Tiger tales Memories of majors biggest win ever

By Associated PressJune 13, 2010, 6:39 am

2010 U.S. Open

Tiger Woods tapped in one last putt, the final stroke of his U.S. Open masterpiece at Pebble Beach. No one had ever been more dominant in 140 years of major championship golf. Those who played with him that week doubt anyone will see such a performance again.

The scoreboard behind the 18th green stood as a monument. Fans didn’t just look at it. They were transfixed by it.

Next to Woods’ name at the top was a row of red numbers that stretched across the holes until it ended at 12 under. The rest of the white board was filled with black numbers: Everyone else was over par, no one within 15 shots.

His swing coach, Butch Harmon, was in the TV tower for British-based Sky Sports and rushed down to congratulate Woods. Standing on the green, Harmon overheard Miguel Angel Jimenez, who shared second place with Ernie Els, say to a USGA official in his heavy Spanish accent, “Excuse me, sir. Can you tell me where the playoff starts for the other tournament between me and Ernie?”

That’s what it felt like 10 years ago at the U.S. Open – two tournaments.

Woods might as well have been playing alone.

In a major billed as the toughest test in golf, Woods went 22 holes without a bogey to start the championship and 26 holes without a bogey at the end. No one had ever finished a U.S. Open in double digits under par. His 15-shot margin was the widest ever in a major, breaking a record that had been set in 1862.

“At that moment in time, we thought we saw some of the best golf we’ll ever see by any player,” Thomas Bjorn said.

Bjorn, who played with Woods in the third round that week, was among a dozen people interviewed by The Associated Press who practiced, competed or walked alongside Woods in the days leading up to his landmark victory at Pebble Beach.

Woods stopped to see Harmon in Las Vegas on his way to Pebble Beach. He played that Sunday at Rio Secco with one of Harmon’s newest pupils, a 19-year-old Australian named Adam Scott, who did not qualify for the Open and planned to turn pro the following week.

In 25 mph wind, Woods set the course record with a 63.

“He did things that I didn’t know you could do on the golf course,” Scott said. “I’m glad he won the U.S. Open by 15 the next week. Because if he didn’t and played like that, I don’t think I would have turned pro. I said to Butch, ‘We’ve got a lot of work to do.’ What I saw was pretty amazing.”

Harmon didn’t play, but he accompanied them.

“Everyone on my staff ran down to the casino and bet on him,” Harmon said. “We didn’t get great odds, obviously, but it was as good of a lock as I’ve ever seen.”

Woods and Mark O’Meara, played the previous week at Isleworth, their home course in Orlando, Fla., and practiced together all three rounds at Pebble Beach. O’Meara was his usual practice partner at the majors. He had seen it all. This was different.

“He hit every shot just perfect. He never missed a shot,” O’Meara said. “He seemed calm, he seemed relaxed and he seemed in control Those were the three things that were different about him.”

John Cook, another close friend from Isleworth, arrived from the Buick Classic and joined them for the final two practice rounds.

“He was in the middle of a pretty special time,” Cook said. “You could see his confidence building and building. Tuesday and Wednesday were so flawless in preparation and attitude. Everything was in sync. Every shot was the perfect trajectory.”

NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller followed them for a couple of holes on Wednesday and asked how Woods was playing.

“I said, ‘Nobody is going to beat him. Nobody is going to beat him for a long time,”’ Cook said. “With the exception of one or two holes, it probably was the most flawless major championship ever.”

O’Meara made a similar prediction driving to dinner with his wife.

“She said, ‘How are you playing?”’ O’Meara recalled. “I said, ‘I’m playing all right, but it doesn’t really matter. The tournament is already over.’ She said, ‘How can you say that?’ I said, ‘Tiger is going to win. And not only is he going to win, he’s going to blow away the field.’ I don’t know how he couldn’t. He’s playing well. He loves the course. And he proved me right.”

No coach saw more of Woods that week than Hank Haney, who was working with O’Meara but whom Woods hired four years later. He was not amazed by how Woods was hitting the ball because it was like that the previous week at Isleworth.

“It was one of those special putting weeks, and you don’t see that coming in practice,” Haney said. “You never see a guy get done in a practice round and say, ‘This guy is making everything.’ Because they don’t even putt toward the hole.”

Steve Williams began working as Woods’ caddie in March 1999, and they won their first major together at the PGA Championship that year. This was their sixth major, yet the preparations were vastly different in one area – putting.

“Tiger spent an unusually longer amount of time practicing putts inside 10 feet than he would normally do,” Williams said. “When the greens are fast and bumpy, it’s difficult to chip it close. On the Wednesday night we were out there putting with the lights on, in the dark, trying to get a key, trying to dial in something that would help.

“Obviously, he found a key. He started hitting the putts a little more up on the ball to get it rolling. It’s not an uncommon thing, but it’s something you would never think about if the greens are pure.”

Paul Goydos qualified for the U.S. Open by finishing in the top 15 the previous year. When he registered Monday morning, he saw the sign-up sheet for practice rounds. First off Wednesday morning was Woods, Mark O’Meara, John Cook and TBA.

“To be announced,” Goydos said. “I said, ‘Boys and girls, attention! We’re announcing who’s playing. I am.’ I wrote my name in.”

What a treat that turned out to be.

“He seemed as unconcerned with life as anyone I had ever seen on the golf course the day before a U.S. Open,” Goydos said. “We’re all hitting 20 chips and putting to all these spots, and he would hit a shot into the fairway, knock it on the green, hit a few putts and sit there and talk to Butch. It’s almost like he was saying to Butch, ‘Look at these idiots.’

“It wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to win.’ But he had it all figured out.”

When they finished the round, two reporters were waiting to speak to Goydos.

“I had never seen a display of golf like that in my life,” Goydos said. “He’s going to win by 10. That’s what I said to these reporters. That tournament ended on Tuesday. The only thing he had to do was stay upright. There was just no question. If I could gamble, I would have bet everything I had. I saw a 10-shot victory. And I was wrong.”

Of all the holes Woods played in practice, Wednesday at the par-3 12th was what got everyone’s attention. The green was brick hard, typical of a U.S. Open. There was no way to get it anywhere near the hole, much less keep it on the green. Or so they thought.

“We were on the 12th tee, the pin was back right. He hit a 4-iron, this high cut about a yard-and-a-half that never left the flag and stopped about 5 feet away,” O’Meara said. “Butch said, ‘Good swing.’ And I said, ‘Really? Now I know why you’re such a great teacher. What was your first clue, that he hasn’t missed a shot all day?’ We were needling each other pretty good.”

Cook’s son was caddying for him that week and he recalled the teenager’s reaction as much as the shot.

“He hits this towering 4-iron, and this thing would have landed on the hood of your car and stopped,” Cook said. “We all looked at each other. My son Jason, who was 14, had his mouth open and his eyes real big. I said, ‘That’s a golf swing.”’

Goydos hit a 4-iron about as flush as he could, as high as he could, then watched it bounce over a green he described as a trampoline.

“Tiger hits this shot over the moon, flies the bunker and stops this far,” he said, holding his hands about 5 feet apart. “I said, ‘What did you hit there?’ He said, ‘4-iron.’ So that’s a little disappointing.

“We get to 18 and I drove it down the left side, had about 233 to the front and hit 3-wood. Tiger hit the ball a little farther right and he was about 5 yards ahead of me. He hits this shot – WHOOOSH! – like a rocket. I said, ‘What did you hit?’ He said, ‘4-iron.’ And I said, ‘Boys, this tournament is over.’ Because if you can hit a 4-iron 195 yards in the air and 225 yards in the air when you want, this tournament is OVER.”

Woods played the opening two rounds with Jim Furyk and Jesper Parnevik, in conditions so foggy that the first round Thursday eventually was suspended with 75 players yet to finish. Woods teed off in the morning and shot a bogey-free 65, the lowest score ever at Pebble Beach in a U.S. Open.

“He had complete control as far as drawing the ball, cutting the ball, hitting it high, hitting it low. Whatever the shot called for, he seemed to be hitting it right at the pin,” Furyk said. “I just remember him rolling in 8-footers and 12-footers. Pebble Beach isn’t the smoothest surface, and these 8-footers were going in with perfect speed. I was just shaking my head.”

Parnevik was doing more than that. He was laughing.

“It almost became a joke,” Parnevik said. “We could not figure out if he ever missed a putt from inside 20 feet. And you know how Pebble Beach greens can be. I remember we were on the 12th hole Friday. We got called off because of darkness. Tiger had about a 40-footer and he decided to keep going and not leave it until the morning. And he holed it. If you watch the highlight reels, you can see me and Lance (Ten Broeck, his caddie) laughing. It was incredible.

“I don’t know if he’s ever played that well,” he said. “It was special to be there.”

Returning to the 13th hole Saturday morning to complete the second round, Steve Williams reached into the bag and noticed something wrong. There were only three balls in the bag. He was concerned at first, then figured they would be OK with only six holes to play.

From the left rough, Woods hit a 56-degree sand wedge with such force that it put a scuff mark on the ball.

“He putts out for his par and gives it to a kid as he leaves the green,” Williams said. “My first thought was, ‘I’ve got to go get the ball off that kid. I’m watching this kid, and he’s showing his dad the ball. It’s got Tiger’s name on it, he’s all excited. How can I ask for this ball back? So we have two balls left.”

Woods bogeyed the 14th, birdied the 15th and parred the next two holes, keeping the same ball.

Then comes the 18th, with the ocean down the left side of the hole and out-of-bounds well to the right. Woods was leading by seven.

“My first thought was to hit iron off the tee, but he’s driving fantastic,” Williams said. “I can’t say, ‘Tiger, you can’t hit driver here because we ain’t got enough golf balls in case you hit it in the ocean.’ It’s the only time I can actually say I had butterflies in my stomach standing over a tee shot.”

For good reason. Woods hooked it in the ocean.

One ball left.

“I said, Tiger, you’ve got a seven-shot lead, take that iron out, hit it down the fairway, get it up there and let’s go to lunch and not waste making a horror number,”’ Williams said. “He said, ‘Give me that (expletive) driver.’ I can’t say, ‘This is the last golf ball you’ve got.’ I tried as best I could, as conservatively as I could, to talk him out of it.”

Woods hit the fairway, hit into the bunker and got up-and-down for bogey and a 69. He had a six-shot lead, a U.S. Open record for largest 36-hole margin. Woods didn’t find out until after the tournament why Williams was insisting on an iron.

“He said, ‘What was all that commotion on the 18th tee on Saturday morning,”’ Williams said. “I said, ‘Well, that was the last golf ball you have. If you had hit that down there in the water, we were going to see how quickly I could run 800 yards to the hotel room and back in five minutes.’ We always laugh about that.

“But if he hooked that second one in the ocean, I wouldn’t be standing here telling you the story.”

The first big blunder for Woods came on the third hole Saturday afternoon when he took two swings to escape gnarly rough and made a triple-bogey 7. He birdied two of the next four holes, and that was end of the suspense.

“Yes, he made a triple bogey down the third,” said Bjorn, paired with him that day. “But it was literally perfection all the way through. It was a different kind of golf to watch than anything I’ve ever seen. He was in full control of what he was doing. It was, looking back, one of the most special moments in the history of golf, to be honest.”

Woods shot 71, the only round he failed to break par. His 10-shot lead through 54 holes was another U.S. Open record.

Bjorn was out of it early and shot an 82. He felt as much out of control as Woods was in command.

“I thought going into it, ‘This is going to be the toughest day I’ve ever experienced as a player,’ and I realized very quickly what I was facing,” Bjorn said. “The whole course felt like it was moving because of the crowd. It was literally an impossible day for me. When I got to about 8 or 9, I just decided to sit back and watch history in the making instead of worrying about what I was doing.

“The way he played then, everything he did was so different from what anyone else could do.”

Els had a 68 in the third round that put him in the final pairing Sunday with Woods, and even 10 shots behind, he wasn’t waving a white flag on the first tee. He wanted to get off to a good start and see how Woods was playing.

Woods was flawless. Els had a balky putter. Within an hour, the only question was the margin of victory.

“It wasn’t easy for me,” Els said. “The tournament is over, and you basically watch another guy just kill you. It wasn’t the greatest of feelings. But it was nice to see. As I look back now, I was glad I was there, because it was obviously something very special.”

Woods opened with nine pars, then ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch to start the back nine. At that point, his only goal was to play the final round without a bogey. Els never felt so alone playing before so many people.

“He wouldn’t say a word to anybody,” Els said. “I was kind of playing on my own with a circus around me. I was basically watching him play. It was his show. If you don’t approach him, he doesn’t say anything, especially in the fourth round. With that lead, I don’t know what he had to prove. But he wanted to prove something. He never let up. He kept putting his foot on the gas. I’m sure he enjoyed it.”

Woods closed with a 67, the low score of the round for the third time that week.

After his final putt, Woods raised his right arm and smiled toward a gallery that was not sure what it had just witnessed. He set or tied six U.S. Open records that week, but those are just numbers.

No one had ever destroyed a championship field like that in golf.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like it before,” Bjorn said. “And I find it difficult to believe we’ll ever find anybody doing it again.”

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McIlroy battles back into tie for BMW PGA lead

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 4:09 pm

Rory McIlroy got off to a rocky start on Saturday in the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, including hitting a spectator and making a double bogey. But after that incident on the sixth hole, he didn't drop another shot, birdieing the final hole to shoot a 1-under 71 and tie for the lead.

McIlroy had gone into Moving Day with a three-shot lead, but Francesco Molinari had the round of the day, a 6-under 66. "It was nice keep a clean scorecard," said Molinari, who hasn't made a bogey since the 10th hole on Friday.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

McIlroy and Molinari will be paired in Sunday's final round. They are tied at 13 under par, four shots clear of Ross Fisher, Branden Grace, Sam Horsfield and Alexander Noren.

The Wentworth course ends with back-to-back par-5s, and McIlroy birdied both of them. He got a break on the 18th hole as his drive hit a spectator and bounced into light rough.

"It was a struggle out there today," McIlroy said. "I think when you're working on a few things in your swing and the wind is up and you're stuck between trying to play different shots, but also try to play - you know, make good swings at it, I just hit some loose tee balls on the first few holes. But I'm proud of myself. I stayed patient. I actually - I'm feeling a bit better about myself after today than I was even walking off the course yesterday."

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Watch: McIlroy hits spectator on hand

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 2:58 pm

We never cease to wonder at how close fans crowd in to the intended line of some shots, and just how skilled Tour players are in not hitting someone.

But every once in a while, golf ball and spectator intersect, with painful results. It happened to Rory McIlroy during the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, after he had hit a wayward drive on the sixth hole. Attempting to hack out his second shot from under a bush, McIlroy struck a female spectator on her right hand. There was no official word on her condition, but she was clearly - and understandably - in pain.

McIlroy went on to make double bogey but was able to put the incident behind him, as he promptly birdied the next hole.

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Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

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Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''