Tiger test driving new Nike golf ball

By Associated PressJuly 4, 2010, 1:27 am

2010 AT&T NationalNEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – Tiger Woods has switched to a Nike golf ball that has a slightly harder cover and spins less than his previous model, which might explain why he has been hitting his tee shots farther than he has all year.

Woods says his swing has something to do with it, too.

“The more I keep playing, the better I get,” Woods said Saturday after recovering from an atrocious start to shoot even-par 70, making up little ground in the AT&T National. “It has a little bit to do with the ball.”

Woods still uses a One Tour, this ball marked with a star symbol between the two words. He started using it this week at Aronimink, most likely as part of his preparations for the British Open in two weeks at St. Andrews, where the wind is often a major factor.

The world’s No. 1 player often has talked about how he uses one of the softest golf balls on tour, which gives him greater control around the greens. This version would be helpful in windy conditions because it spins less.

Once among the longest hitters in golf, Woods was 21st in driving distance last year. Going into the AT&T National, he was ranked 78th based on two measured drives per round. Through two rounds on a fast, firm Aronimink course, Woods was leading the tournament in driving distance at just over 328 yards.

His additional length was most evident during the second round, when he was playing with Dustin Johnson. On consecutive holes, Woods hit one drive 26 yards past Johnson, and another 10 yards past him. Both led to birdies.

It continued on Saturday.

“Wow,” Scott McCarron whispered when Woods hit one driver 322 yards down the middle on the fourth hole, 37 yards beyond McCarron.

The only trouble this week is that it’s not helping with his scoring. Woods remained well back in the pack at 3-over 213, which left him 10 shots behind even before the leaders teed off.

He hit one of his best tee shots on the sixth hole, which sweeps to the right around trees and a bunker. The shape was perfect, and Woods hit it so pure that he had only 60 yards to the hole. What followed was amateur hour.

Trying to play a low, running shot to get over the ridge and funnel to the hole, Woods couldn’t figure out what he was doing in the middle of his swing and wound up chunking the shot. It didn’t even reach the green, and he three-putted from there for a bogey, his third one in the early going.

“That was just awful,” Woods said. “I was trying to hit a low ball in there, trying to scoot it up that hill, and I was not committed to where I was going to land it. Lack of commitment, ended up hitting the ball fat.”

He turned another easy birdie into bogey on the opening hole by coming up short of the green. Woods has said his distance control is not quite sharp, although he put more of that on himself than the change to different golf ball characteristics.

Woods settled down after the sixth, nearly holing his tee shot on the tough par-3 eighth and making a 5-foot putt for his first birdie of the round. After missing four putts inside 10 feet in his opening six holes, it was probably good to have made that birdie.

“I was going to make that putt or that putter was going to be in the water,” Woods said. “So it was one of those two.”

Woods came close to getting back under par for the round with another big tee shot and wedge to 5 feet for birdie on the 11th, and a 15-foot birdie putt on the 13th. Then came another shot that went according to plan – a high cut right at the flag about 6 feet behind the hole on the par-3 14th. He missed the putt, and the momentum was gone.

By that point, any hope of defending his title was long gone. One more round for Woods, then he’s off to Ireland for a charity pro-am and then home to practice for the next major.

“The more tournaments I play this year, I’m getting better,” Woods said. “The feel is getting better. I feel more comfortable with what I’m working on. It’s so much more comfortable than it was at the beginning of the year.”

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Country singer Owen shoots 86 in Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Web.com Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Web.com Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.


Full-field scores from the Nashville Golf Open


Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics:

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New putter propels Hoffman to Fort Worth lead

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:30 pm

After sitting at home last week, Charley Hoffman decided it was time for a change.

The veteran estimated that he has been using the same version of a Scotty Cameron putter for the last five years, but heading into this week's Fort Worth Invitational he wanted to shake things up.

"I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman told reporters. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."

The swap provided immediate results, as Hoffman opened with a 7-under 63 while picking up more than two strokes over the field on the greens to take a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and Andrew Putnam. It was an all-around effort Thursday for Hoffman, as he missed only two greens in regulation and never faced a par putt longer than 5 feet.

"I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Hoffman had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, capping it with a Presidents Cup appearance and a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he has made nine cuts in 12 starts this year, his T-12 finish at the Masters remains his best result as he has struggled to turn top-20s into opportunities to contend.

Hoffman is making his seventh straight appearance at Colonial, where he tied for 10th in 2015. But he had never shot better than 65 before Thursday, when his decision to switch to a heavier Scotty Cameron model seemingly put a magnet on the bottom of the cup.

"Putting is a fickle part of the game," he said. "So hopefully the good mojo continues."

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McIlroy shoots 67, two off BMW PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 6:56 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.

Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.

The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.

McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


''Walking off the 16th green and going to No. 17 at 5 under par, it was good after being 1 over after three (holes),'' McIlroy said, before diverting away from revisiting the end of his round.

''I played really well, gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well, for the most part hit my irons a lot better than I have done, so it was nice to get off to a good start.''

McIlroy is playing the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2015. He won it in 2014, the year he won The Open and the PGA Championship – his most recent major victories.

After bogeying No. 3, the former top-ranked McIlroy reeled off seven birdies in 13 holes and later said the greens were in the best condition he'd seen them.

Bjerregaard, whose only win came in Portugal last year, made seven birdies in a bogey-free round – his last at No. 18 giving him the outright lead over South Africans Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.

Burmester earlier played his last eight holes in 6 under par – including making eagle at the 15th – to draw level with compatriot Fichardt, who was also bogey-free.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished 7-6 on the two par 5s to drop from the outright lead at the time to 4 under.

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Stricker opens with 65 at Colonial despite back pain

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 6:45 pm

After four holes of the Fort Worth Invitational, things were looking bleak for Steve Stricker.

The ageless veteran was already 1 over when he tweaked his back playing his approach to No. 13, his fourth hole of the day at Colonial Country Club. He ended up making another bogey, but at that point his score took a backseat to the health of his ailing back.

"I tried to hit a pretty solid 6-iron and got right into the impact area, and actually felt my lower back crack right where I had surgery back in 2014, pretty much right on the spot," Stricker told reporters. "Tried to walk to the green and that wasn't going so well. Kind of tightened up on me. I thought I was going to have to stop and just stand there for a minute, which I did a couple of times. It didn't look or feel very good for a while."

Slowly but surely, Stricker's back began to loosen up, and with it came a turnaround on the scorecard. Stricker had a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 5 under, highlighted by a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 first hole. Despite the rocky start, he ended up shooting a 5-under 65 to sit two shots off the early pace set by Charley Hoffman.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I just kept plodding along," Stricker said. "I knew there were some birdie holes out here if you can get it in the fairway. There are some short irons."

Stricker had a spot in one of the marquee early-round groups, but his score bettered both Jordan Spieth's 1-under 69 and defending champ Kevin Kisner's 2-over 72. Stricker told reporters that he planned to get his back checked after the round.

Stricker continues to straddle both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions while crafting a unique schedule, and his appearance this week in Fort Worth came at the expense of skipping the Senior PGA Championnship, a major on the over-50 circuit. But Stricker won at Colonial in 2009 and has now played four straight years on what he described as one of his favorite courses.

"I like to play here. I know I'm going to play John Deere, another favorite tournament of mine, and FedEx St. Jude looks like I am going to try to play in a couple weeks, try to get in the U.S. Open," Stricker said. "So it's just kind of picking them as I go, and seeing where I want to go and seeing what feels good to me at the time."