Tiger Continues Pursuit of More Claret Jugs

By Associated PressJuly 14, 2007, 4:00 pm
Tiger Woods never posted any of Harry Vardon's feats on his bedroom door.
 
His career has always been about Jack Nicklaus and that benchmark of 18 professional majors, and Woods has made incredible strides in his first decade on the PGA TOUR. He captured the career Grand Slam at age 24, two years sooner than Nicklaus. He won back-to-back titles at the Masters, and one-third of his majors have come from Augusta National, just like Jack.
 
Tiger Woods and caddie
Tiger Woods embraces his caddie after winning his second straight Open Championship. (WireImage)
But along with a closet full of green jackets, Woods is starting to assemble quite a collection of claret jugs.
 
He heads to Carnoustie for the 136th British Open with a chance to become the first player since Peter Thomson in 1954-56 to win golf's oldest championship three straight times. If he's successful, that would give him as many jugs as jackets.
 
Nicklaus and Vardon share the record for most titles (6) in a single major. For all the fixation over Woods and Augusta National, his presence at the British Open has become equally daunting.
 
Could he reach Vardon's record at the British Open before Nicklaus' mark at the Masters?
 
Is it possible his dominance lies more on the linksland than amid the azaleas?
 
'I will say this: The British Open Championship is my favorite major,' Woods said. 'I just love the history, tradition and atmosphere. You need patience and imagination to play well.'
 
Thomson has watched Woods develop a game suited for links golf and wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he goes on a dominant run.
 
'He'll have a run for 10 or 15 years during which he'll win at least half of them, maybe a few more,' Thomson said from his home in St. Andrews. 'I'm assuming he goes about it in the way he does now. There's never been any golfer, maybe even a tennis player, who applied himself in such a way that Tiger has.'
 
Nick Faldo, who won the Masters and British Open three times each, helped Woods into his first green jacket in 1997 and always figured that would be his domain. Now, he's not so sure.
 
'That's a tough one,' Faldo said. 'You've got to believe that everything about him is set up perfectly for Augusta. But he has this great ability now to adapt, as he did at Hoylake, where strategy golf came in.'
 
Augusta National has added nearly 500 yards since Woods won his first green jacket by a record 12 shots. And with improved technology, from drivers to shafts to golf balls, Woods no longer has exclusive rights to power.
 
The British Open has always been more about brains than brawn, the often overlooked strength of the world's No. 1 player.
 
After twice winning at St. Andrews by either hitting it over or around the bunkers, Woods arrived at Royal Liverpool last year to find the grass brown and crusty, the fairways running faster than some greens. After a few practice rounds, he decided his best option was to leave driver in the bag and navigate his way around the course with his irons.
 
It proved to be a brilliant strategy, and he went on to a two-stroke victory.
 
'The majority of golfers really don't relish playing a course like Carnoustie, Hoylake, Lytham & St. Annes,' Thomson said. 'They're not comfortable playing that kind of golf. Tiger is. I remember seeing him play at Lytham as an amateur, and he didn't look like he belonged there. It was a complete mystery to him. But it didn't take him long to get the hang of it.
 
'He's such a brain, and he has studied it very well. That's what the Open championship courses demand.'
 
Carnoustie is nothing like Hoylake.
 
Located north of St. Andrews beyond the Firth of Tay, it is considered the toughest links course in the world with its narrow fairways, the winding Barry Burn over the closing holes, pot bunkers that put a premium on strategy and wind that dictates everything.
 
Woods tied for seventh at Carnoustie in 1999. He finished at 294, which remains his highest 72-hole score as a professional.
 
There was a reason for that.
 
The fairways were as narrow as a country lane on some holes. The rough allowed for little more than gouging the ball back into play, and sometimes even that required luck. There were 102 rounds in the 80s, and two in the 90s. It was so unpredictable that Rod Pampling was in the lead after the first round, and on his way home after the second.
 
And the conclusion was like a carnival.
 
Jean Van de Velde had a three-shot lead going to the last hole, then took triple bogey with a series of questionable choices and terribly bad fortune. The three-man playoff was won by Paul Lawrie, whose 10-shot comeback on the final day was a major championship record.
 
Lawrie might be the only one with happy thoughts of Carnoustie.
 
'I've kind of suppressed those memories,' said Phil Mickelson, who shot 79-76 and missed the cut by one shot. He didn't miss another cut until last month in the U.S. Open at Oakmont.
 
The British tabloids referred to the links as 'Car-Nasty,' and those weren't shock headlines.
 
'I've never played a golf course as hard as that golf course was set up, and as unfair as it was set up,' Woods said. 'I remember No. 6, stepping off the fairway 9 yards wide in a layup area. That's not a real big layup area when you have to hit a 4-iron.'
 
Even so, it is a major championship in which Woods has thrived.
 
Just like Jack.
 
Nicklaus only won three claret jugs, the fewest of any of the four majors. But perhaps his most astounding record at the British Open was finishing runner-up a record seven times. Nicklaus was so adept on the links that during on 18-year stretch, from 1963 through 1980, he finished first or second 10 times and was never worse than 12th.
 
One shot here, one putt there, and no telling how many Opens he could have won.
 
That might be the direction Woods is going.
 
Along with his three victories, he was one shot out of a playoff at Royal Birkdale in 1998, two shots behind Ben Curtis at Royal St. George's in 2003. And while going for the calendar Grand Slam in 2002, he was two shots out of the lead going into the third round when he caught the worst of the wicked weather at Muirfield and shot 81.
 
He has posted four straight top-10s since then, his longest such streak in any major.
 
'I feel pretty comfortable with both,' Woods said when asked whether he was better off at the Masters or British Open. 'The British Open is the only tournament where it's hit or miss on tee times. If you play well at the Open, sometimes it may not be good enough, because you just may get the wrong side of the draw.
 
'I always enjoyed the British Open. I always have.'
 
No other American dominated the British Open like Tom Watson, a five-time winner and the only champion to win on five courses. Watson won his first major at Carnoustie in 1975, holding off Nicklaus and Johnny Miller, beating Jack Newton in a playoff.
 
'I felt on links courses, I had a pretty good understanding of how hard to hit it and a great ability to get the ball up-and-down,' Watson said. 'And there is the factor of how you negotiate these golf courses. That's what Tiger did last year so well at Royal Liverpool. He just refused to challenge the bunker,'
 
The next challenge is Carnoustie, where Woods will try to move one major closer to Nicklaus' record in the majors -- and Vardon's record in the British Open.
 
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    Putting prepared Park's path back to No. 1

    By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 12:13 am

    Inbee Park brings more than her unshakably tranquil demeanor back to the top of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week.

    She brings more than her Olympic gold medal and seven major championships to the Mediheal Championship on the outskirts of San Francisco.

    She brings a jarring combination of gentleness and ruthlessness back to the top of the rankings.

    Park may look as if she could play the role of Mother Teresa on some goodwill tour, but that isn’t what her opponents see when she’s wielding her Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet.

    She’s like Mother Teresa with Lizzy Borden’s axe.

    When Park gets on one of her rolls with the putter, she scares the hell out of the rest of the tour.

    At her best, Park is the most intimidating player in women’s golf today.

    “Inbee makes more 20- and 30-footers on a regular basis than anyone I know,” seven-time major championship winner Karrie Webb said.

    All those long putts Park can hole give her an aura more formidable than any power player in the women’s game.

    “A good putter is more intimidating than someone who knocks it out there 280 yards,” Webb said “Even if Inbee misses a green, you know she can hole a putt from anywhere. It puts more pressure on your putter knowing you’re playing with someone who is probably going to make them all.”

    Park, by the way, said Webb and Ai Miyazato were huge influences on her putting. She studied them when she was coming up on tour.

    Webb, though, believes there’s something internal separating Park. It isn’t just Park’s ability to hole putts that makes her so intimidating. It’s the way she carries herself on the greens.

    “She never gets ruffled,” Webb said. “She says she gets nervous, but you never see a change in her. If you’re going toe to toe with her, that’s what is intimidating. Even if you’re rolling in putts on top of her, it doesn’t seem to bother her. She’s definitely a player you have to try not to pay attention to when you’re paired with her, because you can get caught up in that.”


    Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship


    Park has led the LPGA in putts per greens in regulation five of the last 10 years.

    Brad Beecher has been on Park’s bag for more than a decade, back before she won her first major, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. He has witnessed the effect Park can have on players when she starts rolling in one long putt after another.

    “You have those times when she’ll hole a couple long putts early, and you just know, it’s going to be one of those days,” Beecher said. “Players look at me like, `Does she ever miss?’ or `How am I going to beat this?’ You see players in awe of it sometimes.”

    Park, 29, won in her second start of 2018, after taking seven months off with a back injury. In six starts this year, she has a victory, two ties for second-place and a tie for third. She ended Shanshan Feng’s 23-week run at No. 1 with a tie for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open last weekend.

    What ought to disturb fellow tour pros is that Park believes her ball striking has been carrying her this year. She’s still waiting for her putter to heat up. She is frustrated with her flat stick, even though she ranks second in putts per greens in regulation this season.

    “Inbee Park is one of the best putters ever,” said LPGA Hall of Famer Sandra Haynie, a 42-time LPGA winner. “She’s dangerous on the greens.”

    Haynie said she would rank Park with Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright and Nancy Lopez as the best putters she ever saw.

    Hall of Famer Joanne Carner says Park is the best putter she has seen since Lopez.

    “I thought Nancy was a great putter,” Carner said. “Inbee is even better.”

    Park uses a left-hand low grip, with a mostly shoulder move and quiet hands.

    Lopez used a conventional grip, interlocking, with her right index finger down the shaft. She had a more handsy stroke than Park.

    Like Lopez, Park prefers a mallet-style putter, and she doesn’t switch putters much. She is currently playing with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter. She won the gold medal with it two years ago. She used an Oddysey White Ice Sabertooth winged mallet when she won three majors in a row in 2013.

    Lopez hit the LPGA as a rookie in 1978 with a Ray Cook M1 mallet putter and used it for 20 years. It’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame today.

    “I watch Inbee, and I think, `Wow, that’s how I used to putt,’” Lopez said. “You can see she’s not mechanical at all. So many players today are mechanical. They forget if you just look at the hole and stroke it, you’re going to make more putts.”

    Notably, Park has never had a putting coach, not really. Her husband and swing coach, Gi Hyeob Nam, will look at her stroke when she asks for help.

    “When I’m putting, I’m concentrating on the read and mostly my speed,” Park said. “I don’t think mechanically about my stroke at all, unless I think there’s something wrong with it, and then I’ll have my husband take a look. But, really, I rely on my feel. I don’t think about my stroke when I’m out there playing.”

    Hall of Famer Judy Rankin says Park’s remarkably consistent speed is a key to her putting.

    “Inbee is definitely a feel putter, and her speed is so consistent, all the time,” Rankin said. “You have to assume she’s a great green reader.”

    Beecher says Park’s ability to read greens is a gift. She doesn’t rely on him for that. She reads greens herself.

    “I think what impresses me most is Inbee has a natural stroke,” Beecher said. “There’s nothing too technical. It’s more straight through and straight back, but I think the key element of the stroke is that she keeps the putter so close to the ground, all the time, on the takeaway and the follow-through. It helps with the roll and with consistency.”

    Park said that’s one of her fundamentals.

    “I keep it low, almost like I’m hitting the ground,” Park said. “When I don’t do that, I miss more putts.”

    Beecher believes the real reason Park putts so well is that the putter brought her into the game. It’s how she got started, with her father, Gun Gyu Park, putting the club in her hands as a child. She loved putting on her own.

    “That’s how she fell in love with the game,” Beecher said. “Getting started that way, it’s played a huge role in her career.”

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    Teams announced for NCAA DI women's regionals

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 10:50 pm

    Seventy-two teams and an additional 24 individuals were announced Wednesday as being selected to compete in the NCAA Division I women's regionals, May 7-9.

    Each of the four regional sites will consist of 18 teams and an extra six individual players, whose teams were not selected. The low six teams and low three individuals will advance to the NCAA Championship, May 18-23, hosted by Oklahoma State at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

    The four regional sites include Don Veller Seminole Golf Course & Club in Tallahassee, Fla., hosted by Florida State; UT Golf Club in Austin, Texas, hosted by the University of Texas; University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., hosted by the University of Wisconsin; TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif., hosted by Stanford University.

    Arkansas, Duke, UCLA and Alabama are the top seeds in their respective regionals. Arizona State, the third seed in the Madison regional, is the women's defending champion. Here's a look at the regional breakdown, along with teams and players:

    Austin Regional Madison Regional San Francisco Regional Tallahassee Regional
    Arkansas Duke UCLA Alabama
    Texas USC Stanford Furman
    Michigan State Arizona State South Carolina Arizona
    Florida Northwestern Kent State Washington
    Auburn Illinois Oklahoma State Wake Forest
    Oklahoma Purdue North Carolina Vanderbilt
    Houston Iowa State Colorado Florida State
    Miami (Fla.) Virginia Louisville Clemson
    Baylor Wisconsin N.C. State Georgia
    Texas A&M Campbell Mississippi Tennessee
    BYU Ohio State Cal UNLV
    East Carolina Notre Dame San Diego State Kennesaw State
    Texas Tech Old Dominion Pepperdine Denver
    Virginia Tech Oregon State Oregon Coastal Carolina
    UTSA Idaho Long Beach State Missouri
    Georgetown Murray State Grand Canyon Charleston
    Houston Baptist North Dakota State Princeton Richmond
    Missouri State IUPUI Farleigh Dickinson Albany
           
    Brigitte Dunne (SMU) Connie Jaffrey (Kansas State) Alivia Brown (Washington State) Hee Ying Loy (E. Tennessee State)
    Xiaolin Tian (Maryland) Pinyada Kuvanun (Toledo) Samantha Hutchinson (Cal-Davis) Claudia De Antonio (LSU)
    Greta Bruner (TCU) Pun Chanachai (New Mexico State) Ingrid Gutierrez (New Mexico) Fernanda Lira (Central Arkansas)
    Katrina Prendergast (Colorado State) Elsa Moberly (Eastern Kentucky) Abegail Arevalo (San Jose State) Emma Svensson (Central Arkansas)
    Ellen Secor (Colorado State) Erin Harper (Indiana) Darian Zachek (New Mexico) Valentina Giraldo (Jacksonville State)
    Faith Summers (SMU) Cara Basso (Penn State) Christine Danielsson (Cal-Davis) Kaeli Jones (UCF)
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    Leach on grizzlies, walk-up music and hating golf

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 10:47 pm

    He's one of college football's deepest thinkers, and he has no time to waste on a golf course.

    Washington State head football coach Mike Leach created headlines last week when he shared his view that golf is "boring" and should be reserved for those who, unlike him, need practice swearing. The author and coach joined host Will Gray on the latest episode of the Golf Channel podcast to expand on those views - and veer into some unexpected territory.

    Leach shared how his father and brother both got bitten by the golf bug as he grew up, but he steered clear in part because the sport boasts an overly thick rule book:

    "First of all, the other thing I don't like is it's pretentious. There's a lot of rules. Don't do it this way, don't do it that way. You walked between my ball and the hole. This guy has to go first, then you go after he does. I mean, all these rules, I just don't understand."

    Leach also shared his perspective about what fuels the vibrant fashion choices seen on many courses:

    "You can tell there's a subtle, internal rebellion going on with golf, and where that subtle, internal rebellion manifests itself is they really liven up the clothes. I mean, they're beaten down by all the little subtle rules, so they really liven up the clothes. Maybe have knickers, maybe they'll have a floppy hat or something like that."

    Leach on the advice he would sometimes offer when friends explained their rationale for hitting the links: 

    "They say, 'Well I don't go there to golf or go to take it seriously. When I go golf, I just like to have some beers.' And I'm thinking, 'You know there's bars for that? There's bars for that, and at those bars they have, often times, attractive women and music going on?'"

    Leach is heading into his seventh season at Washington State, and he also described a unique hazard that can sometimes pop up at the on-campus course in Pullman, Wash.:

    "In the spring the grizzlies come out, and the grizzly preserve is right across the street from the golf course. So they’ll be out, you’ll see them running around on the hills inside the preserve there. But there is this visual where, all of a sudden you drive up this hill on your golf cart, and you’re at the tee box and you’re getting ready to hit, and on the hill just opposite of you it’s covered with grizzly bears. And as you’re getting ready to hit your ball, it occurs to you that the grizzly bears are going to beat you to your ball."

    Other topics in the wide-ranging discussion included Leach's proposal for a 64-team playoff in NCAA Division I football, his chance encounter with Tiger Woods before a game between the Cougars and Woods' Stanford Cardinal, his preferred walk-up music and plans for "full contact golf."

    Listen to the entire podcast below:

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    Post-Masters blitz 'exhausting' but Reed ready for return

    By Ryan LavnerApril 25, 2018, 8:24 pm

    AVONDALE, La. – After briefly suffering from First-Time Major Winner Fatigue, Patrick Reed is eager to get back inside the ropes this week at the Zurich Classic.

    The media blitz is an eye-opening experience for every new major champ. Reed had been told to expect not to get any sleep for about a week after his win, and sure enough he jetted off to New York City for some sightseeing, photo shoots, baseball games, late-night talk shows, phone calls and basketball games, sitting courtside in the green jacket at Madison Square Garden next to comedian Chris Rock, personality Michael Strahan and rapper 2 Chainz. Then he returned home to Houston, where the members at Carlton Woods hosted a reception in his honor.

    With Reed’s head still spinning, his wife, Justine, spent the better part of the past two weeks responding to each of the 880 emails she received from fans and well-wishers.

    “It’s been a lot more exhausting than I thought it’d be,” he said Wednesday at TPC Louisiana, where he’ll make his first start since the Masters.

    It’s a good problem to have, of course.

    Reed was already planning a family vacation to the Bahamas the week after Augusta, so the media tour just took its place. As many directions as he was pulled, as little sleep as he got, Reed said, “We still had a blast with it.”


    Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


    There are few places better to ease into his new world than at the Zurich, where he’ll partner with Patrick Cantlay for the second year in a row.

    Reed wants to play well, not only for himself but also his teammate. After all, it could be an important week for Cantlay, who is on U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk’s radar after a victory last fall. That didn’t earn him any Ryder Cup points, however – he sits 38th in the standings – so performing well here in fourballs and foursomes could go a long way toward impressing the captain.

    “There’s maybe a little extra if we play well,” Cantlay said, “but I’m just trying to play well every week.” 

    Reed got back to work on his game last Tuesday. He said that he’s prepared, ready to play and looking forward to building off his breakthrough major.

    “A lot of guys have told me to just be careful with your time,” he said. “There will be a lot of things you didn’t have to do or didn’t have in the past that are going to come up.

    “But first things first, you’ve got to go out and grind and play some good golf and focus on golf, because the time you stay and not focus on golf will be the time you go backward. That’s nothing any of us want. We all want to improve and get better.”