Woods suffers another failed weekend in a major

By Ryan LavnerAugust 13, 2012, 12:39 am

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – On the long walk back to the 13th tee, it’s virtually impossible to not steal a glance at the massive white leaderboard to the left. All the contenders were up there in black, bold-faced letters – MCILROY, PETTERSSON, POULTER, SCOTT, ROSE. And on the second-to-last rung, the seventh of eight names, was Tiger Woods.

A red 1: his score Sunday through 12 holes.

A red 3: his score through 66 holes.

Seven shots back at the time, his score was the highest of those still on the board, left there as perhaps a courtesy to inquiring fans. But instead it served to illustrate the obvious: It was another stalled weekend for Woods. 

And another lost year in the majors.

His even-par 72 Sunday in the PGA Championship kept alive one of the most unfathomable streaks of 2012: Not once in eight tries this season did he break par in a weekend round in a major. Woods finished this PGA in a tie for 11th at 2-under 286 – a distant 11 strokes behind winner Rory McIlroy.

In the past, we were compelled to watch Woods because it was a chance to witness history. These days, it seems, we watch because we’re intrigued. We watch because we don’t know which Tiger will show up: the guy who surgically maneuvered his way around the Ocean Course on Friday, or the guy who (on the easiest stretch of the course) made four bogeys in an eight-hole span Saturday to fall off the pace.

Not even Woods himself is quite sure anymore. Asked to explain another weekend slide, Woods offered a curious response: “I was trying to enjoy it – enjoy the process of it. But that’s not how I play. I play full-systems-go, all-out, intense, and that’s how I won 14 of these things.”

Enjoy? The pursuit of a major championship? It’s like the Terminator stopping to pose for pictures with civilians.

Arguably the most cutthroat competitor the game has ever seen – back in the day, Woods epitomized the phrase “step on their necks” – and arguably the most dominant closer in the sport’s history, conceded Sunday that during the third round he was trying to be “a little bit happy out there.”  

On Saturday afternoon, on both the range and the course, Woods was seen chitchatting with fellow playing competitor Vijay Singh – an old and sometimes contentious rival – as if they were former frat brothers at a class reunion. It made no sense, until now.

Wait, no.

It still doesn’t.

Pressed why he would change his approach – intentionally – after being so successful in this position in the past, Woods could only shake his head and say, “I don’t know. It was a bad move on my part.”

When he returns to Augusta National in April, he’ll be 37 years old and winless in his past 14 majors, the longest drought of his professional career. He’ll be 37 with a left knee that’s been operated on four times, with the psychological strain of two decades in the spotlight, with the mounting pressure that maybe, just maybe, time is running out on his pursuit to finally catch Jack Nicklaus.

Woods managed to go 0-for-4 this major season in myriad ways. Not once in four rounds did he break par at Augusta National, for years his personal playground. Two months later, at the U.S. Open, he held a share of the 36-hole lead, then shot 148 on the weekend to tumble down the leaderboard. At the British Open, he once again found himself in contention, but never diverged from his conservative game plan, even when the leaders began to pull away. Eventually, he finished T-3, his best finish in a major in nearly three years.

“The thing is to keep putting myself there,” Woods said. “I’m not going to win them all, and I haven’t won them all. But the key is putting myself there each and every time, and you know, I’ll start getting them again.”

This, however, represented as good a chance as any.

He had a piece of the 36-hole lead. He was only five back at the start of the final round, not an insurmountable deficit in this, the Year of the Meltdown. But the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island – dubbed by one prominent golf magazine as the hardest course in America – severely punishes those who stray off the fairway. So it was that late Sunday afternoon, when Woods needed to pile up birdies, post a low number and pray, two errant shots effectively ended his slim chances to contend.

Twice on the back nine he mingled amongst the red-faced and sweat-soaked spectators. On the par-4 10th, his drive sailed so far left, his ball came to rest on a sandy pathway near a garbage disposal. You could smell the hamburgers. Heck, he was so close to the concession stand, he probably could have grabbed one, too.

Such a scene was thrown into sharp relief with what we witnessed Friday from Woods: a 71 in wind-swept conditions, a ball-striking clinic, a round so spectacular that it prompted young Keegan Bradley to gush that it was one of the best rounds he’s seen. Ever.

Then Saturday came, and much like this year’s U.S. Open, Woods faded fast. (His third-round scoring average in the majors: 72.75.) Whatever the reason – he was uncomfortable with his revamped swing, he misread the Paspalum greens, he was too relaxed at Kiawah – he played the first eight holes in 4 over par, and never again was a factor. That slide prompted one wise guy in the crowd to quip that, these days, Woods takes more weekends off than a stock broker.

Now, we’ve gone more than four years and 14 majors without seeing the most prolific winner of this generation hoist one of golf’s most important trophies. The task only figures to get more arduous now, after weighing such factors as his age (37 in December), his injury history (knee and Achilles issues) and his rapidly rising challengers (impressed by McIlroy, anyone?).

In the past two years, under the guidance of coach Sean Foley, Woods has been refashioned as a punishing ball-striker. That is good enough to put him in contention most weeks – let’s not forget, for his four major flameouts, he’s still won three times this season on the PGA Tour – but even machines occasionally malfunction. A tidy short game has proved just as important.

And it is those instances when Woods “marries the two together,” as he said he did in Friday’s second round, when he is at the height of his powers. Problem is, that marriage is occurring with less frequency now. The streaky putter either slays or saves him.

Perhaps it’s no small coincidence, then, that here through two rounds, when he held a share of the 36-hole lead, he required only 48 swipes with the putter. (Said Woods, “The first couple of days, every putt just seemed easy.”) Over the weekend, he needed 60 putts when apparently his focus was elsewhere, on employing a cheery disposition.

Only on Saturday afternoon, during a weather delay, did Woods realize that his bizarre plan to soak up the moment had backfired.

It’s too bad. By then, his 2012 major season had already been lost.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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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.