Tiger Starting to Stir Memories of 2000
'I think I can play that good again,' Woods said.
'You better,' Steve Williams barked as he stood behind him and studied his swing. 'I'm building two race cars.'
The small group erupted in laughter, mostly at the thought of Woods' caddie needing him to play his best golf to support a racing career in New Zealand. But there was skepticism in those smiles, for no one really thought there would ever be another year like that.
Tiger in 2000 was the Yankees in '27, the Lakers in '72.
Woods captured three straight majors among his nine PGA Tour victories, including the U.S. Open by 15 shots and the British Open by eight shots, the latter giving him the career Grand Slam at age 24. He finished under par in all 20 tournaments he played, and Woods went his final 47 rounds that year at par or better.
It remains the benchmark.
But it no longer seems out of reach.
Woods' victory on Monday in the Deutsche Bank Championship was not only his fifth straight -- his longest winning streak in a single season -- it was his seventh PGA Tour title in only 14 starts this year, a success rate that simply is not supposed to happen in this game.
He is 86-under par during this streak, and only two tournaments were remotely in doubt. Stewart Cink missed an 8-foot par putt that would have won at Firestone, and Vijay Singh lost a three-shot lead going into the last day at the TPC of Boston.
Singh was particularly helpless. Only four players had a better score than his 68 in the final round, but he couldn't stop Woods from playing the first seven holes in 6-under par -- including two eagle putts of 10 feet. Woods, who played his final 47 holes at the Deutsche Bank without a bogey, missed only three greens in the final round on his way to a 63.
'Normally it's good,' Singh said of his final round. 'Today it wasn't.'
Woods left Boston for a week of rest before going back to work to figure out how he can get better, which might explain more than anything else why he is so hard to beat.
Darkness finally chased him off the practice range two weeks ago at Firestone after the first round, and swing coach Hank Haney reported the next day that they had made some significant strides.
Significant strides? This was five days after Woods won the PGA Championship for his 12th career major and third straight victory.
'Three straight wins and he's the last guy on the range,' Haney said. 'I like that.'
Woods said it's not about hitting perfect shots and making every putt. He mentioned good bounces and a little luck, although both of those were hard to find at the TPC of Boston. It looked more like flawless execution, and Woods eventually acknowledged that.
'That's pretty exciting for me to go out there and play with this type of confidence, with my mechanics becoming more and more sound,' he said.
Comparisons to 2000 are inevitable, especially if Woods wins two more PGA Tour events to bring his victory total this year to nine. Still remaining are the American Express Championship outside London at the end of the month and the Tour Championship at East Lake at the end of the season. There's a good chance Woods will skip Disney, where he missed the cut a year ago.
Even now, Woods is hesitant to embrace comparisons with 2000.
It was clear from his answer that his memories are the margins of victory -- 15 shots at Pebble Beach, eight shots at St. Andrews, 11 shots when he won at Firestone in the dark and five shots at the Memorial.
Woods won nine times by 46 shots in 2000. His seven victories in 2006 are by a combined 13 shots.
'If you're looking for blowout wins to compare the two, there's only a couple of tournaments that you can possibly blow out anybody,' he said. 'One would be the U.S. Open, because if you play great rounds of golf, it's hard for the other guys to do the same. I think that's what people are always looking to compare 2000 with now -- 'Yeah, he's winning, but he's not winning by as big of margins.'
'But,' Woods added with a smile, 'I'm still getting Ws.'
And that's why the comparisons now are no longer laughable.
One could argue that Woods caught everyone napping in 2000.
His peers had not seen anyone dominate like that -- they were all born after Ben Hogan's big year in 1953 -- and it was intimidating.
And don't forget, Woods had switched to Nike's three-piece golf ball in May 2000 and was the biggest hitter in golf. Titleist came out with its Pro V1 that fall, and equipment since then has helped level the field. Woods is still long, but he no longer has such a big advantage.
The competition is deeper and better than it was. Phil Mickelson has won three majors in the last three years, Singh won nine times in 2004, Retief Goosen has added a pair of U.S. Open titles.
And yet Woods is still winning at an alarming rate.
'Everybody has been hitting the ball longer, everyone is stronger,' Woods said. 'It's become that much more difficult to win a golf tournament. So I've kept up the pace. I've pushed myself to do the same.'
That's one thing that hasn't changed from 2000. He's still pushing.
Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.
Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.
The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.
Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.
Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.
Third-round tee times for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.
Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.
Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.
Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.
4:15AM ET: Gavin Green
4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed
4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose
4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton
4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley
5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner
5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson
5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)
5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood
5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello
6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford
6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma
6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele
6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood
6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na
6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin
7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim
7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira
7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters
7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li
7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker
7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink
8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook
8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris
8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim
8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari
8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson
8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell
9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka
9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott
9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren
9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone
9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett
10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler
10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell
10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau
10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen
10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele
10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood
11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson
Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.
He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.
“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.
At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.
Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.
“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”
Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?
Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.
Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.
“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”
Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.
Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.
“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.
More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.
“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”