Woods' putter still failing him

By Rex HoggardFebruary 24, 2012, 12:19 am

MARANA, Ariz. – If the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is a collection of micro-Sundays, win-or-go-home episodes that leave no room for the slow and steady, then Tiger Woods must have considered this week’s start the ultimate opportunity.

It is this condensed version of life on Tour, mini-Sundays playing out across the rugged landscape, that Woods embraced in his steady march back to the winner’s circle, so much so one half expected him to show up each day wearing the traditional red shirt and black pants reserved for final rounds.

If “reps” is what he needs, particularly those of the pressure-packed variety that are found only on PGA Tour Sundays, Dove Mountain was a treasure trove of opportunity.

Unfortunately for Woods, to say nothing of Accenture officials, his Thursday outing looked more like his Sunday norm of late.

For all the progress Woods has made with his swing there is still a missing element that seems to manifest itself most dramatically on Sunday. To start his season it was a closing 72 in Abu Dhabi and a tie for third place; two weeks ago it was a finishing 75 at Pebble Beach and a tie for 15th, and on Thursday in the high Arizona desert it was an even-par card and a second-round ouster.

Tiger Tracker: Hole-by-hole

Mell: McIlroy has clear path to No. 1

Day 3 predictions: Snead/Player | Jones/Hogan

This was the third time in his last three WGC starts Woods hasn’t made it to Friday and it had all the markings of his previous Sunday swoons.

As his 5 ½-footer on the 18th slipped past the hole – the kind of clutch putt that was once so automatic that opponent Nick Watney was already eyeing his yardage book and plotting his way around the first playoff hole – the unique opportunity that the Match Play offered had become another disappointment.

“I was fighting the blocks all day with my putter,” Woods said. “The putter was going back a little bit shut, and subsequently I let it go and it goes left and I block it right.”

From the first hole Woods’ day was defined by the miss – 10 feet for birdie at Nos. 1 and 4, a vicious lip-out for par at the seventh, a 9-footer for birdie at the 13th hole, where he played bunker to desert and hit his second left-handed shot of the week from under a Jumping Cholla, which is two more than Phil Mickelson hit this week.

“I hit the ball well all day today,” Woods said. “Unfortunately I just did not make enough putts to extend the match or even win the match.”

Woods cut the lead to one hole after Watney airmailed the hospitality tents at the 16th hole, but the moxie that once lifted him to 14 major championships and 71 PGA Tour titles was, as it has been for two calendars, missing.

“We don’t see him missing putts like that very often,” Watney said of Woods’ effort at the 18th hole. “And he missed a couple of those.”

For the second consecutive tournament Woods was clipped by one of Butch Harmon’s crew following Mickelson’s victory paired with Woods at Pebble Beach. Seems “Butchie” has given away too many secrets.

“(Harmon) told me the crowd would definitely be pro-Tiger and it’s interesting to play an away match,” laughed Watney, who will play Lee Westwood on Friday in the Sweet 16. “He told me (Woods) isn’t going to game you, he just wants to beat you. No gamesmanship.”

No, there was no gamesmanship, nor was there that old Sunday game. You know, the one that produced walk-off winners in consecutive years in the fading light at Bay Hill and a U.S. Open title on one leg.

Sure he missed his share of putts over the last decade, it just seemed as though he made every one he needed.

There was no magic on Thursday at Dove Mountain, or Wednesday for that matter. Against Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano in Round 1 Woods was 1 over par and was lucky to advance to Round 2.

Woods figures he needs “about a day” to sort out his putting issues, which is fortunate because he’s back on the clock next week at the Honda Classic. However, solving his Sunday issues, be they real or the slightly faux type like at this week’s Match Play, may take a little more time.

Watch live coverage of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Golf Channel, Friday 2-6PM ET; Saturday noon-2PM ET; Sunday 8AM-1PM ET. NBC coverage can be seen live Saturday/Sunday, 2-6PM ET.

Getty Images

McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

Getty Images

Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.