Tiger Defends Dubious Record of Late

By Associated PressJuly 1, 2004, 4:00 pm
Cialis Western OpenLEMONT, Ill. -- Tiger Woods had barely settled into his chair when the barrage began. He wasn't a factor in either of the year's first two majors. Hadn't won that much on the regular tour, either. And his swing continues to be in a state of flux.
Sound familiar? Woods heard the same questions when he arrived at last year's Western Open - then went out and promptly shattered a bunch of records on his way to a wire-to-wire win.
'Certainly I'm not playing as well as I know I can,' Woods said Wednesday after his pro-am round at the Western Open. 'I feel like the game is very close to coming together. I know I keep saying that, but I feel in my heart of hearts that it is. I'm close to putting it together.'
What better place to do it than the Western, one of his favorite tournaments? Woods played the Western's amateur tournament when he was growing up, and he's played this tournament every year but one since he turned pro, winning three times. He withdrew in 2002 with the flu.
His first victory in 1997 remains one for the ages, with fans breaking through the ropes to follow him, Pied Piper-like, up the 18th fairway. Last year, he gave a resounding answer to all the critics of his game - at least for one week.
After opening with a 9-under 63 that tied the course and tournament records, he went on to win by five strokes. His 21-under 267 matched the Western Open record, and he was the tournament's first start-to-finish winner since 1993.
And he's clearly excited to be back on familiar ground. A grin spread across his face as he talked about his past trips to Cog Hill Golf Club, and he seems very much at home here. He was relaxed as he talked about what's wrong with his game, not showing any of the defensiveness he had at the U.S. Open earlier in the month.
'Any time you come to a golf course where you've had success, you usually feel pretty good,' Woods said. 'If you're playing great or poorly, you still feel like you can play well around a golf course that you played well on in the past, and that's been the case when I've played at Bay Hill or Memorial.
'I may go in the tournament hitting it great, may go in there hitting it terrible. But for some reason I've turned it around and really played well, just because I like the golf course and a lot of the holes just fit my eye. This golf course is very similar to that.'
While part of that is just personal comfort, familiarity can also give a big practical advantage. Aside from owner Frank Jemsek, there probably aren't too many people who know the Cog Hill course better than Woods. He knows what clubs to hit when. Where he needs to put shots on every hole. What holes will get tough if there's rain or wind or high temperatures.
Instead of calculating yardage and deciding what clubs to use, Woods could spend his pro-am round Wednesday tinkering with a new driver.
'I just feel comfortable on it because I've had success on it in the past,' he said. 'The only thing I need to know is where is my landing area now as opposed to where it was before.'
Two holes on the course were changed for this year's tournament. The fifth hole was shortened 45 yards and will play as a par 4 at 480 yards, making the Dubsdread Course a par 71 for the first time. No. 5 had been an eagle hole for many players in the last few years.
A more significant change was to the par-5 ninth, where the tee box was backed up 38 yards to make the hole play at 600 yards.
'That was a really tough hole to begin with. It's going to be extremely difficult now,' said Jerry Kelly, the 2002 winner. 'It's going to play over par if we play into the wind, I guarantee you.'
The changes don't seem to bother Woods. Then again, he's got enough on his plate with his ever-evolving game.
Woods is an 0-for-8 slump at the majors, not winning one since the 2002 U.S. Open. He's also struggled away from the majors. He's won once in 11 starts this year, the Match Play Championship, and has only two victories since winning the Western last year.
Those numbers might not be so glaring for anyone else, but Woods set an unbelievable standard with his run in 1999 and 2000. He won 17 of the 41 tournaments he entered, and finished in the top five in eight others. He won four majors, and when he won the 2001 Masters, he held all four major titles at the same time - a Tiger Slam.
Some have questioned whether he's lost focus since getting engaged to Elin Nordegren, but Woods scoffed at that notion.
'I was living with Elin when I won my two majors in 2002. We had already made a commitment to each other back then,' Woods said. 'Our relationship hasn't changed, so it's not her fault. It's not my family's fault, not my friends' fault. It's nobody's fault but my own for not putting the ball in the hole fast enough.
'Everybody goes through highs and lows in their career. Everyone,' he added. 'You don't want to do that, trust me. But it happens.'
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    Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

    By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

    Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

    She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

    Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

    After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

    “The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

    Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

    It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

    “I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

    Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    “The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

    Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

    It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

    “I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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    Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

    CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

    The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

    ''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

    She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

    ''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

    Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

    ''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

    Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

    Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

    Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

    ''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

    She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

    ''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

    Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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    DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

    AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

    Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

    “He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

    The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

    It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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    Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

    BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

    Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

    ''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

    He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

    Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

    ''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

    Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

    ''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

    Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

    ''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

    Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

    Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

    Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.