Tiger Hoping 30s are Prime Time

By Associated PressDecember 7, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Target World ChallengeThe moment was a reminder that Tiger Woods isn't getting any younger.
He was walking toward his bag on the practice range at Sherwood Country Club and noticed a small crowd gathered around his mother, who was standing in her socks, hitting balls with his 5-wood.
'Mom, I haven't seen you hit a ball in 10 years,' he told her.
Then, Kultida Woods sat in a chair behind her son and watched him work, just as she did when he was a boy.
His swing is nothing like it was when Woods turned pro in August 1996, certainly not the stinger shot with his driver that he began working on a month ago. The goatee is now a permanent fixture. The skinny kid from Stanford is now chiseled. He is a married man, who wants children sooner rather than later.
Woods turns 30 at the end of the month, making the Target World Challenge the final tournament in his 20s.
'Pretty impressive decade,' David Toms said, shaking his head.
Woods won 46 times on the PGA Tour in his 20s; only six men have won more in their careers. His 10 majors trail only Jack Nicklaus (18) and Walter Hagen (11).
And considering most golfers blossom in their 30s, Woods might just be getting started.
'If you look at most of the guys' careers, it looks like their peak years are in their 30s,' Woods said. 'Hopefully, that will be the case for me. Hopefully, my 30s will be better than my 20s. Obviously, there is a lot deeper competition, a lot more work I need to do, work to accomplish those goals.
'But winning major championships is what I want to do for the rest of my career.'
The focus has always been on Nicklaus' record for most majors. Woods reached the halfway point by capturing the Masters in a playoff, and he reached double digits with a wire-to-wire victory at the British Open, where Nicklaus played a major for the final time.
If Nicklaus indeed is his gauge, Woods is on pace.
Nicklaus won 30 times in his 20s, although he didn't turn pro until he was 22. Seven of those were majors, including three green jackets (Woods now has four).
What does the next decade hold?
'If he keeps his desire the way it is, there are no limits for how good he can be,' Thomas Bjorn said Wednesday. 'He was dominant from the day he came out. We were well aware we had someone special on our hands.'
Arnold Palmer won 44 times and six majors in his 30s, the most PGA Tour victories by anyone at that age. Nicklaus won 38 times and eight majors in his 30s, and if Woods matches him, that would put him at 84 victories (breaking Sam Snead's record of 82 career wins) and 18 majors (tying Nicklaus).
And to think that his biggest goal when he turned pro was to avoid Q-school.
Woods still considers his rookie year -- or two months, in his case -- to be among his greatest achievements. He was trying to earn enough money to secure his card for the '97 season, and wound up qualifying for the Tour Championship with two victories in seven starts.
'I was praying not to go to Q-school,' he said. 'I had my application sent in, and because I had no status, I had to go to first stage. I was hoping that wouldn't happen, because anything can happen.'
Then came the '97 Masters, which he won with a record score (18-under 270) by a record margin (12 shots). Back then, winning a major came with a 10-year exemption on tour, and Woods figured he was set.
On Tuesday, Woods won the PGA Tour player of the year award for the seventh time, and this was the fifth time in nine full seasons that he has won player of the year, the money title and Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average.
'He's one of those special guys that doesn't come along very often,' Toms said. 'Watching his game, how he goes about his business, it's still very impressive. You can tell he's been able to do what he's done because he's different. He's more driven and more focused than any person I've ever been around in professional golf.'
It was only a year ago at this tournament that he no longer was No. 1 in the world, replaced by Vijay Singh, and players were whispering that his swing changes with Hank Haney were holding him back.
Woods was overly sensitive to the criticism last year, but now says he understands. He overhauled his swing with Butch Harmon after his record win at the Masters, and came back with one of the greatest stretches in golf, including four straight majors.
This change was partly about health.
'That's the reason why I made the changes, to relieve some stress on my body parts that were taking a pounding,' said Woods, who had surgery on his left knee at the end of 2002. 'The end result is I've relieved some stress there, which has been great. I've been more healthy and feeling better.'
U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell played with Woods in China and at the Grand Slam, and noticed a swing that looks less forced, more natural. Woods, who was starting to grasp Haney's changes about this time last year, said he is 10 times better and no longer needs to call Haney whenever something goes wrong.
Health likely will play a big role in his 30s. For, as much as Woods works out, he complained of a rib injury at the Presidents Cup and an ankle injury when he was in Asia.
Most players believe the bigger question is desire.
'I'll quit playing when I can't play any more, when my best isn't good enough,' Woods said. 'I've been to the top, where if I play my best, I know I can win. If my best isn't good enough, why am I out here? I'll go home.'
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    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

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    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”