Tiger Still Has Another Record on the Horizon

By Associated PressAugust 22, 2005, 4:00 pm
AKRON, Ohio -- Tiger Woods has been chasing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 professional majors ever since he won his first Masters, a pursuit that has defined his career.
 
But that isn't his only target.
 
Six months ago in the parking lot at Doral, he was asked what records meant the most to him.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods (currently 45) still has a long way to go to catch Sam Snead's victory total of 82.
``The same ones as always,'' Woods said. ``Majors. And total wins.''
 
He rarely mentions any other record than the majors, although it was clear he had done his homework. Woods was asked if he knew the career victory record held by Sam Snead, and he quickly replied 81. Then he stopped himself.
 
``Wait a minute. It's now 82,'' he said.
 
The PGA Tour did not count the British Open as an official victory until 1995, but changed its bookkeeping in 2002 to accept all previous Open victories, such as Snead's at St. Andrews in 1946.
 
Woods still has a long road ahead of him, but each victory makes it more plausible.
 
The latest came Sunday afternoon at the NEC Invitational, where Woods found the one birdie he needed late in the final round to win by one shot over Chris DiMarco. That gave him five victories this year, and 45 for his career.
 
Sunday also marked the end of nine full years on the PGA Tour, meaning the 29-year-old Woods has averaged five victories a year. Whether he can keep up the pace depends on his health (already one knee surgery), the level of competition and how many more times he decides to revamp his swing.
 
The latest swing, under the guidance of Hank Haney, is clearly starting to take form.
 
Woods still will never be mistaken for Scott Verplank when it comes to accuracy off the tee, but his confidence has reached a point that he is not afraid to hit driver. He hit just over half the fairways at Firestone -- 29 of 56 -- but only a couple of them were way off line.
 
Some believe that big hitters now can bash away because it's just as easy to reach the green with a wedge out of thick grass than with a 7-iron from the fairway. That's not always the case. Woods was in serious trouble just off the 11th fairway Saturday and eventually had to get up-and-down and through a tree to save par.
 
He took a double-bogey from the trees on the 18th hole Friday that cost him the lead, and had to dodge the same trees Sunday to make par and avoid a playoff.
 
But he's not backing off.
 
``I have so much more confidence now in my driving ability than I ever have in my career,'' he said. ``I pull out driver on every hole because I know I can put the ball in the fairway. I've never had that ability before. If you look at my days when I had some good years, I was always hitting 2-irons off the tee, and 3-woods, and trying to get the ball in play. Now, I know I can drive the ball.
 
``I hit some bad shots, yes, but they're not like they used to be.''
 
Statistics don't support him, but Woods at least believes he can hit fairways. He now has adopted the strategy that Vijay Singh has employed the last two years by hitting driver on holes where most others play for position.
 
Another advantage for Woods, again illustrated at Firestone, is his record as a closer.
 
He improved to 33-3 on the PGA Tour -- and 38-5 worldwide -- when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead. The short list of players who have beaten him in the last group are Retief Goosen, Phil Mickelson, Thomas Bjorn, Lee Westwood and Ed Fiori at the '96 Quad City Classic, Woods' third event as a pro.
 
He probably shouldn't have won at Firestone, not with the number of putts he was missing inside 8 feet. And he probably shouldn't have won the Masters, except that DiMarco couldn't make anything in the final round.
 
Woods got a break when no one seemed to want to win the NEC Invitational.
 
Kenny Perry was sailing along until a high hook off the 10th tee that landed behind trees, one of five bogeys he made during a six-hole stretch. ``I just can't hit a fairway,'' he said as he walked up the 13th fairway and over toward a tree.
 
DiMarco was atop the leaderboard at 6 under until he overcooked a 7-iron on the 17th green that left him in deep grass with not much green to work with. He chipped to 15 feet and made bogey. Paul McGinley was tied for the lead at one point until he went from the left rough to the right rough, then missed a 12-footer for par on the 17th to fall back.
 
McGinley was lining up his putt when he heard a huge roar down the fairway from the vicinity of the 16th green. He didn't know the distance, only who had made it.
 
``Was it a big putt he holed?'' McGinley asked.
 
He was told that it was only an 18-footer, but that it was a critical birdie considering Woods had hit his tee shot into the trees on the 667-yard 16th, had to lay up to 185 yards and then take on the water protecting the flag.
 
``He seems to be able to have a shot every time he hits it in the trees,'' McGinley said. ``He made some great escapes from trees. He's such a skillful player, that no shot is impossible for him.''
 
Woods has four tournaments left this year -- next week at the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston, the American Express Championship in San Francisco, Disney and the Tour Championship -- to try to pad his total.
 
His pursuit of Snead's record might help if the PGA Tour played more often in Ohio, where he has won seven times on two courses -- four at Firestone, three at Muirfield Village (Memorial).
 
Told that a new title sponsor (Bridgestone) meant this World Golf Championship would stay at Firestone through at least 2010, Woods smiled.
 
``Sweet,'' he said.
 
Related links:
  • NEC Photo Gallery
  • Scoring - WGC-NEC Invitational

  • Full Coverage - WGC-NEC Invitational
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    Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

    By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

    Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.


    Getty Images

    McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

    By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

    McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

    But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

    Said Harmon:

    “Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

    “This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

    McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

    “Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

    McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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    How The Open cut line is determined

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

    Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

    The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    • After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

    • There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

    • There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

    The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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    The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

    Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

    What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

    What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

    How old is it?

    It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

    Where is it played?

    There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

    Where will it be played this year?

    At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

    Who has won The Open on that course?

    Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

    Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

    Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

    Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

    This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

    Who has won this event the most?

    Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

    What about the Morrises?

    Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

    Have players from any particular country dominated?

    In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

    Who is this year's defending champion?

    That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

    What is the trophy called?

    The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

    Which Opens have been the most memorable?

    Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

    When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

    Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.