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.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern of architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.