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.'
Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship
Tiger Woods is in the final group on Saturday at the Tour Championship. He's out at 2:30 p.m. ET with Justin Rose and we're tracking him.
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Iowa State honors Arozamena before football game
AMES, Iowa - Iowa State honored slain golf star Celia Barquin Arozamena with an elaborate ceremony ahead of the Cyclones' game against Akron on Saturday.
Iowa State's band used a formation that spelled out Barquin's initials, and both teams wore a decal on their helmets in her memory.
A tribute to Barquin played on a video screen before a moment of silence, and fans were also asked to wear yellow, one of Iowa State's main colors and a nod to Barquin's Spanish roots. Most of the roughly 60,000 fans in attendance complied with yellow and with golf shirts on a chilly morning in central Iowa.
"I think it's fantastic. The tribute is amazing. But ultimately, it would have been perfect if she could have been here for her tribute, which was going to happen anyway." said Ed Hamilton, a retired police officer from nearby Ankeny, Iowa.
Barquin, the Cyclones' first conference champion in 25 years, was finishing up her degree at Iowa State and working toward her ultimate goal of becoming a professional golfer.
A memorial honoring Celia Barquin Arozamena at Jack Trice Stadium. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
Barquin competed in the U.S Women's Open earlier this summer, and coach Christie Martens said she was approaching "the pinnacle of her career."
"Iowa State fans are very loyal. We haven't had too many winning football teams over the years. Yet the fans turn out. There's a great loyalty here -- but it spills into other sports as well," said Iowa State fan Kent Hollrah of Denison, Iowa.
Collin Richards, also 22, has been charged with first-degree murder in Barquin's death. Police said Richards stabbed Barquin and left her body in a pond on the course, where it was found after other golfers noticed her abandoned bag.
Cyclones coach Matt Campbell also wore an Iowa State golf hat on the sideline to show solidarity with his colleagues.
"Be with all of us today Celia, your legacy will forever live on & we are forever grateful for your impact. Much love from your Cyclonitas," Iowa State linebacker Willie Harvey tweeted earlier Saturday, using the nickname that Barquin had for her teammates.
Tiger, Bryson testing each other's golf balls ahead of Paris
ATLANTA – The U.S. Ryder Cup team won’t arrive in Paris for next week’s matches until Monday, but one pairing already seems to be penciled into captain Jim Furyk’s lineup.
Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau have become regular practice-round partners, and when Furyk made both captain’s picks, it added to the notion that they would be paired during the team sessions in France. On Tuesday at East Lake, Woods and DeChambeau teed it up yet again.
Both Woods and DeChambeau play Bridgestone golf balls, although they use different models.
“The two are very similar, they are very numbers-oriented and that translates to their feel on the course, but they get fitted to two different golf balls,” said Adam Rehberg, Bridgestone Golf’s ball-fitting manager.
Woods plays the company’s Tour B XS, which is softer and spins more, while DeChambeau plays the Tour B X, which is designed to take spin off shots.
Although DeChambeau played a version of the company’s golf ball that was close to what Woods now plays earlier in his career, he appeared to be preparing for a pairing next week during Tuesday’s practice round.
“I’ve seen some chipping of the other’s ball during practice rounds, getting used to it,” Rehberg said. “There’s been some sharing of golf balls internally between those guys. It’s almost like the worst kept secret in golf. It seems they are going to be paired up one way or another.”
The rules for the Ryder Cup were changed in 2006. They allow for foursomes teams to change golf balls between holes but not during a hole, which explains the duo’s interest in becoming comfortable with the other’s golf ball, particularly around the green and for chip shots.
Casey: RC teams planning Lyle, Celia tributes
ATLANTA – Throughout this season Paul Casey has been in regular contact with European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn, with most communication being via text messages that the Englishman said always included an eclectic range of emojis.
But when the Dane decided to make Casey one of his four captain’s picks, it had to be a phone call.
“He called on Monday (Sept. 3). I was in the parking garage at the Philadelphia Marriott,” Casey said this week at the Tour Championship. “It was rewarding, emotional, so many things.”
Since being named to the team, Casey said his communication with Bjorn and the other members of the European team has been via WhatsApp, which allows the team to share ideas and finalize plans for next week’s matches. Casey said the exchanges have mainly featured good-natured teasing and a some silly pictures, with a few serious moments.
The European team, in coordination with the U.S. team, is planning to honor Jarrod Lyle, a former PGA Tour player who died last month following his third bout with leukemia, next Thursday in France. There is a public memorial service planned for Lyle on Thursday in Australia.
Casey also said the team is coordinating a plan to also honor Celia Barquín Arozamena, a top college player from Spain who was murdered this week in Iowa.