Tiger Left To Ponder What Might Have Been

By Associated PressJuly 18, 2005, 4:00 pm
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- If only Tiger Woods could have a do-over on those two shots at Pinehurst.
Then think what might have been.
Woods coasted to a five-stroke victory Sunday and his second major championship of 2005, winning the British Open at the home of golf after taking the Masters in April.
If he hadn't flubbed a chip and missed a short putt at the U.S. Open last month, Woods could be going for the Grand Slam at the PGA Championship next month.
``That's just the way it goes,'' Woods said, thinking back to his runner-up finish to Michael Campbell at Pinehurst. ``I just didn't have a very good putting week. It happened at the wrong time.''
Woods' timing was right on at the Old Course.
He took control with a 66-67 start, scrambled Saturday when a couple of shots wound up in the bushes, then finished it off with a 2-under 70 -- the only player in the final seven groups to break par on a day when the ocean breezes picked up and the flagsticks were flapping in some devilish locations.

``It was Tiger's week,'' said Campbell, who held on for a two-stroke win in the U.S. Open but finished seven shots back at this Open.
Make no mistake -- Woods is back, looking just as dominating as he did at the start of the millennium.
``It's amazing,'' said Scotsman Colin Montgomerie, the popular runner-up at St. Andrews. ``Can he achieve the impossible? He's on his way.''
Two days after Jack Nicklaus bade a teary farewell to the majors, stopping to pose atop the Swilcan Bridge on his way up the 18th hole, Woods passed over the hallowed stone arch with purpose in his step.
While the Grand Slam is out reach -- for now -- he did wrap up the ``Nicklaus Slam,'' going 4-for-4 when the Golden Bear played in golf's biggest events for the last time.
Woods became just the third player to win 10 major professional titles, passing the halfway mark on the way to Nicklaus' record of 18. The only guy in between, Walter Hagen at 11.
Just as they did on Friday for Nicklaus, thousands of fans squeezed onto balconies and pressed their faces against windows to capture a historic moment. This one remains a work in progress.
Nicklaus watched the final round from his home in North Palm Beach, Fla.
``He never looked like there was a chance for him to lose,'' he said. ``It was a pretty awesome performance.''
Woods and Nicklaus are the only players to win the career Grand Slam two times over, and the only Americans to win the British Open twice at storied St. Andrews.
``There's a lot of things that make him special,'' said Woods' swing coach, Hank Haney. ``Like all great champions, he can raise his game when he needs to.''
Woods turned to Haney to help overhaul his swing for the second time, looking to dominate the way he did on the way to winning seven times in 11 majors starting with the 1999 PGA Championship.
``I've been criticized for the last couple of years. 'Why would I change my game?' This is why,'' Woods said. ``First, second and first in the last three majors. That's why.''
Woods had a star-studded group behind him on Sunday -- major winners, highly ranked players, seasoned vets who knew their way around this revered patch of Scottish seaside.
None made a serious charge. None seem capable of beating Woods when he's at his best.
``I don't think it's impossible,'' said Jose Maria Olazabal, who played in the final group with Woods and wound up six strokes behind. ``But it's close to impossible.''
Woods will go to Baltusrol as an overwhelming favorite to pull even with Hagen and win three majors in a year for the second time -- not bad for a guy who's still five months away from his 30th birthday.
Woods already claimed the ``Tiger Slam,'' becoming the only golfer to hold all four major titles at the same time. But it wasn't a Slam in the purest sense, since he won the last three titles of 2000 and didn't win the Masters until the following year.
But this guy tends to get whatever he wants, whether it's the Nicklaus record that everyone thought was untouchable or the modern Grand Slam, which has never been done.
``Jack's got 18, now I have 10,'' Woods said. ``When I first started playing, I didn't think I'd have this many majors before the age of 30. There's no way. No one ever has.''
That's why he turned to Haney to work on a swing that already seemed flawless. It was a grueling, frustrating process that led to Woods going 10 majors without a win, equaling the worst drought of his pro career.
It paid off in the end -- and everyone else finds themselves playing for second.
``It's no disgrace finishing second to Tiger Woods,'' said Montgomerie, cheered on all day by flag-waving Scottish fans but unable to mount a charge on Woods.
The winner never trailed over the final 63 holes, turning in the first wire-to-wire victory at the Open in 32 years. The ``Big Five'' everyone talked about at the start of the year is down to one.
Montgomerie didn't seem too upset about the outcome. At least his career is back on track after he seriously contended in a major for the first time since the 1997 U.S. Open.
``My career has been longer than most,'' Montgomerie said. ``It's nice that it's having a little bit of a resurgence now after three years really in the wilderness.''
Woods never drifted that far off course, but the decision to tinker with his swing did make him vulnerable in the majors.
``He just wanted to get a plan,'' Haney said. ``He never asked low long it was going to take, or when are we going to get there.''
Is Woods there yet?
``I don't think there is a 'there,' `` Haney said. ``That's the great thing about him.''
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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.”