Comparisons to 2000 Season Linger for Tiger

By Associated PressDecember 12, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Target World Challenge pres. by CountrywideTHOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- No matter how often he won, by however many shots, no matter how wide the gap grew between Tiger Woods and the rest of the world, he could never escape comparisons to 2000.
 
Some thought such a year could never be matched.
 
Woods won the last three majors, including record-setting wins at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, to complete the career Grand Slam at age 24. He won nine times and was in the top five at 17 of his 20 tournaments. He set or tied 27 records on the PGA Tour.
 
By the numbers, it still stands as his greatest season.
 
As player, most of his peers believe Woods has become even better.
 
'The reason people still talk about 2000 is because he won the U.S. Open by 15 and the British Open by eight,' caddie Steve Williams said. 'Those are the two biggest tournaments, and he won by 23 shots. So the public's perception of his year is based on two weeks. That will stand in our memories forever. That's why we're still talking about it.'
 
And now?
 
'No doubt, this is the best he's ever played,' Williams said. 'He's in more control of his shots. I wouldn't even compare the years because they're so vastly different -- different in the way he plays, the way he manages his game, his course strategy. He's more equipped now.'
 
Woods, ending a 10-week break this week at the Target World Challenge, only talks about 2000 in context.
 
He collected his ninth PGA Tour player of the year award on Tuesday after winning seven times, including his 13th career major. The numbers were slightly down from the year before, even though Woods looked to be more in control of his game.
 
He thought he had a better year, but when drawing comparisons, he focused on the ones that got away.
 
Woods finished two shots behind at the Masters, haunted by bogey-bogey finishes in the first and third rounds. He wound up one shot behind at the U.S. Open, and still talks about a third round in which he hit 17 greens at Oakmont and could only squeeze a 69 out of it.
 
Then there was the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston, where he had five three-putts and took nine more putts than Phil Mickelson in the final round alone, and finished two shots behind.
 
'I was just a few shots away from doing what I did in 2000,' he said. 'If I get those done, people would probably be comparing it to 2000, if not better.'
 
It goes beyond 2007.
 
Two years ago, Woods won the Masters and British Open, was second at the U.S. Open and tied for fourth at the PGA Championship, finishing a combined four shots out of the lead in the two he didn't win.
 
'I've been pretty close the last few years of eclipsing what I did in 2000,' he said.
 
For those around him, they see far more control -- the flight of his ball, the management of his game, and his life.
 
It has taken Woods close to a year to get over the death of his father in May 2006, and even now he talks about feelings of guilt about not spending as much time with Earl Woods.
 
'You always feel this sense of you didn't really capture each and every day with him,' Woods said.
 
His daughter, Sam, was born the day after the U.S. Open. His wife and daughter made a surprise visit to Southern Hills on the final day, when Woods captured his 13th career major at the PGA Championship. For those who wondered how fatherhood would change him as the most cut-throat player in golf, Woods smiled.
 
'I think the end of the year probably demonstrated that pretty good,' he said, referring to victories in four of his last five events.
 
Even more daunting is the comfort he feels on the golf course.
 
For swing coach Hank Haney, the pivotal moment came Saturday morning at Oakmont on the first tee, a hole that looked extremely tight to Woods. He had planned to hit iron, but a shift in wind demanded driver, and Woods piped it.
 
That was a sign of confidence that has only grown.
 
'The best thing that Tiger does is he makes an honest assessment where he is,' Haney said Wednesday. 'He can take a step back and make an honest assessment of how to get better. And it's always accurate.'
 
So how much better can he get?
 
Woods is winning at nearly a 50 percent clip, an astounding rate in this era. He has won 15 times in 31 starts on the PGA Tour the last two years, and he has won as many times worldwide as the next five players behind him in the world ranking combined.
 
He stopped going to the practice range after a round at the British Open, mentally rehearsing his swing and learning to trust it.
 
'This is just the tip of the iceberg of where he can be mentally and confidence-wise with his swing,' Haney said. 'You're just starting to see it. We've seen it in practice, and now you start to see it on the golf course. It's a slow progression.'
 
About the only thing missing is the spectacular shot. His father once said that Woods always hits at least one shot that fans will talk about for years. Now, it's the subtle appreciation of flawless execution.
 
His 2000 season was best remembered for the 6-iron he hit out of the bunker, over the water and right at the pin to win the Canadian Open, and the 7-iron he gouged out of the rough to reach the par-5 sixth green at Pebble Beach.
 
Two years ago, it was his U-turn chip-in at the Masters. Last year, it was the 4-iron he holed from the fairway at Hoylake.
 
Was there one memorable shot this year?
 
Not really, except for the 15-foot putt that lipped out and denied him a 62 in a major, or breaking his 4-iron against the tree on the 11th hole at the Masters.
 
Meanwhile, the gap is no different than it was in 2000, if not greater.
 
'The chasing pack is getting better,' Colin Montgomerie said. 'But the problem is, so is he. I always feels his best time was in 2000, and I think we're getting back to that level again. I think he's almost a better putter. But as a swing, he's very close. Very close.'
 
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    Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

    SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

    Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

    ''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

    Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

    ''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

    Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

    Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.


    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

    He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

    ''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

    Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

    ''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

    Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

    Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

    But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

    ''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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    LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

    LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

    Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

    Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

    Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

    ''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

    That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

    ''Too many,'' Park said.

    The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

    ''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

    The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

    Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.


    Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


    Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

    Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

    ''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

    Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

    She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

    ''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

    ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

    Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

    Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

    The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

    Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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    Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

    By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

    Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

    While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

    The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

    "I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."


    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

    With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

    "Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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    Three years later, PXG launches new iron

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

    Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

    “Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

    PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

    The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

    Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.