World of Possibilities

By Rex HoggardJune 6, 2009, 4:00 pm
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DUBLIN, Ohio ' Say what you will about the new Tiger Woods, he may not hit fairways ' an apparent myth according to ShotLink even at the driving range known as Muirfield Village ' or collect major titles like others horde bottle caps, but hes sure entertaining.
 
Consider that Saturday 68 at the Memorial. What it lacked in splash and sizzle it more than made up for with a healthy dollop of suspense. The new Tiger Woods is imperfect, inasmuch as a 14-time major championship winner can misfire.
 
Tiger Woods
Things no longer are simply a walk in the park for Tiger Woods. (Getty Images)
Since surgery and subsequent rehab and remakes, the world No. 1 has mixed some uncertainty amid all that superiority. And while the overall scorecard remains incomplete just a quarter pole into the major championship season, the new Tiger Woods makes for good theater.
 
Woods is still the best of his generation, probably of all time, and still capable of winning with a B swing against the deepest A list fields. And while that rebuilt knee and remade swing may still be works in progress, the mind that the late Earl Woods molded to steely perfection remains.
 
We dont want to copy his golf swing or his putting stroke, Davis Love III said. We want to know how hes better mentally.
 
But the truth is in the track record. No excuses necessary. The player who has historically entered final rounds with a 2-up advantage on name recognition alone is still getting used to all the new parts and pieces. And that uncertainty has its own appeal.
 
Its a difficult reality to grasp, but one thats opened up endless possibilities. The guy who collected four consecutive majors, who won the Masters by 12 and the U.S. Open by 15, is still better than the rest of the lot, but there is a question mark born from history.
 
The guy who entered the final round of the WGC-CA Championship nine shots back finished tied for ninth. The guy who started the final turn at Augusta National seven back finished tied for sixth. The guy who took the field for the fourth quarter at Quail Hollow, perhaps the closest thing there is to a home game for Woods, two shots adrift went home with fourth-place earnings.
 
And then there was The Players, and a familiar foreshadowing. Woods played his last three holes on Saturday in 3 under to earn a spot in the final group, came out flat on Sunday, carded an outward 38 and signed for eighth place.
 
So it is there will be an asterisk attached to Sundays proceedings here at Muirfield Village. Woods sets out in the final round four strokes behind Mark Wilson and Matt Bettencourt, who had his golf clubs pinched in Dallas last month and threatened to steal the Memorial with a third-round 68.
 
The learders are hardly a pair of fearsome frontrunners, but then ' as his 2009 resume suggests ' Woods is still working to rediscover the closers gear thats led him to 19 54-hole comebacks.
 
Woods is still even money when hes within a tap in of the lead, just not the lock he may have been before all the cutting.
 
I have to play well, Woods said when asked his title chances. Thats the difference between being out front and trailing. If youre out front, you play poorly, getting off to a poor start, you can still win. If youre trailing and you get off to a poor start you can play yourself out of the golf tournament.
 
It was all but inevitable, what with major surgery and a major swing change in the same news cycle. But dont bet against Woods finding his come-from-behind form. There is simply too much talent and mental toughness for that. In the mean time, savor the show.
 
Truth is we like the new Tiger Woods, the guy who follows his worst round of the year (second-round 74) with one of his best (Saturdays gritty 68) to move back into contention. Or the guy who played Nos. 11-15 in 4 under Saturday before slipping with an untidy three-putt at the 17th.
 
You cant three-putt from 15 feet, Woods calmly reasoned. Should have been more disciplined on my read and my speed, and I let it get away.
 
Similarly hes let a handful of hardware opportunities get away from him this season. Hardly cause for concern given the circumstances, but it has opened up a world of possibilities for those who have made careers chasing him and a world of storylines for those who watch.
 
Tiger Woods is still feared, he may just be slightly less fearsome than he used to be. Simply put, the New York Yankees make the world go around, the Phillies make it fun.
 
Memorial week is the one-year anniversary of the news. The Thursday before last years Memorial was when doctors informed Woods he had a double stress fracture in his left tibia. Seems like a lifetime ago.
 
The leg is still healing, as is his game. Both will come around before we know it. In the meantime, enjoy the show.
 

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  • Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

    By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

    At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

    Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

    In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.


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    Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

    Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

    Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

    ''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

    ''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

    Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

    ''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

    ''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

    Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

    Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

    ''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

    Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

    Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

    ''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

    The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

    ''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

    The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

    ''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

    Joel Dahmen had a 64.


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    ''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

    ''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

    ''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

    ''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

    Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

    ''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

    Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

    Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

    Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

    Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

    Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

    Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

    “At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

    Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.


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    With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

    “I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

    Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

    Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

    “As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

    Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

    Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

    Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

    Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

    Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.


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    Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

    There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

    “I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

    Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

    The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.