Woods Mickelson Return at Jacks Event

By Sports NetworkMay 28, 2007, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Jack Nicklaus' tournament always draws one of the best fields of the season. This year, it's getting back the world's best player.
Tiger Woods skipped the Memorial last year in the wake of his father's death, but will return to play this year -- his first start in three weeks.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is winless at the Memorial since 2001. (WireImages)
'Jack always does a wonderful job hosting the tournament and it's a great course,' Woods said on his Web site. 'Unfortunately, I couldn't play last year and I'm looking forward to returning.'
Woods, who hasn't played since he tied for 37th place at THE PLAYERS Championship, has won three of his seven PGA TOUR starts this season.
He is the all-time money leader in the tournament's 30-year history with more than $2.67 million in earnings, boosted by his three consecutive wins from 1999-2001.
Including the top-ranked Woods, 15 of the top 20 players in the world will be at Muirfield. One of the players missing from the field is new No. 14 Rory Sabbatini, who beat Jim Furyk and Bernhard Langer at Colonial on Sunday.
Last year, Carl Pettersson closed with a 1-under 71 -- his first round in the 70s all week -- to beat Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich for his second PGA TOUR title.
The win qualified Pettersson for last year's U.S. and British Opens.
For the second year in a row Nicklaus won't be appearing in his own tournament, but to see the rest of the players check out the GOLF CHANNEL on Thursday and Friday and CBS on the weekend.
Next week is the St. Jude Classic, the last event before the U.S. Open at Oakmont. Jeff Maggert won last year's St. Jude.
Here are this week's favorites at Muirfield Village:
Tiger Woods
Amazingly, its been six years since Tiger last won the Memorial. His 2001 victory was his third in a row at Muirfield and, like at a few other venues, it appeared that he might never lose again at this particular site. But while Woods hasnt won here since 01, its not as if hes been stinking up the joint. Over his last three Memorial starts, Woods has finished no worse than tied for fourth. He didnt play here last year while mourning the loss of his father, Earl. Woods has played in six stroke-play events this year, but hes won every other start. He tied for 37th in his last appearance at THE PLAYERS, which means he may be due for another triumph this week.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson tied for fourth in last year's Memorial. (WireImage)
Phil Mickelson
You should hear plenty this week about the Tiger-Phil rivalry being renewed. With the U.S. Open just two weeks away, this would be a wonderful prelude to a 1 vs. 2 showdown. Mickelson used to always skip this tournament, doing so from 2003-05. But he returned in 06 and tied for fourth. Of course, he won his last start at THE PLAYERS. Now its time to find out if, like he penned on his new coach Butch Harmons victorious flag at Sawgrass, if that win was the 1st of many.
Zach Johnson
Its never easy to win back-to-back starts ' unless your name is Tiger Woods. But Johnson will try and do that this week. After taking last week off, Johnson returns from his AT&T Classic win a fortnight ago. He will now try to win a tournament for the first time outside the state of Georgia , where he has won all three of his TOUR titles. Johnson has only played this event three times prior, but he managed to tie for second here in 2006. Muirfield Village is supposed to remind people of Augusta National. Johnson sure hopes so.
Adam Scott
This tournament seems just right for the Adam Scott resume. Its a high quality event, with a high quality field ' without the pressure of a major championship. Scott has also produced one victory this year, that at the Shell Houston Open. He has never before won twice in the same season on TOUR, but its about time to make that progression. Scott has played this tournament three times and tied for fourth here last year.
Brett Wetterich
The last two Memorial champions has been relatively unassuming guys. First, it was Bart Bryant, who won his first ever TOUR event in 2004 and then captured the Memorial in 05. Then it was Carl Pettersson, who won his first ever TOUR event in 2005 and then captured the Memorial in 06. Perhaps this year it could be Wetterich. He won his first ever TOUR event in 2006 and captured the Memorial in 2007? Maybe. He did tie Johnson for silver medal honors last year.
Four more players to keep an eye on at Muirfield Village:
Vijay Singh
The Memorial is one of those tournaments where you often see the cream rise to the top. Singh did so a decade ago in 1997. Since then, he has yet to tack on another victory, but he has notched four top-5 finishes.
Trevor Immelman
The young South African missed the cut in his first two Memorial starts, but has since played increasingly better. He cracked the top 10 a year ago, tying for seventh.
Anthony Kim
We could offer up the obligatory Jim Furyk stats right now ' but you already know hell probably finish in the top 10 and not win. So, instead, how about Anthony Kim? Kim was a chic pick at the start of the season to be Rookie of the Year. He hasnt yet won, but he does have three top-5s in his last seven TOUR starts. He shared the first-round lead last week at Colonial, before finishing in a tie for 18th. This will be his first start in this event.
Vaughn Taylor
That whole Murifield-Augusta thing maybe that will work for Taylor as well. Taylor, an Augusta native, tied for 10th at the Masters and then tied for fourth the following week in Hilton Head. He has since gone MC-MC-WD. He could use a little home cooking this week ' if it only looks like home.
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    'Putting Stroke Whisperer' helps get McIlroy on track

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 9:39 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – During a charity event a few years ago Brad Faxon was asked what he’s thinking about when he putts. A hush fell across the green as everyone within earshot eagerly awaited the answer.

    Imagine having the chance to quiz Leonardo da Vinci about the creative process, or Ben Hogan on the finer points of ball-striking. Arguably the best putter of his generation, if anyone could crack the complicated code of speed, line and pace, it would be Faxon.

    Faxon mulled the question for a moment, shrugged and finally said, “Rhythm and tempo.”

    If Faxon’s take seems a tad underwhelming, and it did that day to everyone in his group, the genius of his simplicity was on display last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    Before arriving at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy ranked 124th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting, losing .1 strokes per round to the field. In fact, he’d missed the cut a week earlier at the Valspar Championship when he needed 58 putts for two days and made just a single attempt over 10 feet.

    It’s one of those competitive ironies that having the weekend off turned out to be just what McIlroy needed. He went home to South Florida to work on his game and ran across Faxon at The Bear’s Club.

    Although Faxon’s take on the art of putting was probably more involved than it had been a few years earlier, he seemed to have touched on all the right points.

    “Freed up my head more than my stroke,” McIlroy explained. “I sort of felt like maybe complicating things a bit and thinking a little bit too much about it and maybe a little bogged down by technical or mechanical thoughts.”

    Earlier in the week McIlroy had a slightly different take on his putting turnaround at Bay Hill, where he led the field in strokes gained: putting, picking up 10 shots for the week, and rolled in 49 feet of putts over his last five holes to end a victory drought that had stretched back to the 2016 Tour Championship.

    “Just playing around with it. Seeing balls go in in the front edge, trying to hit them in the left edge, the right edge, hit them off the back of the cup,” he said on Thursday. “Just trying to get a little bit more feel into it and a little more flow.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    If that doesn’t exactly sound like an exact science, welcome to the Faxon way. In recent years, he’s become something of F which is no huge surprise considering his status as one of the game’s best on the greens.

    Between 1991, the year he won the first of eight Tour titles, through 2005, the year he won his last, Faxon ranked outside the top 20 in putting average just four times, and he led the circuit in that category three of those years. But in recent years he’s come into his own as a putting guru.

    “The first clinic I attended that a Tour player gave, it was Hale Irwin, and he talked about rhythm and tempo, I was disappointed because I wanted to hear more than that,” Faxon explained. “I thought there would be more technical stuff. I thought it was the default phrase to take pressure off the player, but the more I’ve learned about teaching the best players in the world don’t have many complicated thoughts.”

    Faxon’s career has been nothing short of impressive, his eight Tour titles spanning two decades; but it’s his work with players like McIlroy and Gary Woodland that has inspired him in recent years.

    A man who has spent his life studying the nuances of the golf swing and putting stroke has created a teaching philosophy as simple, or complicated depending on the player, as rhythm and tempo.

    “He teaches me, which is a good thing. He doesn’t have a philosophy,” Woodland said. “I was around him a lot in 2011, 2010, it’s unbelievable how well he can relay it now. He has video of a million guys putting and he’s one of the best to do it, but he can show you that you don’t have to do it one certain way and that was good for me.”

    For Woodland, Faxon keyed in on his background as a college basketball player and compared the putting stroke to how he shoots free-throws. For McIlroy, it was a different sport but the concept remained the same.

    “We were talking about other sports where you have to create your own motion, a free-throw shooter, a baseball pitcher, but what related to him was a free-kicker in soccer, he mentioned Wayne Rooney,” Faxon said. “You have to have something to kick start your motion, maybe it’s a trigger, some might use a forward press, or tapping the putter like Steve Stricker, sometimes it’s finding the trigger like that for a player.”

    Faxon spent “a good two hours” with McIlroy last weekend at The Bear’s Club, not talking technique or method, but instead tapping into the intuitive nature of what makes someone a good putter. Midway through that session Faxon said he didn’t need to say another word.

    The duo ended the session with a putting contest. Putting 30-footers to different holes, the goal was to make five “aces.” Leading the contest 4-2, Faxon couldn’t resist.

    “Hey Rory, after you win Bay Hill this week you’ll have to tell the world you lost to Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” Faxon joked.

    McIlroy proceeded to hole three of his next four attempts to win the contest. “I’m going to tell everyone I beat Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” McIlroy laughed.

    Maybe it’s the way he’s able to so easily simplify an exceedingly complicated game, maybe it’s a resume filled with more clutch putts than one could count. Whatever it is, Faxon is good at teaching. More importantly, he’s having fun and doing something he loves.

    “I have a hard time being called a teacher or a coach, it was more of a conversation with Rory, being able to work with someone like Rory is as excited as I’ve ever been in my career,” Faxon said. “It meant much more to me than it did Rory.”

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    Frittelli fulfilled promise by making Match Play field

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:40 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Dylan Frittelli attended the University of Texas and still maintains a residence in Austin, so in an odd way this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is a home game for the South African who plays the European Tour.

    Frittelli actually attended the event last year as a spectator, when he watched the quarterfinal matches on Saturday afternoon, and made a promise to himself.

    “I told a lot of people, I was running into them. I said, ‘I'll be here next year, I'll be playing in this tournament,’” said Frittelli, who climbed to 45th in the world ranking after two victories last year in Europe. “People looked at me, you're 190 in the world, that's hard to get to 64. It was a goal I set myself.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Frittelli’s next goal may be a little payback for a loss he suffered in college when he was a teammate of Jordan Spieth’s. Frittelli is making his first start at the Match Play and could face his old Longhorn stable mate this week depending on how the brackets work out and his play.

    “We had the UT inter-team championship. Coach switched it to match play my senior year, and Jordan beat me in the final at UT Golf Club. It was 3 and 2,” Frittelli said. “So I'm not too keen to face him again.

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    Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

    The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

    “I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    In a statement, the PGA Tour said, “While we do not comment specifically on security measures, the safety and security of our players and fans is, and always will be, our top priority. Our security advisors at the Tour are working in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to monitor, review and evaluate the situation and implement procedures as needed. We encourage all spectators to review the PGA Tour's bag policy and prohibited items list, available at www.dellmatchplay.com, prior to arriving at the tournament."

    Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

    “It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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    Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

    By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

    With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

    Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

    The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

    The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

    Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

    Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

    As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

    “There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

    Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

    “You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

    All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

    “It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

    Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

    Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

    “It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

    Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.