Woods on Fringe of Contention

By Associated PressJune 18, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- With a little time to kill, Tiger Woods sat on his bag at No. 7 and chatted with his U.S. Open playing partner, Shigeki Maruyama.
 
Woods asked the Japanese player about his belt and teased him about wearing matching socks.
 
What was that? A Tiger smile?
 
For all the frustration, Woods found a glimmer of hope Friday at Shinnecock Hills, managing to break par in the second round and keep himself on the fringe of contention. But it's going to be a long, hard weekend if the game's No. 1 player wants to get back on top.
 
Maruyama and Phil Mickelson share the lead at 6-under-par 134. Fifteen other players are between them and Woods, who's at 141.
 
At least he snapped his streak of above-par rounds in the U.S. Open with a 1-under 69. But the most pressing matter - an 0-for-7 drought in the majors - shows no signs of being addressed.
 
Woods, who once dominated the game like no player since Jack Nicklaus, just can't get anything going. His first tee shot Friday sailed right, burrowing into the hay and leading to bogey. He settled into a run of 12 straight pars - not bad for the brutal Open set-up, but hardly the kind of charge that used to be customary for Woods.
 
'It's a challenging golf course we have out there,' Woods said. 'You have to be patient. You have to hang in there. It's a U.S. Open. I felt like I played well enough to make some birdies. You just have to be patient. The birdies will come.'
 
Haven't we heard this all before?
 
For nearly two years, Woods has come up with a variety of reasons why he's stuck on eight major championships. On this day, he brought up the wind, 'which did a complete 180 after four or five holes.'
 
'We were looking forward to playing 16 downwind,' he said. 'Instead, it was right in our face.'
 
So Woods settled into a familiar pattern: brilliance matched with frustration, good shot followed by bad shot, every smile matched by a grimace.
 
It all adds up to, well, not much of anything. Thousands of fans still follow Woods around the course, as if they wouldn't dare miss it when he suddenly sets off on another period of brilliance.
 
Not to worry. Woods has been just a shade better than ordinary in the majors since his 2002 Open win at Bethpage Black, another Long Island course about 50 miles away.
 
It seems a lot longer than that.
 
Woods' showings in the last seven majors (28th, second, 15th, 20th, fourth, 39th, 22nd) sound like the work of a good, solid tour pro - not the greatest player of this generation.
 
Not surprisingly, Woods refuses to look at the glass as half-empty. After he stopped talking about the changing wind - which was actually quite calm by Shinnecock standards - Woods turned his attention to the greens. They were much slower than earlier in the week, he maintained.
 
'I hit two putts that were dead center,' Woods said. 'They just came up a couple of inches short. That's the difference in the speed of the greens.'
 
But putting isn't the problem. Woods has hit only 12 of 28 fairways over the first two days (42.9 percent). As for greens in regulation, he's managed just 19 of 36 (52.8 percent).
 
'To be honest, if you look at most of the guys on that board, they're not hitting a lot of fairways,' Woods said. 'I went on the computer last night just to see if I was doing anything different. No one is hitting a lot of fairways.'
 
Hmmm. He must be looking at a different computer than everyone else.
 
According to the tournament stats, Woods was tied for 116th in the 156-player field when it comes to staying on the fairway, and only slightly better (tied for 79th) in finding the green in the prescribed number of shots.
 
There were a few moments of levity in Friday's round.
 
At the par-3 7th, Woods and Maruyama sparred playfully in the tee box while waiting for the green to clear. Woods managed a smile when a little girl wearing an orange 'Tigger' hat from Winnie the Pooh shouted between holes, 'Hello, Tiger Woods!'
 
But there was plenty of frustration as well. His caddie, Steve Williams, allegedly kicked at a newspaper cameraman who dared snap a few pictures of Woods as he warmed up before his first hole. Nothing came of the incident.
 
At the last hole, Woods drove to the proper spot at the right edge of the fairway, providing a chance to go for the green. Alas, he missed to the right and had to settle for par.
 
'God, Tiger!' he screamed at himself, lingering to take a few extra practice swings.
 
'Come on, Tiger. Shake it off!' a fan yelled from behind the ropes.
 
But it didn't sound very hopeful.
 
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    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Bhatia loses U.S. Am match after caddie-cart incident

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 2:21 am

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the hottest players in amateur golf had his U.S. Amateur run end Wednesday under unusual circumstances.

    Akshay Bhatia, the 16-year-old left-hander who has been dominating the junior golf circuit over the past year, squandered a late lead in his eventual 19-hole loss to Bradford Tilley in the Round of 64.

    Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.

    “The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”

    Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.

    It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.

    Even more interesting was what Darnell said happened earlier in the match.

    “I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

    Bhatia won the 15th hole to go 1 up, but lost the 17th and 19th holes with bogeys to lose the match. He didn’t blame the outcome on the cart incident.  

    “What can you do? I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play in this tournament, so I’m not too upset about it,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I deserved to win that match. That wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but I can’t do anything about it.”

    Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., has been a dominant force in the junior ranks, going back-to-back at the Junior PGA (including this dramatic hole-out), capturing the AJGA Polo, taking the Sage Valley Invitational and reaching the finals of the U.S. Junior.

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    1, 2, 3 out: Thornberry, Suh, Morikawa lose at U.S. Am

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 1:14 am

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach.

    Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.

    Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.

    Suh and Morikawa could have played each other in the Round of 32, but instead they were both heading home early.


    U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


    Suh, a junior at USC, never led in his 1-up loss to Harrison Ott, while Cal's Morikawa lost to another Vanderbilt player, John Augenstein, in 19 holes.

    Englishman Matthew Jordan is the fourth-ranked player in the world, but he didn’t make the 36-hole stroke-play cut.

    The highest-ranked player remaining is Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland, who is ranked fifth. With his college coach, Alan Bratton, on the bag, Hovland beat his Cowboys teammate, Hayden Wood, 3 and 2, to reach the Round of 32.

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    Fiery Augenstein outduels Morikawa at U.S. Amateur

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 12:55 am

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Around the Vanderbilt golf team John Augenstein’s nickname is “Flash,” and it’s easy to see why.

    The swing loaded with speed.

    The on-course charisma.

    The big shot in the big moment.

    The Commodores junior added another highlight to his growing collection Wednesday, when he defeated world No. 3 Collin Morikawa in 19 holes during a Round of 64 match at the U.S. Amateur.

    Out of sorts early at Pebble Beach, Augenstein was 2 down to Morikawa after butchering the short seventh and then misplaying a shot around the green on 8.

    Standing on the ninth tee, he turned to Vanderbilt assistant coach/caddie Gator Todd: "I need to play the best 10 holes of my life to beat Collin."

    And did he?

    “I don’t know,” he said later, smirking, “but I did enough.”

    Augenstein won the ninth hole after Morikawa dumped his approach shot into the hazard, drained a 30-footer on 10 to square the match and then took his first lead when he rolled in a 10-footer on 14.

    One down with three holes to go, Morikawa stuffed his approach into 16 while Augenstein, trying to play a perfect shot, misjudged the wind and left himself in a difficult position, short and right of the green. Augenstein appeared visibly frustrated once he found his ball, buried in the thick ryegrass short of the green. He told Todd that he didn’t think he’d be able to get inside of Morikawa’s shot about 6 feet away, but he dumped his pitch shot onto the front edge, rode the slope and trickled it into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

    “Come on!” he yelled, high-fiving Todd and tossing his wedge at his bag.

    “It was beautiful,” Todd said. “I’m not sure how he did that, but pretty cool that it went in.”  


    U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


    Morikawa answered by making birdie, then won the 17th with a par before both players halved the home hole with birdies.

    On the first extra hole, Augenstein hit his approach to 15 feet while Morikawa left it short. Morikawa raced his first putt by 6 feet and then missed the comebacker to lose the match.

    It may not have been the best 10-hole stretch of Augenstein’s career, but after that pep talk on 9 tee, he went 4 under to the house.

    “He’s a fiery little dude,” Morikawa said of his 5-foot-8-inch opponent. “You don’t want to get him on the wrong side because you never know what’s going to happen. He’s not going to give shots away.”

    The first-round match was a rematch of the Western Amateur quarterfinals two weeks ago, where Augenstein also won, that time by a 4-and-2 margin.

    “It’s the most fun format and where I can be my true self – emotional and aggressive and beat people,” Augenstein said.

    That’s what he did at the 2017 SECs, where he won the deciding points in both the semifinals and the finals. He starred again a few weeks later at the NCAA Championship, last season went 3-0 in SEC match play, and now has earned a reputation among his teammates as a primetime player.

    “I’ve hit a lot of big shots and putts in my career,” said Augenstein, ranked 26th in the world after recently winning the Players Amateur. “I get locked in and focused, and there’s not a shot that I don’t think I can pull off. I’m not scared to fail.”

    The comeback victory against Morikawa – a three-time winner last season at Cal and one of the best amateurs in the world – didn’t surprise Todd. He’s seen firsthand how explosive Augenstein can be on the course.

    “He’s just fiery,” Todd said. “He does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to do. He’s just a special kid.”

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    Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

    By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

    The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

    Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

    According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

    "My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

    Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

    Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.