Woods blows opportunity late in Rd. 3 at Muirfield

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2013, 8:43 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – It was just one shot in a week that has seen 212 of them, but Tiger Woods’ poor approach on the 17th hole Saturday carried significant ramifications.  

Psychologically, at least.

Now, he is wondering how, on a day when he hit 12 fairways and 14 greens, he could still shoot over par. (A 1-over 72.)

Now, he is two shots back of Lee Westwood, and Woods – all together now – has never won a major when he wasn’t staked to at least a share of the 54-hole lead.

Now, he is in the penultimate group, not the final pairing, and his fellow playing competitor is Masters winner Adam Scott, whose caddie, Steve Williams, is the man who was on the bag for 13 of Woods’ 14 majors until he was unceremoniously fired.

And it all can be traced back to that mis-hit second shot on Saturday.  

Woods was plodding along, tied for the lead, when he arrived at his ball in the 17th fairway. His tee shot with a 3-wood left him well back of Westwood, but he had 238 yards to carry a set of cross bunkers short of the green. Fly those, and he had a reasonable chance to make a late birdie and create some separation from the rest of the field. Instead of hitting it “flat and flush” into a steady breeze, however, the ball spun high into the air from the upslope and went 225 yards.




Two shots behind, just like that.

Ever the optimist, Woods tried to spin it in his post-round session with the media: “I’m pleased where I’m at – I’m only two back,” he said. “There’s only one guy ahead of me.”

And that is true, of course. At 1-under 212, Woods is tied with Hunter Mahan and two shots behind Westwood. But the 3-wood shot was the very moment that Woods talked about earlier this week, when he attempted to explain why he’s 0-for-16 in the majors since summer 2008.

“I think it’s just a shot here and there,” Woods had said. “It’s making a key up-and-down here, or getting a good bounce there, capitalizing on an opportunity here and there.”

This was one of those opportunities – squandered.

After all, Woods was at his tactical best for much of the day. One of his only mistakes Saturday was a nuked 9-iron on the par-3 seventh that went 220 yards, leading to a bogey. Other than that, he found the rough only once (No. 11), and it didn’t cost him. Each hole, he would tee up an iron or fairway wood and send it screaming down the fairway.

Yes, he finally used his driver, on the par-5 fifth, perhaps to dust off the cobwebs or simply to duplicate his one-driver feat from Hoylake in 2006. But even the big stick found the short grass.

Most comparisons this week have been to that Open seven years ago at Royal Liverpool, and not just because Muirfield’s links have become brown and baked-out, too.

During that memorable week – when Woods hit only one driver all week, shot a final-round 67, won by two shots and hoisted his third claret jug – he missed 14 greens and eight fairways all week. This week, he has missed 16 greens and nine fairways through three rounds. In other words, he’s been similarly clinical with his ball-striking, but not quite as sharp.

Whether it will be good enough Sunday to topple Westwood – who is trying, at age 40, to shed the label of “Best Player Yet to Win a Major,” who is trying to prolong what has already been a historic British summer – remains to be seen.

“I’ve got 14 of these things, and I know what it takes to win it,” Woods said. “He’s won tournaments all over the world. He knows how to win golf tournaments. He’s two shots ahead, and we’re going to go out there and both compete and play.”

Those predicting a Westwood collapse might be disappointed. He’s leading the Open in putting (81 putts through three rounds), and as he showed Saturday (70), the former world No. 1 is one of the few players who can stand up to Woods (72) in a head-to-head showdown – and prevail. In their last 13 meetings, Westwood has the upper hand, 8-4-1.

But they aren’t paired together Sunday, and this is Woods’ best 54-hole position at a major since he was Y.E. Yang’d at the ’09 PGA.

Of course, much has changed since then, most dramatically his personal life, but Woods’ success at the majors – especially on the weekend – has taken a hit as well.  

In his last 20 weekend major rounds, he has shot in the 60s only once, and has been under par just three times during that span.  

There was the 74-72 weekend at last year’s PGA and the Sunday 73 at last year’s Open. There was the 75-73 weekend at last year’s U.S. Open, the late fade at the 2011 Masters (where he had the lead on the back nine Sunday) and the Sunday 75 at the 2010 U.S. Open.

How, Woods was asked, did those possible wins turn into frustrating losses?

He boiled down that complicated question to an overly simplistic answer – that each event, it came down to one or two shots, critical shots, shots that can happen early on Thursday or late on Sunday and make all the difference.

The man in the midst of the Grand Slump faced that kind of pivotal moment late Saturday afternoon, when he was tied for the lead, and his ball came up short, in the bunker. Now he is two shots back, in an uncomfortable group with his bitter, former caddie, and needing to come from behind to win a major for the first time in his career.

Woods was right – majors can come down to one shot here and there.

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.