In the End More Claret Jugs or Green Jackets

By Associated PressJuly 25, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- Jack Nicklaus might have been right about Tiger Woods, even if he was looking at the wrong place.
 
Nicklaus cranked up the hype about Woods on the eve of the 1996 Masters, after he and Arnold Palmer played a practice round with the 20-year-old amateur. Nicklaus called him 'absolutely the most fundamentally sound golfer that I've seen at almost any age.'
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods now has three claret jugs to go along with his four green jackets.
Combine the Masters victories of those two legends -- that's 10 green jackets -- and Nicklaus said the kid should win more than that.
 
But imagine if that practice round had been in 1995 at St. Andrews instead of a year later at Augusta National.
 
The conversation might have been different.
 
'This kid is absolutely the most creative shotmaker that I've seen at almost any age,' Nicklaus might have said. 'Take my three British Opens and the five won by Tom Watson, and he should win more than that.'
 
It could happen.
 
By the end of his career, Woods might be identified more by the silver claret jug than the green jacket.
 
The Masters was thought to be Woods' domain ever since he set the course record (18-under 270) and won by a record 12 shots in 1997. Woods now has four green jackets, not quite halfway there to Nicklaus' prediction.
 
Augusta National is all about power, and Woods no longer holds exclusive rights in this game.
 
The British Open is about imagination, and he showed Sunday at Royal Liverpool he has no peer.
 
Woods was whisked away to the clubhouse late in the evening to sip champagne with the Royal & Ancient, where he regaled committee members with the shots he played -- only one of them with a driver out of his 270 strokes -- on his way to a two-shot victory over Chris DiMarco.
 
In his previous tournament, a tie for second at the Western Open, Woods had what swing coach Hank Haney described as his best week with the driver in five years. But after one trip around the firm, fast links of Hoylake, Woods realized he was better off playing it safe.
 
The course measured 7,258 yards, but it felt like 6,000 yards because of the crusty conditions.
 
Even though he easily could have taken the bunkers out of play by blasting driver over them, Woods continually laid far back by hitting iron off the tee, leaving him long irons into the green. He reasoned that, even with a shorter iron, getting close to the pin was no bargain.
 
It paid off so many times over four days.
 
On the second hole Sunday, he hit iron off the tee and played his second shot to about 25 feet. Sergio Garcia hit a driver over the bunkers and had only a flip sand wedge to the green, but he could get it no closer than 30 feet.
 
Ernie Els found out what can happen with a driver, hitting into a gorse bush Saturday on the seventh hole. Garcia found a bunker on the par-5 fifth hole Sunday that made him scramble for par. Woods played back with a 3-wood, then hit 5-iron into 25 feet for eagle.
 
'One of the most fascinating things of the week was to see the different strategies employed by different players,' R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said Monday morning. 'The vast majority of players hit far more drivers than Tiger did. He chose to play his way, and it actually resulted in him playing a longer golf course than he does most weeks.
 
'Tiger found the way to suit his game.'
 
Els played with Woods on Saturday and was skeptical about his decision not to hit driver.
 
'At times I didn't think it was the right plan because he is so long off the tee he could have hit very short irons into some of the holes,' Els said. 'But he stuck to his plan, and it really worked out for him. He knows how to win these things, and it's going to be tough to beat him now.'
 
But the brilliance of Woods went beyond leaving the driver in his bag for all but one hole.
 
Every shot was designed for a specific hole, whether that meant a towering shot or low and boring. His 4-iron from 190 yards to 12 feet on the 12th hole Friday was a low fade, while his 4-iron on the 14th hole that he made for eagle was a slight draw.
 
His caddie, Steve Williams, said he missed only three shots over 72 holes.
 
'It was probably one of the best ball-striking weeks I've ever had as far as control,' Woods said. 'That's shaping the ball, moving my trajectory and different heights and controlling my spin going into the greens. It wasn't getting away from me. If I wasn't hitting it well, it would have been pretty difficult around here.'
 
Woods led the field in driving accuracy -- that might be a first -- by missing only eight fairways all week. He was tied for second in greens in regulation (80.5 percent), and missed only one green Sunday. That led to his only bogey in a 5-under 67, which matched the best score of the final round, rare for the guy in the last group.
 
He now has three claret jugs, halfway home to the record six by Harry Vardon, one less than his collection of green jackets.
 
But a closer look at the record, and the constantly changing course at Augusta National, makes it even more likely that the British Open might prove to be his best major.
 
He has finished out of the top 10 only three times at the British Open, and one of those was at Muirfield in 2002 when he was two shots behind until getting caught in the whipping wind that sent him to an 81.
 
Woods came within one shot of a playoff at Royal Birkdale in 1998, and he was two shots away at Royal St. George's in 2003.
 
He will go for his third straight British Open -- Peter Thomson in 1954-56 was the last player to do that -- next year at Carnoustie, reputed to be the toughest links course in the world. Woods probably won't be able to leave driver in the bag.
 
But odds are, he'll find another way.
 
Related Links:
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    Kang 'going with the flow,' one back of A. Jutanugarn

    By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 am

    SHANGHAI – Ariya Jutanugarn shot a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai tournament on Thursday.

    The Thai player had six birdies in a bogey-free round, including three straight on Nos. 4, 5, and 6.

    ''I always have so much fun when I play in Asia,'' said Jutanugarm, who added her key was ''just not to expect anything. Just go out have fun and enjoy everything.''

    Sei Young Kim and Danielle Kang (both 67) were one shot back, with six other players only two shots off the lead.


    Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai


    The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

    Kang credited her improved play to new coach Butch Harmon.

    ''We just kind of simplify the game a lot,'' the American said. ''Just trying to calm it down and get back to how I used to play. Just more feel golf. Thinking less mechanics and going with the flow.''

    Kang tied for third last week at the KEB Hana Bank championship in Incheon, South Korea.

    ''Today's round went very smooth,'' Kang said. ''Coming off very good momentum after last week, and I've been hitting the ball really well, playing great. I've just been trusting my game and just keep giving myself birdie chances. They kept rolling in.''

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    Sharpshooting Reavie (68) leads tough CJ Cup

    By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 9:34 am

    JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Chez Reavie overcame cool, windy conditions for a 4-under 68 and a one-stroke lead after the first round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges on Thursday.

    In the breezy conditions, the back nine of the course posed the most difficulty, but the 36-year-old American made two birdies and negotiated it in 35 after starting on the 10th tee, and then picked up three shots on his final nine.

    Danny Willett and Si Woo Kim shot 69 while the large group at 70, and tied for fourth, included Ian PoulterNick Watney and Michael Kim.

    Brooks Koepka, playing in his first tournament since being voted PGA Tour Player of the Year, shot 71 and was in a group three strokes behind and tied for 11th, which included Paul Casey and Hideki Matsuyama.

    Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Defending champion Justin Thomas had a 73, as did Jason Day, Ernie Els and J.B. Holmes.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    Marc Leishman, who won last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia, and Adam Scott had 75s.

    Reavie's only PGA Tour win came at the 2008 Canadian Open, and he finished second in back-to-back starts last year in Phoenix and Pebble Beach, losing at Phoenix in a playoff.

    ''It was a great day, I hit the ball really well,'' Reavie said of Thursday's round. ''The wind was blowing really hard all day long so you had to really start the ball well and keep it out of the wind. Luckily, I was able to do that.''

    Despite the windy conditions, Reavie found all 14 fairways off the tee and hit 15 out of 18 greens in regulation, which he felt was the key to a good score.

    ''It's tough because once you get above the hole with this wind, it's really hard to chip it close,'' he said. ''The more greens you can hit, the better and that was key to my game.''

    Willett, who has struggled with injuries and form since winning the 2016 Masters and has dropped to No. 342 in the world, made five birdies and two bogeys in his 69. Willett has just one top-five finish since finishing second in the Italian Open in September 2016.

    Having committed to play on the PGA Tour by taking up membership this season, Willet said it was important to make a quick start to the season.

    ''I've done two tours for a couple of years, and it's very difficult,'' Willett said. ''We committed to play on the PGA Tour, to play predominantly over here this year and next. It's nice to kind of get in and get some points early if you can.''

    The second of three PGA Tour events in three weeks in Asia has a 78-player field and no cut. Only 19 players broke par on Thursday.

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    Koepka takes edge over Thomas in race for world No. 1

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:50 am

    Brooks Koepka got the inside track against Justin Thomas in their head-to-head battle this week for world No. 1.

    Koepka shot 1-under 71 on Thursday at the CJ Cup, while Thomas shot 1-over 73.

    Chez Reavie leads after 18 holes at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea, following a 4-under 68.

    Koepka, currently world No. 3, needs to win this week or finish solo second [without Thomas winning] in order to reach the top spot in the rankings for the first time in his career. Thomas, currently No. 4, must win to reclaim the position he surrendered in June.

    One week after 26 under par proved victorious in Malaysia, birdies weren’t as aplenty to begin the second leg of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    In chilly, windy conditions, Koepka and Thomas set out alongside one another – with Sungjae Im (73) as the third – on the 10th hole. Koepka bogeyed his first hole of the day on his way to turning in even-par 36. Thomas was one worse, with two bogeys and a birdie.

    On their second nine, Koepka was steady with two birdies and a bogey to reach red figures for the day.

    "I felt like I played good. I hit some good shots, missed a couple putts early and kind put myself in a little bit of trouble on the back nine, my front, but rallied pretty nicely," Koepka said. "I felt like I found a bit of rhythm. But it's a difficult day, anything under par, level par is a good score out there today. I'm pleased with it."

    Thomas, however, had two birdies and a double bogey on his inward half. The double came at the par-4 fourth, where he four-putted. He nearly made up those two strokes on his final hole, the par-5 ninth, when a wild approach shot [as you can see below] traversed the contours of the green and settled 6 feet from the hole. But Thomas missed the short eagle putt and settled for birdie.

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    Watch: Thomas' approach takes wild ride on CJ Cup green

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:17 am

    Two over par with one hole to play in Round 1 of the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas eyed an eagle at the par-5 ninth [his 18th].

    And he nearly got it, thanks to his ball beautifully navigating the curves of the green.

    Thomas hit a big draw for his second shot and his ball raced up the green's surface, towards the back, where it caught the top of ridge and funneled down to within 6 feet of the hole.



    Unfortunately for Thomas, the defending champion, he missed the eagle putt and settled for birdie and a 1-over 73.