Woods sounds confident in new swing

By Rex HoggardNovember 30, 2011, 11:30 pm

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The famed Santa Ana winds are forecast to shatter the Southern Cal tranquility with gusts north of 35 mph for the first two days of action at the Chevron World Challenge.

It’s a condition that’s caused by the convergence of hot and cold air, or so it was explained to your dimwitted correspondent, and an altogether flawless metaphor for the crossroads where Tiger Woods now finds himself.

In the span of four weeks the Chevron’s host has gone from project to projected winner. Two solid weeks in Oz and a press corps with short-term memories issues will do that.

Video: Tiger on Presidents Cup, Chevron and metal spikes

Like the expected Santa Ana gale, Woods is sailing at the moment, at least compared to where he was at this juncture last year. One member of “Team Tiger” pointed out during Wednesday’s pro-am at Sherwood Country Club that there is a spring back in the former No. 1’s step that has been missing for some time.

Let’s be clear, even a win this week at Woods’ 18-man member-member will not declare mission accomplished – not after two winless and injury-riddled calendars. Even Woods knows that.

“There’s always more to go,” he smiled. “That’s the beauty of golf.”

Thursday’s gale will not so much be the winds of change as much as the mark of a change in outlook for Woods. Last year at Chevron he had one trick, a draw, the byproduct of a swing that still had that new-car smell and an instructional manual from swing coach Sean Foley he hadn’t entirely digested.

His playoff loss to a hot-handed Graeme McDowell felt like progress, but he knew he was much closer to the starting line than the finished product. He didn’t play again until Torrey Pines in January followed by the Dubai Desert Classic, where he struggled with a one-dimensional game and closed with a wind-whipped 75 to finish tied for 20th.

“Anybody who makes swing changes, you get exposed in the wind,” Woods said. “At Dubai I felt I should have won the tournament; a right-to-left wind cost me eight shots on certain holes. I didn’t have the ability to maneuver the ball left to right.”

Now, however, he’s put in the “reps” and the “traj” is where he wants it – TrackMan and a pair of ball-striking clinics in Australia say so. At the Australian Open he hit the ball well enough to win but largely putted like the guy who finishes 20th. A week later at the Presidents Cup his 2-3-0 record veiled another solid week tee to green through three seasons and as many different winds.

From his vantage point in central Florida Foley watched the happenings Down Under with no small amount of satisfaction. If Dubai’s winds earlier this year exposed Woods’ weaknesses, the conditions and competition in Australia were the best sign to date Woods was headed in the right direction.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but there are lot of positive signs. There’s not a lot of people who can flight it like that,” Foley said. “Accuracy and control over distance and trajectory is a beautiful thing.”

Yet what Foley has learned over the last year is that with Woods baby steps are perceived as a weakness. Third place at the Australian Open may look like a beauty queen but with Woods everything is magnified – his failures and successes.

For all the wrong reasons, the man whose career is compared to the greatness of the game’s ghosts is graded on an impossibly grandiose scale. He doesn’t have to win every week, he must win big.

“He looks good but it’s tough for people to understand because if he doesn’t make five hole-in-ones and six eagles he’s played bad,” Foley said. “I look at performance and development academically.”

If the bar has been set unrealistically high Woods has come by it honestly. Maybe the greatest magic trick he ever pulled off was making us believe it was easy. Fourteen majors in 13 seasons, a U.S. Open victory on one leg, it all looked as effortless as that toothy smile.

For over a decade he’d swoop in, collect every piece of hardware available and slip behind the gates of Isleworth to count his millions, or so it seemed. Lost in that equation were the countless hours it took to perfect his trade. Now we know the truth.

Since teaming with Foley before last year’s PGA Championship Woods has reminded anyone who would listen that his previous upgrades with Hank Haney and Butch Harmon before that took two years or more, which is why his current confidence is worth noting.

Some 15 months into the Foley Experiment Woods is sounding like a man who not only understands the new action but knows how to fix it when things go sideways.

“I’d play poorly for a couple holes and not know what the fix was,” Woods said. “Now it’s immediate.”

At the Chevron on Wednesday, Woods’ last official start of the year, there was a simmering satisfaction that went well beyond his chances at Sherwood. Gone are the “ball counts” that limited his practice following his injury-induced exit from this year’s Players Championship and the uncertainty of a private life that had become far too public for his liking.

Next year will be Woods’ first full season on Tour since 2009 and probably the first he’s looked forward to in some time. As surely as the Santa Ana winds will tear through the California canyons on Thursday, Woods’ attitude has shifted. It’s time now to see if his game follows.

Follow the Chevron World Challenge on Golf Channel and NBC. Airtimes: Golf Channel, 3-6 PM and 8:30-11:30 PM ET Thursday and Friday, 1-3 PM ET Saturday and Sunday. NBC, 3-6 PM and 8:30-11:30 PM ET Saturday and Sunday.

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.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

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.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

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.''