Not As Spectacular But Tiger Getting Better
The trained eye can still see greatness from a difficult shot that Woods can make look easy. Perhaps his most impressive round of golf was Saturday at the U.S. Open when he hit the first 17 greens in regulation at Oakmont (and had to settle for a 69).
And there is no denying the results.
Woods again dwarfed the competition this year with seven PGA Tour victories, his 13th career major, skipping the opening playoff event and still taking the drama out of the FedEx Cup, and collecting two more World Golf Championships to make him 14-of-25 against the world's best.
But where was the spectacular shot that defines a special year?
One exercise to wrap up a season is to ask the major champions for the shot that people remember about their victory, and a shot that might get overlooked but was meaningful to them.
Two years ago, it was Woods' chip-in for birdie on the 16th hole at the Masters, which made a U-turn and hung on the lip before falling. Last year was a 4-iron he holed out for eagle on the 14th hole at Royal Liverpool.
What will people remember about his victory this year in the PGA Championship?
'Hmmm,' Woods said, contemplating almost long enough to grow a goatee.
He settled on a shot he missed, a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole of the second round at Southern Hills that spun 270 degrees out of the cup and forced him to settle for a 63, tying a major championship record.
'If you think about it, I had a chance to break a record,' he said. 'Otherwise, I didn't do anything the entire week that stood out, except to be consistent. But I think the nature of the course lent itself to that.'
As for the best shot, Woods didn't hesitate.
'The drive on 16,' he said. 'I just flushed it.'
Woods' lead was as large as five in the final round, but it was down to one over Woody Austin -- until he birdied the 15th hole. Then came the tightest driving hole at Southern Hills, and Woods hit it so pure that he twirled the club, the sure sign of a perfect strike.
'Woody was ahead of me and I didn't know what he was doing on 17, which is a birdie hole,' Woods said. 'I needed to put that ball in play and not make bogey. I'll tell you what, to step up there have to put it in play ... and I just piped it down the middle.'
That was as exciting as it got for Woods, one of the most exciting players in the game.
As he has gotten older -- and better -- Woods has so much more control of his game that he rarely has to do anything dramatic.
There is no 6-iron out of the bunker, over the water and right at the flag with the tournament on the line. Or a 3-iron over the trees to 15 feet despite his legs pressed up against the side of a sand trap. Or a 7-iron gouged out of the rough on the sixth hole of Pebble Beach that reaches the green in two. Or the hole-in-one that nearly caused a riot in Phoenix.
'He's playing more from the correct side of the fairway now,' caddie Steve Williams said. 'He doesn't need anything dramatic.'
That supports an adage in golf that some of the most thrilling shots usually follow some of the worst. One reason Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros were so exciting to watch was because of the spots from which they played, parking lots included.
That used to be Woods, too.
'All you guys watched me in college golf and amateur golf, and even early tour days, and I'm up for any shot, really,' Woods said. 'I believe I can pull off any shot. But there's also being smart about it, as well. If I don't pull it off, I can make 6, 7, 8. And those were the scores I was making, instead of being a little more conservative.
'It's learning how to play over a 72-hole period, not just one hole.'
Woods wasn't the only major champion this year whose signature shot was tough to find.
Masters champion Zach Johnson was torn between his 12-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole in the final round, or his chip from off the 18th green that settled a foot away for par to keep his two-shot lead.
The shot that won't get any recognition came at No. 11.
'It was a cut 3-iron around the trees in a right-to-left wind with the water, obviously on the left,' Johnson said. 'I don't hit a cut except when I mis-hit it. But I hit it in there to 30 feet, two putts for par. That's when I knew I was doing something right.'
Most people likely remember the 7-iron that Angel Cabrera hit to 3 feet on the 15th hole at Oakmont to build his final-round lead at the U.S. Open, allowing him to drop shots on the next two holes without losing the lead.
However, the big-hitting Argentine will always remember the drive on No. 18 that found the fairway.
'It was one of the best shots I've hit in my life,' he said. 'It was what I needed to win the U.S. Open.'
Finding the signature shot for Padraig Harrington is messy, but so was the finish at Carnoustie. He figures it was either his 50-yard pitch over Barry Burn to 5 feet for double bogey that ultimately got him into a playoff, or his 7-iron to 10 feet for birdie on the first playoff hole against Sergio Garcia.
But his favorite shot came Friday morning left of the eighth green.
'The ball ran down to a tight, hard lie on a downslope, and I had a pot bunker between me and the flag,' he said. 'I chipped it as pure as can be to a foot. It was my best strike ever. It was ever so pleasing.'
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.
Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.
The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.
Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.
The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.
Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him
It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.
Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.
The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:
The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.
For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.
Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter
After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.
But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.
Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":
Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.
Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.
Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.
The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.
“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.
In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.
“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”
Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.
“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.