Tiger Woods return to Bay Hill recalls celebration

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2009, 4:00 pm
Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. ' The birdie putt to win at Bay Hill was vintage Tiger Woods.
 
Not so typical was the reaction.
 
He backpedaled as the ball rolled toward the hole, and when he saw it fall, Woods turned and slammed his cap to the ground. It gave him a one-shot victory over Bart Bryant, his fifth victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
 
I saw the highlights that night, and I didnt know I went that crazy, Woods said Wednesday. But evidently, I did.
 
Woods could use a few moments like that.
 
The Masters is three weeks away, and the status of Woods game remains somewhat of a mystery. He has played only six competitive rounds at two tournaments since reconstructive knee surgery after winning the U.S. Open last June.
 
Woods was reminded of how long he has been away when he arrived early Wednesday for his pro-am round. It was his first time playing a pro-am since Bay Hill last year. The Masters, U.S. Open and two World Golf Championships ' the only tournaments he has played since last year ' dont have them.
 
He was surprised how quickly his game has returned, even if the results arent evident. He lost in the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship and tied for ninth two weeks ago in the CA Championship at Doral.
 
I think its taken less time to get my feel back for my game, Woods said. I thought it would take a little bit longer. The question mark to me was how many rounds could I play? How much golf could I play? Thats probably been the greatest positive is Ive been able to recover from day-to-day and not feel a thing.
 
The negative ' especially at Doral ' has been the putting.
 
Woods ranked 74th out of the 79 players who finished at Doral in putts per round. Then he played in the Tavistock Cup, an exhibition at Lake Nona, and didnt make much there, either.
 
Whats peculiar about his victory last year was that the hat-slamming celebration had more to do with a full swing.
 
Woods still remembers every detail about the 18th hole, playing in the final group with Bryant already in at 9-under 271. The wind was helping from the left when he hit his tee shot, and with a hole location back and to the right, its a fairly simple shot.
 
When we were walking up the hill, it totally switched. It came in off the right, Woods said.
 
If he got his shot up in the air, the wind could drop it into the water. If he tried to ride the wind, the ball could land in the back bunker. So he settled on a shot that separates him from the rest of the field ' a 5-iron from 161 yards to 25 feet.
 
I just chipped a little 5-iron in there, and it felt sweet to hit that little shot, just a little bit left of the hole, right around one of the signs that we had picked out (as a target). And I left myself a putt at it.
 
Would he have slammed his hat if the shot had required a simple 8-iron?
 
No, Woods said with a smile.
 
In his mind, great shots dont count if he doesnt make the putt. Call it a Corey Pavin moment, a reference to Pavin hitting 4-wood to about 5 feet on the 18th hole at Shinnecock Hills, only to miss the putt (but he still won the 1995 U.S. Open).
 
The happiest Woods has ever been in the second round of a major was at Hazeltine in the 2002 PGA Championship when he hit a stunning bunker shot with a 3-iron, over a tree into a 25 mph gust to 12 feet. Yes, he made the putt.
 
Will he make any at Bay Hill?
 
I wasnt that far off, Woods said of Doral. I hit the lip 20 times for birdie on the first three days, and thats a lot. Some of those fall in, you get a little bit of momentum. I didnt get any of that.
 
He is the defending champion at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but not necessarily the favorite, despite winning five times.
 
No course has ever been more feast-or-famine for Woods. Along with those five victories, he has finished out of the top 20 four times. The Players Championship is the only tournament where he has finished out of the top 20 more often.
 
And the field is strong, even though it is missing six of the top 10 players in the world ' Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Geoff Ogilvy, Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson and Camilo Villegas.
 
It does include Padraig Harrington, who is slowly finding his form before going to Augusta National with a chance to join Woods and Ben Hogan as the only players to win three straight majors since the Masters began in 1934.
 
The Irishman has not played Bay Hill since 2000, when he didnt break par and missed the cut.
 
This is one of the tough courses on the Tour, Harrington said. Ill be interested to see how my game matches up to it compared to when I played it back in 98 and 2000, and I obviously found it difficult then. I know its still a tough golf course, but hopefully, Ill be a little better equipped to handle it.
 
Palmer, the tournament host, has rarely been so pleased with his golf course, saying it was as good as I have ever seen it in my 40-odd years here at the Bay Hill Club.
 
Woods was particularly impressed with the greens, which are lush and smooth with heavy overseeding during the winter. And that could be what Woods needs to feel more confident about his game.
 
Even so, the worlds No. 1 player isnt worried ' and neither is the tournament host.
 
I think he could win any tournament he wants to at this point in time, Palmer said. Know him as I do, he will make every effort.
 

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Arnold Palmer Invitational
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

    Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

    By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

    South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

    Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

    Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

    “I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

    Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

    “Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

    Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

    “We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”

    Getty Images

    Spieth admits '16 Masters 'kind of haunted me'

    By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:38 pm

    Two years ago, Jordan Spieth arrived at Colonial Country Club and promptly exorcised some demons.

    He was only a month removed from blowing the 2016 Masters, turning a five-shot lead with nine holes to play into a shocking runner-up finish behind Danny Willett. Still with lingering questions buzzing about his ability to close, he finished with a back-nine 30 on Sunday, including birdies on Nos. 16-18, to seal his first win since his Augusta National debacle.

    Returning this week to the Fort Worth Invitational, Spieth was asked about the highs and lows he's already experienced in his five-year pro career and candidly pointed to the 2016 Masters as a "low point" that had a lingering effect.

    "Even though it was still a tremendous week and still was a really good year in 2016, that kind of haunted me and all the questioning and everything," Spieth told reporters. "I let it tear me down a little bit. I kind of lost a little bit of my own freedom, thoughts on who I am as a person and as a golfer."


    Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


    Spieth went on to win the Australian Open in the fall of 2016, and last year he added three more victories including a third major title at Royal Birkdale. Given more than two years to reflect - and after nearly nabbing a second green jacket last month - he admitted that the trials and tribulations of 2016 had a lasting impact on how he perceives the daily grind on Tour.

    "I guess to sum it up, I've just tried to really be selfish in the way that I think and focus on being as happy as I possibly can playing the game I love. Not getting caught up in the noise, good or bad," Spieth said. "Because what I hear from the outside, the highs are too high from the outside and the lows are too low from the outside from my real experience of them. So trying to stay pretty neutral and just look at the big picture things, and try and wake up every single day loving what I do."

    Getty Images

    Spieth offers Owen advice ahead of Web.com debut

    By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:22 pm

    As country music sensation Jake Owen gets set to make his Web.com Tour debut, Jordan Spieth had a few pieces of advice for his former pro-am partner.

    Owen played as a 1-handicap alongside Spieth at this year's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and this week he is playing his own ball on a sponsor invite at the Nashville Open. Owen joked with a Web.com Tour reporter that Spieth "shined" him by not answering his text earlier in the week, but Spieth explained to reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the two have since connected.

    "We texted a bit yesterday. I was just asking how things were going," Spieth said. "I kind of asked him the state of his game. He said he's been practicing a lot. He said the course is really hard. I mean, going into it with that mindset, maybe he'll kind of play more conservative."

    Owen is in the field this week on the same type of unrestricted sponsor exemption that NBA superstar Steph Curry used at the Web.com's Ellie Mae Classic in August. As Owen gets set to make his debut against a field full of professionals, Spieth noted that it might be for the best that he's focused on a tournament a few hundred miles away instead of walking alongside the singer as he does each year on the Monterey Peninsula.

    "Fortunately I'm not there with him, because whenever I'm his partner I'm telling him to hit driver everywhere, even though he's talented enough to play the golf course the way it needs to be played," Spieth said. "So I think he'll get some knowledge on the golf course and play it a little better than he plays Pebble Beach. He's certainly got the talent to be able to shoot a good round."

    Getty Images

    Presidents Cup changes aim to help Int'l. side

    By Rex HoggardMay 23, 2018, 6:20 pm

    In March when the PGA Tour announced the captains for next year’s Presidents Cup there was an understandable monsoon of attention for one element of that press conference.

    Tiger Woods being named the captain for the U.S. team that will travel to Australia late next year was just not news, it was a monumental shift in how many view the 14-time major champion.

    Although he’s slowly played his way back to competitive relevance, his decision to lead the red, white and blue side was the most glaring example to date that Woods is beginning to embrace a new role as a leader and a veteran.

    Newsy stuff.

    In that blur of possibility, however, were a few other nuggets that largely went overlooked but may end up impacting the biennial team event much more than the two high-profile captains (Ernie Els was named the International side’s front man for 2019).

    Among these subtle changes is a new rule that requires every team member to play at least one match prior to Sunday’s singles session, instead of the two-match minimum in previous years. In theory, this would allow a captain to “hide” a player who might not be at the top of his form.

    The Tour also announced each captain will have four, up from two, captain’s picks and they will make those selections much later than in previous years.



    Officials would understandably be reluctant to admit it, but these changes are designed to give Els and Co. a chance, any chance, to make the ’19 matches competitive.

    Following last year’s boat race of the International team at Liberty National in New Jersey – a lopsided rout that nearly ended late Saturday when the U.S. team came up just a single point short of clinching the cup before the 12 singles matches – most observers agreed that something had to change.

    The International team has won just one of the dozen Presidents Cups that have been played, and that was way back in 1998, and has lost the last five matches by a combined 20 points.

    Giving Els and Woods more time to make their captain’s picks is a byproduct of the timing of next year’s event, which will be played in Australia in December; but giving both captains a little more flexibility with the addition of two picks should, in theory, help the International side.

    The Tour also altered how the points list is compiled for the International team, with a move to a 12-month cycle that’s based on the amount of World Ranking points that are earned. The previous selection criteria used a two-year cycle.

    “That was a change that was important to Ernie Els to make sure that he feels like he has his most competitive team possible,” said Andy Pazder, the Tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations. “That in conjunction with having four captain’s picks instead of two, which had been the case prior to 2019, he feels that’s going to give him his best chance to bring his strongest, most competitive team to Australia.”

    The 12-month cycle will start this August at the Dell Technologies Championship and end at the 2019 Tour Championship, and puts more importance on recent form although had the new selection criteria been used for the 2017 team, there would have been just one player who wouldn’t have automatically qualified for the team. That’s not exactly a wholesale makeover.

    “It didn’t seem to be a dramatic change in the makeup of the team,” Pazder conceded.

    Still, a change, any change, is refreshing considering the one-sided nature of the Presidents Cup the last two decades. Of course, if the circuit really wanted to shake things up they would have reduced the total number of points available from 30 to 28, which is the format used at the Ryder Cup and as a general rule that event seems to avoid prolonged bouts of competitive irrelevance.

    Perhaps these most recent nip/tucks will be enough to break the International team out of a losing cycle that doesn’t help bring attention to the event or motivate players.

    There’s no mystery to what makes for a compelling competition, look no further than the Ryder Cup for the secret sauce. History makes fans, and players, care about the outcome and parity makes it compelling. What history the Presidents Cup has is largely one-sided and if last year’s loss is any indication the event is no closer to parity now than it was when it was started in 1994.

    Els has been a part of every International team since 1996 and if anyone can pull the side from its current funk it would be the South African, but history suggests he might need a little more help from the Tour to shift the competitive winds.