Sometimes the Years Best Shots Get Lost in the Moment
Sometimes, they look so routine that they don't even get the courtesy of a replay. In the case of Tiger Woods at the British Open, his best were never shown on TV.
There was nothing extraordinary about his five-shot victory, a calculated performance at the Old Course that kept a small cast of challengers from catching him. Even so, Woods knew right away that Sunday at St. Andrews would be special, starting with a series of shots not many people saw.
That's because they were on the practice range.
'I hit the 100-yard sign four straight times,' Woods said in an interview last week. 'That was the start of my warmup. I hit a couple of little wedges to loosen up, then hit to the sign. Peppered it four straight times in the air, on the right zero -- not the middle zero, the right zero.'
Swing coach Hank Haney was standing behind him, quietly impressed, and offered some advice to the caddie.
'He hit that sign four times in a row -- and five out of eight,' Steve Williams said. 'Hank says to me, `The first time he gets inside 100 yards, you might want to tell him to aim away from the flag.' '
Williams laughed, just as he did that day. Turns out it wasn't a joke.
'First time I'm inside 100 yards is on No. 6,' Woods said. 'I had 98 yards to the hole. What happens? I one-hop it off the flag and it spins off the shelf.'
Woods had to scramble for par, and on the way to the next tee, Williams told him what Haney said on the range.
'I said, 'You idiot, why didn't you just tell me to aim away from the flag?' It's not that hard,' Woods said.
The next time he had under 100 yards was on No. 7.
Woods nearly holed out.
'I had to aim away from the flag there,' he said with a smile, 'because of that shelf.'
The majors this year will be remembered for signature moments, although it was tough to find one at St. Andrews. Woods' pitch on the 12th hole, which bounced up the throat to a front pin and stopped 4 feet away for birdie and a two-shot swing, was as good as any.
The other three majors had a defining shot, along with one that often gets overlooked:
Woods' chip from behind the 16th green made a U-turn at the top of the slope, trickled toward the hole, paused two full seconds on the edge of the cup for effect, and became part of Augusta National lore the moment it dropped for birdie. For all his magic, he now is best identified by that shot.
As dramatic as that was, however, Woods was prouder of two shots that were simply steady -- his 3-wood off the tee in the playoff with Chris DiMarco, and an equally pure 8-iron into 15 feet that set up his winning birdie.
'My two best golf shots of the week,' Woods said. 'You can think of 16 all you want, but if 18 doesn't happen, then it's DiMarco's -- what a great chip and a great putt he made on 18, and all those things.'
Michael Campbell was scratching out pars along the back nine as Tiger Woods was closing in. Woods certainly helped the cause with two late bogeys that gave Campbell a cushion.
But this was Pinehurst No. 2, where shots are dropped easily. Campbell delivered a knockout punch with his 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that gave him a three-shot lead.
'I think everyone will remember the 17th,' Campbell said.
Still, the Kiwi won the U.S. Open on the par-3 15th with a bunker shot that ranks among the best of the year.
He missed the green to the left, and the only thing worse than a nasty lie was the length of the shot. He had to carry it some 25 yards to a turtleback green that fell off on all sides.
'It was semi-plugged, and I had to get it up over a little lip,' Campbell said. 'If it goes 3 feet beyond the pin, it was off the green. Six feet below the pin, and it was off the green. That was the shot of the round.'
It came off perfectly, and he holed the 6-foot par putt.
'That bunker shot turned the game around,' Campbell said. 'Tiger birdied that hole (to get within two), and he had not played the 16th yet. That could have changed the whole momentum of the round.'
Phil Mickelson was up to his ankles in rough to the right of the 18th green, tied with Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn, needing to get up-and-down from some 50 feet to win his second major.
It was the kind of chip he had practiced countless times in his backyard as a boy in San Diego.
'It could have been the easiest chip, and still wouldn't have been easy,' Mickelson said. 'It was the situation that made it tough. The ball was sitting down a little bit in the grass, and I was able to go in and be aggressive with it because I had a little bit of upslope to the pin, and I didn't fear the ball would take off by the hole.'
He raised his arms before the ball settled 2 feet away for a tap-in birdie.
But while Mickelson is among the best with a wedge, the shot that might have won the PGA was his drive. Baltusrol was softer and longer, with a stiff breeze. Mickelson needed birdie to win. He needed to be in the fairway.
'The best drive he's ever hit,' caddie Jim Mackay said that afternoon.
Mickelson reached out and tapped the plaque for Jack Nicklaus, who hit the 18th green with a 1-iron to win the 1967 U.S. Open. He could not have done that from the rough.
'Ultimately, I had a chance to go at the green on 18, and almost got it up,' Mickelson said. 'But I ended up making birdie.'
That's all that mattered.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88
MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.
Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.
Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.
The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.
On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.
Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.
He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.
In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.
Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.
Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M
In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.
This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.
Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.
Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.
The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.
Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout
CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.
Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.
Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.
“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”
Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.
“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”
Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break
Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.
Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.
Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.
“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”
Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.
“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”
Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.