For Tiger Its the Short Game Stupid
He drove the green on a 347-yard hole at Doral. He hit 6-iron from 218 yards out of a bunker and over the water in Canada. His most famous shot might be the chip-in at the Masters that made a hairpin turn at the top of the ridge on the 16th green.
But he was equally proud of the most boring shot in golf, a special gift for swing coach Hank Haney.
'He told me Saturday afternoon, 'Hank, you've never seen me putt good,'' Haney said Monday night from his home in Dallas. 'And I told him after he got done, 'I've seen you putt good now.''
The one club Woods singled out in his five-shot victory at Medinah was his putter.
He started his final round with a 10-foot birdie to seize the lead, then pulled away with a pair of 40-foot birdie putts, both of them tumbling into the cup with perfect speed.
'I just felt like if I got the ball anywhere on the green, I could make it,' Woods said. 'It's not too often you get days like that, and I happened to have it on the final round of a major championship.'
Oh, he's had that feeling before.
It lasted an entire summer in 2000, when Woods won three straight majors among his nine PGA Tour victories and shattered the tour record for lowest scoring average with a mark of 68.17.
That once-in-a-lifetime season has become conversation at water coolers again, especially after Woods won the PGA Championship. It was his third straight victory, two of them majors, by a combined score of 60 under par and margin of 10 strokes.
Is an encore around the corner?
Conventional wisdom holds that 2000 was a special year that will never be matched. And as well as Woods has played, three victories over five weeks is hardly enough to draw any conclusions.
But if he is to repeat his mastery, it starts with the flat stick.
'Truthfully, he hasn't putted well,' Haney said.
Woods hit the ball so well in 2000 that his favorite shot was a 3-wood that had 2 inches of draw on No. 14 at St. Andrews. What often gets forgotten is that he made just about every putt inside 10 feet.
Haney has been revamping Woods' swing the last two years, so it might seem self-serving for him to talk on the short game when everyone else is focusing 300 yards away, usually in the trees.
Then again, Haney gets criticized during hard times and ignored when Woods is winning majors.
Woods went through the 2004 season with only one PGA Tour victory, and Haney was the guy who messed up his swing. He has won 11 times the last two years, including four of the last eight majors, and now Woods is good enough to win with any swing.
Remember everyone saying that Woods couldn't win on courses that took the driver out of his hand?
Now they're saying he can only win on courses where he can leave the driver in his bag.
'Any time he doesn't have to hit driver, he'll hit it right down the middle,' Chris DiMarco said.
That was either a backhanded compliment or a bad perception, because Woods is capable of missing fairways with anything, as he showed in the third round at Medinah by hitting 3-wood that was headed for trouble until a fan swatted it back into play.
Haney attributes some of perception to equipment, especially as it relates to driving accuracy.
Woods used a 43 1/2 -inch driver with a small head and a steel shaft in 2000, and he could hit it about 290 yards in the air. Now his driver is nearly twice as large, with a 45-inch graphite shaft.
'You could make the argument that his driver is now just a specialty club,' Haney said. 'It's a club he uses when he can go ahead and bomb it, and there's no reason not to. Let's compare the club he hits 290 yards, which is how far he was hitting his driver in 2000. That's his 3-wood now.'
For all the talk about distance and accuracy, Haney believes the key lies elsewhere.
It's the short game, stupid.
And he isn't the only one in Woods' camp who feels that way.
'I told Tiger at the start of the week, if you don't make a double bogey and you don't three-putt, you'll win this tournament,' caddie Steve Williams said Sunday evening.
He had a three-putt bogey on No. 16 in the third round, and no double bogeys.
Woods had five three-putts at Pinehurst No. 2 when he finished two shots behind Michael Campbell in the U.S. Open last year, and Haney said he had five more three-putts at Baltusrol when he wound up two shots behind Phil Mickelson in the PGA Championship.
Haney is a nut with statistics, but two obscure stats he uses to state his case are eye-openers.
Woods is tied for first in proximity to the hole on the PGA Tour. But he ranks No. 171 in avoiding three-putts, averaging slightly less than three per tournament. Woods is No. 1 in greens hit in regulation, but 159th in average putts per round.
'If you look at his statistics, it's incredible what he's done this year,' Haney said.
Someone in New Zealand asked Williams earlier this year if he ever thought Woods could repeat a season like 2000, and the answer was somewhere between doubtful and questionable.
'But with what Hank has taught Tiger, and the way Tiger has taken it in, I don't think we've seen the best of this guy,' Williams said. 'The best is yet to come, and we're starting to see signs of it. I think Tiger can improve, and you'll see some great results.'
Even with broken driver, Salinda beats Hagestad at U.S. Am
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – With a trip to the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals on the line, and with the Pacific Ocean staring him in the face, Isaiah Salinda piped a 330-yard drive down Pebble Beach’s 18th hole.
Not a bad poke with a replacement driver.
Salinda’s Round of 16 match against Stewart Hagestad got off to a rocky start Thursday afternoon with an awkward tee shot on the second hole.
“The ball came out weird, with no spin,” said Salinda’s caddie and former Stanford teammate, Bradley Knox. “He said, ‘Yeah, that felt weird.’”
Salinda looked at the bottom of his Callaway Epic driver and noticed a crack.
Worried that they'd have to play the rest of the round with only a 3-wood, Knox called a Callaway equipment rep, told him the issue, and was relieved to hear he'd meet them at the back of the third tee. Salinda teed off the next hole with a 3-wood – he’d taken driver there all week – and wound up in a tricky spot, on the side of a mound, leading to a bogey.
“Then they came over and cranked the driver,” Knox said. “It was like a NASCAR pit crew.”
The replacement driver was nearly identical – same head, same loft, same weighting – except for the lie angle. The new one was a degree flatter than his gamer, which led to a few more pulled shots than usual.
“It took a little while to recover the mindset that we’d had the rest of the week,” Knox said.
Salinda downplayed the equipment malfunction – “I just had to adjust, and it wasn’t really a problem” – but he didn’t play well early. After trailing for just one hole during his first two matches, he was 4 over par and 2 down through 10 holes against Hagestad, the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who’d finally made match play after eight previous failed attempts.
On 11, Salinda finally got going, stuffing a wedge shot to 10 feet and recording his first birdie. He followed with three clutch pars before another good approach on 15, leading to a conceded birdie to square the match.
On the home hole, Salinda bombed his drive about 30 yards past Hagestad and had 220 yards to the flag. It was a perfect 4-iron distance, and he sent a rocket into a blinding sunset.
“I never saw it,” Salinda said. “I told my caddie: ‘Where is that? I have no idea.’ But it felt good.”
A lone voice shrieked as the ball landed on the green. They knew the shot had to be tight. Years ago, Stanford senior Chris Meyers had made an albatross on 18 for a walkoff victory with Lee Janzen at the PGA Tour Champions’ First Tee Open. Knox thought they’d come close to duplicating the feat.
“Probably almost had a Chris Meyers,” Knox said, chuckling, as they walked up the fairway.
The shot never had a chance to drop – turns out the spectator was well-lubricated – but it still was only 35 feet away, for eagle. Salinda cozied his putt to a few feet and could only watch as Hagestad’s last-ditch 25-footer stopped a rotation short of the cup.
The Round of 16 victory continued a breakout summer for Salinda. His 15th-place showing at the NCAA Championship kick-started a three-month stretch in which he’s finally taken his game to the next level.
“He’s shown flashes of brilliance before,” Knox said, “and he’s had the game. But now he has the consistency and the confidence that it’ll come back time and time again.”
Salinda shot 62 in the third round and won the Pacific Coast Amateur, which boasts one of the strongest fields of the summer. Then he finished third in stroke play at the Western Amateur before a quarterfinal loss in match play.
Now he’s one step closer to his biggest victory yet – even with a backup driver.
Salas (62) leads LPGA's Indy Women in Tech
INDIANAPOLIS - Lizette Salas' waited 77 minutes to line up her 4-foot putt to take the lead Thursday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.
She refused to let the weather delay get to her.
When the 29-year-old California player returned to the course, she quickly rolled in the birdie putt, finished her round with another birdie at No. 18 and took a two-shot lead over Angel Yin and Nasa Hataoka with a course record-tying 10-under 62.
''I didn't even think about it the entire time,'' Salas said. ''I was hanging out with Danielle (Kang) and she was giving me her silly dad jokes. So it definitely kept my mind off of it. I was really excited to be back and to finish off with a birdie, from off the green, was the icing on the cake.''
It's the lowest score by a female player at the Brickyard Crossing.
Defending champion Lexi Thompson opened last year's inaugural tournament with a 63, one shot off of Mike McCullough's 62 in the PGA Champions Tour's 1999 Comfort Classic.
But the way the saturated 6,456-yard course played Thursday, Salas needed virtually every putt of her career-best round to reach the top of the leaderboard.
The morning starters took advantage of overnight rain by shooting right at the pins.
And nobody made a bigger early splash than Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who finished second in last year's rookie of the year race.
She opened with five straight birdies and shot 8-under 28 on the front nine. Only a par on No. 6 prevented her from becoming the sixth LPGA player to shoot 27 on nine holes. South Korea's Mi Hyang Lee did it most recently at the 2016 JTBC Founders Cup.
Yin also tied the third-lowest nine-hole score in relation to par in tour history.
Her only bobble came with a bogey on No. 13 and she closed out her best career round with a birdie on No. 18.
''I have never done that before,'' she said. ''I had nine putts, I think, on the front nine, which is incredible. I've never had that many little putts. But it just felt good. Everything was working.''
Last year's runner-up for rookie of the year has never won an LPGA Tour title in her home country though she did win in a playoff at Dubai on the Ladies European Tour.
Everybody seemed to find their groove Thursday.
Eighty-eight of the 143 players shot under par and 54 were 3-under or better.
And with more rain in the forecast Thursday night and Friday, the scores could go even lower as a star-studded cast chases down Salas, Yin and Hataoka.
Four players, including Kang and Jane Park, are three shots behind.
Seven players, including last year's tournament runner-up Lydia Ko, are four shots back. Ko was tied with Yin for the lead - until she knocked her tee shot on the par-4, 16th into the water. She wound up with a double bogey and birdied the final hole to finish with 66.
After taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion, Thompson looked relaxed and comfortable in her return to the course. She shot 68.
''It was hard for me to take the break because I didn't want to show weakness,'' she said. ''But at the same time, it takes a lot of strength to acknowledge that you need that kind of break and just take time for yourself, especially when you're in the spotlight like this.''
Salas, meanwhile, started fast with an eagle on the par-5 second and finished with a flurry.
She birdied three straight holes on the front side to get to 5-under, added birdies at Nos. 12 and 14 to get to 7-under and then birdied the final three holes - around the approaching storm - to put herself in contention for her first title since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.
''I have been just striking the ball really well this entire year, and just glad some more putts dropped today,'' she said. ''I was really refreshed. I didn't practice at all last week, and I was just really eager and excited to be back.''
Sordet opens with 62 to grab lead at Nordea Masters
GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Clement Sordet opened with four straight birdies to shoot 8-under 62 and take the first-round lead of the Nordea Masters on Thursday.
Sordet says ''I wasn't really focusing on the score, I was just enjoying it.''
The Frenchman, who shot his lowest European Tour round, has a two-stroke lead over Scott Jamieson of Scotland and Lee Slattery of England.
Hunter Stewart is the highest-placed American after a 5-under 65 left him on a four-way tie for fourth with Christofer Blomstrand, Tapio Pulkkanen and Richard Green.
Defending champion Renato Paratore's hopes of becoming the first player to successfully retain the title look in doubt after the Italian shot 9-over 79 at Hills Golf Club.
Peterson confirms plans to play Web.com Finals
After flirting with retirement for much of the summer, John Peterson confirmed that he will give it one more shot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals.
Peterson, 29, had planned to walk away from the game and begin a career in real estate in his native Texas if he failed to secure PGA Tour status before his medical extension expired. His T-13 finish last month at The Greenbrier appeared to be enough to net the former NCAA champ at least conditional status, but a closer look at the numbers revealed he missed out by 0.58 points in his last available start.
But Peterson was buoyed by the support he received from his peers at The Greenbrier, and when he got into the Barbasol Championship as a late alternate he decided to make the trip to the tournament. He tied for 21st that week in Kentucky, clinching enough non-member FedExCup points to grant him a spot in the four-event Finals.
Last month Peterson hinted that he would consider playing in the Finals, where 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season will be up for grabs, and Thursday he confirmed in an Instagram post that he will give his pro career "one last push."
The Finals kick off next week in Ohio with the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship and will conclude Sept. 20-23 with the Web.com Tour Championship. Peterson will be looking to rekindle his results from 2013, when he finished T-5 or better at each of the four Finals events while earning fully-exempt status as the top money earner.