed right when I was at the turn, so I played all 18 holes into the wind. Absolutely fell in love with the golf course.”

Woods’ success on St. Andrews’ humps and bumps also speaks to his uncanny attention to detail. Equipment, swings and conditions all change, but the Old Course has “fit” Woods’ eye since that nascent introduction at the ’95 championship.

“The golf course sets up well for good ballstriking,” Allenby said. “When I played with him in ’05 I think our group was 22 under par. We played the first two days unbelievable and it was all about knowing the (sight) lines off the tee.”

Allenby also attributes Woods’ Old Course success to his unrivaled imagination. A golf course that never plays the same from one day to the next is uniquely suited for a player that thrives on options.

Of course, some of Woods’ Old Course mojo can be chalked up to good timing. In both 2000 and ’05 he was in the middle of historic major championship runs, with his ’00 victory being the second leg of the historic “Tiger Slam” and in ’05 he was at the turn in a four-of-eight Grand Slam tear.

And there’s also something to be said for being on the right side of Mother Nature. In 2002 at Muirfield Woods got caught in a gale on Saturday, shot a career-high 81 and finished tied for 28th, while last year at Turnberry the weather turned ugly just as Woods made the turn on Friday and he missed the cut. Conversely, the 2005 and ’00 Opens were played under comparatively mild conditions that mitigated the potential for a bad weather draw.

“You never know, though, Scotland could get some rain,” Woods smiled last month in an ode to the Open obvious. “We've all played under different conditions there, and it's still a great golf course. It's one of the reasons why I love it so much.”

Whether Woods’ love affair with the Old Course continues may depend on a fickle forecast, and an even more fickle iron game, but in the Grand Slam conversation, it doesn’t get any better than St. Andrews. At least not for Woods.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

Getty Images

PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

Getty Images

Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm