Woods Building Momentum Toward the Masters

By Associated PressMarch 6, 2006, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)The road to the Masters usually starts with the Florida swing on the PGA Tour, although Tiger Woods already had a head start even before he arrived at Doral.
 
He began 2006 with a victory at Torrey Pines, making a birdie on the last hole and winning when Jose Maria Olazabal missed a 4-foot par putt in the playoff. He birdied his last two holes in Dubai to get into a playoff with Ernie Els, winning when the South African found the water.
 
But his victory on the Blue Monster might have been the best proof that Woods is getting closer to having full command of swing changes he has worked on with Hank Haney the last two years.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has had little to hang his head about thus far in the 2006 season.
It was his 10th wire-to-wire victory among his 48 titles on the PGA Tour. And it was another case of Woods doing whatever was required -- birdies early in his round to keep his two-stroke cushion, back-to-back birdies when David Toms closed within one stroke and a safe shot when a bogey was good enough to win.
 
After his third victory in five starts this year, Woods was asked about his confidence.
 
'Pretty high, considering I've put myself there in virtually every event,' he said.
 
Monday's world ranking gave Woods more than double the points over Vijay Singh, the first time his lead has been that large in three years.
 
Beyond the trophies, however, are the opportunities. And that's where Woods has separated himself from the pack.
 
Dating to the U.S. Open last year at Pinehurst, Woods has either won or finished second in nine of his last 14 events on the PGA Tour. It is similar, although not quite as pronounced, as the streak he enjoyed at the start of the 2000 season when he won or was runner-up in 10 of 11 tournaments.
 
'Put it this way,' Woods said. 'If I hit a couple of bad shots, I feel like it's not the end of the world. I can fit it and I can move on and I can still post a really good number. Before, it would be damage control and somehow try and wheel around it and shoot somewhere around par or even under par. But that's not the case.'
 
Some of his victories have been handed to him when his opponents blinked first. John Daly had a 15-foot birdie putt to win the American Express Championship last October, and three-putted to lose the playoff. Then came the mistakes of Olazabal in the Buick Invitational, and Els in Dubai.
 
Toms contributed to the cause by three-putting from 60 feet, a tough putt under any circumstance. That allowed Woods to aim away from the water and into a bunker, taking bogey to win by one shot.
 
But the wins keep piling up, and the mystique is slowly returning.
 
'You just kind of hope you catch him on an off-week somewhere,' Rich Beem said Friday, when he went into the third round one shot out of a four-way tie for the lead that included Woods. 'You're not going to beat him. He's like a heavyweight fighter.'
 
Phil Mickelson felt it Saturday.
 
A year after engaging it a fantastic duel with Woods at Doral, they were in the final pairing Saturday. Neither paid much attention to it because it was only the third round, and because so many players were capable of making a move. But the look on Lefty's face spoke volumes when his 4-iron around the trees on the 18th hole -- Woods called it the best shot he had seen that day -- spun off the green into the water.
 
Mickelson said after the third round that he wasn't concerned about the pairing, then quickly added, 'I should be now. I'm four back.'
 
'He's a tough guy to overcome when he's got the lead,' Mickelson said Sunday after putting two balls in the water on consecutive holes and shooting 73.
 
Woods not only is 34-3 when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead, no one has ever beaten him when starting the final round more than two shots behind.
 
And while his bogey-bogey finish was sloppy, it wasn't the only time. Along with his bogey-bogey finish in regulation at the Masters last year, he bogeyed two of the last three holes in the 2002 U.S. Open to win by three shots, and he had to two-putt for bogey from 60 feet on the last hole at Firestone to win by one over Mickelson in 1999.
 
Asked how his victory at Doral will stand out among his other 47 tour victories, Woods talked about various shots he had worked on with Haney.
 
He found the perfect ball flight of a 4-iron that stopped a foot away on the par-3 fourth in the first round. The arc of his swing, he said, was perfect on two mammoth tee shots at the par-5 eighth.
 
'I thought one of the coolest shots I hit today -- even though no one realizes this -- is the shot I hit on 8,' he said Sunday. 'I had 103 yards and I hit a little 9-iron in there. I hit a draw in there, which is hard to do hitting it that soft, held it back up against the flag. That to me is where I'm trying to get to, the ability to hit shots like that on call.'
 
That's where he is headed with the Masters only a month away.
 
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    Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

    By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

    There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

    The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

    Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

    If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

    “The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

    The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

    Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

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    Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

    There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

    Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

    While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

    Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

    1. Brooks Koepka

    2. Dustin Johnson

    3. Patrick Reed

    4. Justin Thomas

    5. Jordan Spieth

    6. Rickie Fowler

    7. Bubba Watson

    8. Webb Simpson

    ---

    9. Bryson DeChambeau

    10. Phil Mickelson

    11. Matt Kuchar

    12. Brian Harman

    On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

    Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

    European Points

    1. Tyrrell Hatton

    2. Justin Rose

    3. Tommy Fleetwood

    4. Francesco Molinari

    ---

    5. Thorbjorn Olesen

    6. Ross Fisher

    World Points

    1. Jon Rahm

    2. Rory McIlroy

    3. Alex Noren

    4. Matthew Fitzpatrick

    ---

    5. Ian Poulter

    6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello

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    Koepka autographs local kids' 'Go Brooks' sign after win

    By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 2:30 pm

    Brooks Koepka is a two-time U.S. Open winner, but that doesn't mean he's now too big to go sign a couple pieces of cardboard in somebody's front yard in the middle of the night.

    Koepka's girlfriend, Jena Sims, posted two pictures to her Instagram story on Sunday of "Go Brooks" signs she says were put up by some local kids in the area where Koepka was staying for the week.

    The first is dated prior to Koepka's final-round tee time.



    The second is from Sunday night.



    And here, separately, for no reason in particular (other than the fact that she posted it) is a video of Sims running over a parking cone at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

    Speaking of kids, just feels those two are gonna make it.

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    Koepka moves to No. 4 in world with U.S. Open win

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:05 pm

    After successfully defending his U.S. Open title, Brooks Koepka reached a new career high in the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Koepka held off Tommy Fleetwood to win by a shot Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, becoming the first player to go back-to-back in nearly 30 years. As a result, he jumped five spots in the latest rankings to No. 4, six spots higher than he reached with last year's U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills.

    Fleetwood finished alone in second place and moved up two spots to No. 10, tying his career-best placement. Patrick Reed moved up two spots to No. 11 by finishing fourth, while fifth-place Tony Finau went from No. 37 to No. 31.


    Updated Official World Golf Ranking


    It was a largely quiet week in the rankings despite the fact that a major championship was contested. Outside of Koepka and Finau, the only other player inside the top 50 to move up or down more than three spots was Jason Dufner, who went from 53rd to 48th with a T-25 finish.

    Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for the second consecutive week, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Koepka and Jordan Spieth. Jon Rahm dropped one spot to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Fleetwood rounding out the top 10. Hideki Matsuyama fell two spots to No. 12, dropping out of the top 10 for the first time since October 2016.

    Despite a missed cut at Shinnecock, Tiger Woods actually moved up one spot to No. 79 in the latest rankings. He plans to play the Quicken Loans National and The Open in the coming weeks, which will be his final two chances to move into the top 50 in time to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The event is being held for the final time this summer at Firestone Country Club, where Woods has won eight times.