Tiger Enjoys Meet and Greet with Oakmont

By Associated PressApril 23, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- Tiger Woods finally visited the famous 'Church Pew' bunkers at Oakmont, but only to pose for a picture.
 
Birdies were rare, but the greens were still bumpy from being covered in snow only a week ago. And with a 15 mph gust in his face as he stood on the 288-yard eighth hole, he was resigned to breaking his self-imposed rule never to hit driver on a par 3. Stubborn as always, he stuck with a 3-wood that he hit as hard as he could, satisfied when it stopped 25 feet from the hole.
 
Woods spent the last two days at Oakmont, the premiere championship golf course in America that had been somewhat of a mystery to him. He didn't qualify for his first U.S. Open until the year after Ernie Els won at Oakmont in 1994, so this had been a course Woods only knew from newspaper clippings and television highlights.
 
'I like it,' he said. 'I can't recall many golf courses where you don't see the fairway and green on the same hole. Maybe at St. Andrews, but that's about it.'
 
Monday also turned into quite a mystery for the 82 people who didn't know they would get to tag along.
 
They were American Express card members who paid $900 for an event called '2007 U.S. Open Preview Day,' not realizing that it would include more than a round of golf and free lunch until Woods entered the room from a back door to stunned silence, followed by high-fives and then a standing ovation.
 
They were told they would get a seminar on how to prepare for a U.S. Open.
 
They had no idea their instructor would be the world's No. 1 player, with ABC Sports anchor Mike Tirico as the emcee.
 
'I hope you guys didn't get slaughtered out there,' Woods told them before inviting them along for his third and final practice round.
 
For guys like Victor Novak, it got even better.
 
Novak missed out on the lottery to buy tickets for the U.S. Open, to be played June 14-17 for a record eighth time at Oakmont. So when American Express offered its Platinum and Century members a chance to spend a day at Oakmont, he signed up quickly.
 
He shot 93 in the morning. And he caddied for Woods for one hole in the afternoon.
 
'This is like dying and going to heaven,' Novak said. 'I'd like you guys to send the tape of this if you could. Because my wife won't believe me. My friends won't believe me. Nobody will believe this.'
 
Jerry Cohen figured a great day would turn miserable when the airline lost his clubs, but Oakmont arranged for a set of rentals and he took a beating on one of the toughest courses in America, as almost everyone does at Oakmont.
 
Turns out he wasn't done playing.
 
Woods hit a stinger 3-iron on the 428-yard third hole with a slight breeze at his back, making sure he stayed out of the 'Church Pew' bunkers that separate the third and fourth fairways, long strips of grass in the sand that look like benches.
 
'Can you hit one from the Church Pews?' someone said to him.
 
'No,' Woods replied with a grin.
 
'Will you teach us how?' the man said.
 
'How to play out of it? You hit it right here,' Woods said, pointing to the short grass in the fairway. 'I go crazy when I watch guys in practice round play shots from a drop area. Why bring negativity into your thoughts? I only practice from where I expect to play.'
 
He finally relented, going into the bunker and saying, 'OK, I'm here,' smiling for pictures. Before leaving, though, he asked Cohen to take a shot out of the sand, and it was the most nerve-racking shot he hit all day.
 
'Unbelievable,' Cohen said. 'I had no idea I would get this kind of experiences. Our caddies told us that Tiger was out here playing yesterday, and there was a rumor he might come back and play in the afternoon. I thought I might try to sneak a peek from out on the veranda. But this is like living a dream.'
 
American Express in November became the first corporate partner in the USGA's 112-year history. The organization later signed a corporate deal with Lexus.
 
Woods invited unlimited questions as he walked the fairways and greens, at one point asking the security detail to drop the hand-held ropes so the customers could get closer. He told them the yardages he had left to the green, and why the yardage to the front of the green was most important at a U.S. Open with its typically firm surfaces.
 
Oakmont will play as long as 7,257 yards as a par 71, but it has at least two par 4s in which some players will try to drive the green. One of them is the 341-yard second hole, although Woods didn't bother. He took 4-iron.
 
'Remember the 4-iron I snapped at the Masters? I had it fixed,' he said.
 
Woods tried to punch out from behind a tree on the 11th hole Sunday at Augusta National, slamming the club into the trunk of the pine immediately after hitting the ball, the shaft breaking in half.
 
Why not go for the green?
 
'I could probably, maybe ... but what's the point?' he said. 'You try to make birdie when you can at the U.S. Open. But the whole idea is to try to avoid making bogey.'
 
He was asked later if any of the players at the U.S. Open might try to drive the green.
 
'I hope so,' Woods said, showing a little more insight into how he plans to play the course.
 
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    Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

    By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

    Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.


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    Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

    Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

    But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

    Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

    “It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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    After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

    In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

    No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

    Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

    “I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

    Let it go.

    Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

    “I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

    It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

    During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

    Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

    “It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

    McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

    It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

    “I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

    The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

    Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

    The only thing left to do?

    Let it go.

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    Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 1:23 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.

    Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.

    Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    There is, however, one running wager.

    “Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”

    Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.

    Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.

    “I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.