Tiger Standing at a Crossroad

By Associated PressJuly 18, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- He couldn't get hold of the lead and he has yet to prove he can win a major without it.
 
If you don't think Tiger Woods has arrived at a crossroad in his career, you haven't been paying attention.
 
'I think Justin Leonard was 5 or 6 shots back when he won here,' Woods said Saturday at the British Open, sounding more defensive than hopeful.
 
So, this is what it's come to.
 
The moment after he scythed down the field at the 1997 Masters, Woods became the game's gold standard. No matter the subject, he was the reference point. Every discussion about what was possible in golf came down to him sooner or later. Everybody talked about being inspired, intimidated or challenged by him.
 
But two years and counting into Woods' major championship drought, all that has changed. Woods now refers to others when discussing possibilities, and it's no longer just Jack Nicklaus. And all those others now refer to Woods as just another one of the boys.
 
'There's a number of guys that have a great chance at the championship tomorrow,' said Phil Mickelson, who is two strokes off the lead.
 
'This is a hell of a leaderboard,' said Ernie Els, who lurks just one shot behind journeyman Todd Hamilton. 'These are quality players, players who have proven themselves throughout the years.'
 
'It's a pretty good leaderboard, isn't it?' concurred Hamilton. 'And I'm not one to shy away from looking at leaderboards.'
 
Woods shot a front-end loaded 3-under 68 in the third round at Royal Troon to move into contention, and there was a time when his name on the leaderboard made it look like the marquee for a horror movie. All the other golfers would be afraid, very afraid, and do something desperate, dangerous or downright stupid. But no longer.
 
They know that Woods has made only one birdie on the back nine here all week. They know he can't hit fairways at the same clip he used to, can't conjure up magical shots every time he has to, and that he's struggled for two-plus years to put two together two rounds good enough to make any or all or them pull off the road and into a ditch.
 
They know, too, that every one of Woods' eight major titles came after he entered the final round holding at least a share of the lead. And he begins this one trailing Hamilton by four, with five golfers sandwiched between them.
 
'Tiger can always make a charge,' Mark Calcavecchia said. 'I wouldn't put anything past him. But obviously, his confidence level is not what it was back in 2000 and 2001, when he held all the majors at the same time.'
 
Since then, Woods got engaged to a Swedish nanny and divorced his longtime swing coach. He denies either has anything to do with the sorry state of his game. He keeps saying how close he is to those bulletproof days, but so far, we have only his word for it.
 
'I knew I needed to shoot a good round to give myself a chance going into Sunday. I was able to do that today. So now,' Woods said, 'I've got a fighting chance.'
 
Whether he's got enough game to accomplish what Leonard did at Troon in 1997 remains to be seen. The Texan spotted Jesper Parnevik five shots on that Sunday, then fired a scintillating 65 that more than made up the difference.
 
Since Woods knows his golf history, he also knows that champions have come from further back than that. Scotsman Paul Lawrie began the final day 10 shots behind at Carnoustie in 1999, and won in a playoff after shooting 67. But his win was possible only because of leader Jean Van de Velde's spectacular meltdown on the 18th hole. There's too many great names above Woods' on the leaderboard for that to be a realistic option this time around.
 
Woods will almost certainly have to go lower than the 68 he shot Saturday to win. The last time he did on the last day at a major was the 2002 PGA Championship, when Woods birdied the final four holes for a 67, but still lost to Rich Beem. Since then, his final-round scores have been 75, 72, 71, 73, 71, 76.
 
That won't get it done here.
 
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    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


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    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


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    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”