Tiger Returns in a Different Frame of Mind

By Associated PressMay 4, 2005, 4:00 pm
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tiger Woods stood on the 16th tee Wednesday, where flaws in his swing were exposed last year during the Wachovia Championship, and ripped a driver that showed how much his game has turned around.
For starters, it was relatively straight and landed in the fairway.
I dont know how far I hit it, Woods said after his pro-am round at Quail Hollow. I dont know long the hole is, but I had 118 yards to the hole.
Told the par 4 measured 486 yards, Woods didnt bother doing the math.
There you go, he said. I hit it good.
Life is better than good these days. Some might say its just grand.
Fresh from a three-week break after his dramatic playoff victory in the Masters, Woods returns to the PGA Tour at the Wachovia Championship and already is facing questions about the Grand Slam.
Rumors were swirling at Quail Hollow that Woods was a late arrival because he stopped over at Pinehurst No. 2, about two hours away, where the U.S. Open will be played next month.
Not true.
The last time I was there it was raining and I missed a putt on the 18th, Woods said, referring to his tie for third in the 1999 U.S. Open, two shots behind Payne Stewart.
He was asked Wednesday if he was thinking about the Grand Slam.
Im in the Grand Slam, yes, Woods said, referring to the Hawaii exhibition for all the major winners. No, Im not thinking about that. You cant think about that unless youve won the first three and get to the last one. Youve got to take it one step at a time.
Still, it beats the conversation from a year ago.
Woods was coming off his worst finish ever in the Masters'a tie for 22nd'and then blew a 36-hole lead at the Wachovia Championship for the first time in five years. The most glaring example of his game was on the 16th hole in the third round, when his driving was so erratic that he aimed 30 yards left and played a big fade just to keep it in play.
Scrutiny of his swing now has given way to speculation whether he can dominate the tour again.
His fourth Masters victory wasnt a masterpiece.
He had a two-shot lead with two holes to play when he made back-to-back bogeys to fall into a playoff with Chris DiMarco. But as Woods reflected during his three weeks away from the tour, he found validation from the two shots he hit in the playoff'a 3-wood off the tee, an 8-iron to 15 feet for birdie.
If I would have lost the tournament, I probably would have gotten ridiculed pretty good, Woods said. And rightfully so. A two-shot lead and two holes to go, and the other guy makes two pars and hes in a playoff? Thats not very good. But the thing that made me so proud was the way I played in the playoff.
To come back and hit my two best golf shots ... under the most extreme pressure, thats when you know youre working on the right things.
Woods took longer to recover from this Masters victory than the other three.
He celebrated at his house in Augusta with his ailing father, flew home to Florida at night and couldnt sleep, still wired about ending his 0-for-10 drought in the majors and surviving a battle he never expected.
Even after I went on my vacation, spear fishing, and had a great time doing that, I was still not quite back to normal yet, he said. I dont know why it took so much out of me, more mentally than physically. All of a sudden, one morning I felt like I was ready to start practicing again.
Where it leads is anyones guess.
Fred Funk and Jose Maria Olazabal were among those in the days after the Masters that did not think Woods could ever dominate the way he did from 1999 to 2001, when he won 19 of 38 tour events.
Adam Scott is not so sure.
I think it was a pretty special win, Scott said. I do believe he can be as dominant as he was. Theres no reason why he should not be. It just depends whether he gets his game and frame of mind back what it was a few years ago. A win like that can certainly spur him on to really get into it.
The road resumes at Quail Hollow, one of the best courses all year on the PGA Tour, in a tournament that has nine of the top 11 players in the world, including Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Sergio Garcia and Scott.
The defending champion is Joey Sindelar, who won last year for the first time in 14 years.
The rough is not nearly as high as it was last year, and firm conditions are expected to change with rain in the forecast until the weekend.
The forecast for Woods? Despite winning three times this year and winning his ninth career major, he says his game is not where it should be.
I just know Ive got a long way to go'a lot of things I need to work on to get better, he said.
But he will hear sweet music on the first tee Thursday afternoon, where he is introduced as the Masters champion.
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    Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

    Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

    But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

    "Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

    Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

    Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

    "I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

    Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

    "I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

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    Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

    Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

    Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

    But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

    "Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

    It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

    "I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."

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    Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two

    By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:11 am

    SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.

    Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.

    ''I hope I win more,'' Kang said. ''I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.''

    Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).

    Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

    Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.

    Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.

    The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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    New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more

    By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 8:48 am

    If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.

    Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.

    “You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."

    In context, Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)

    And out of context, the comment speaks to the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

    But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.

    Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.

    He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.

    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

    “To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”

    What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.

    Who’s the best at their best?

    In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.

    It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it will be fatigue, maybe it will be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is simply too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.

    But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good to be overlooked any longer.

    And he’s far from done.

    “For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”