Woods More an Enigma Than a Favorite

By Associated PressJune 14, 2005, 4:00 pm
PINEHURST, N.C. -- The tee shot was pure power, right down the middle of the fourth fairway at Pinehurst No. 2, a perfect drive by Masters champion Tiger Woods.

The next shot Tuesday morning looked like it came from some guy who missed the cut in Dallas.
 
It went right of the fairway, right of the rough, beyond a sandy cart path and about 15 yards short of landing in the backyard of a two-story home. Woods looked at the ground, asked for another ball and pulled that one into the rough just short and left of the green.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods will need a solid week off the tee in order to avoid the penal rough at Pinehurst No.2
His record alone would indicate that Woods is the betting favorite this week at the U.S. Open. But he's more of an enigma than an intimidator.

He arrived at Pinehurst as the No. 1 player in the world, even though that was more a byproduct of the computerized ranking system. He won against two of the strongest fields on the PGA Tour this year, coming from behind at Torrey Pines and beating Phil Mickelson in that dramatic duel at Doral.

The other victory was at the Masters, but even that came with some baggage.

He looked like the Woods of old with that stunning chip-in for birdie, when the ball made a U-turn on the 16th green, hung on the lip of the cup for what seemed like forever, then dropped for a two-shot lead. Then he looked ordinary with back-to-back bogeys, having to win in a playoff for the green jacket.
 
'The bogey-bogey finish at Augusta, you don't see that from Tiger,' Luke Donald said. 'You don't expect that from Tiger. Maybe he's just not that comfortable yet, not quite as consistent.'

No one knows what to expect.

'There's still that unpredictability with what he's doing,' said John Cook, a neighbor who often practices with Woods at Isleworth Country Club near Orlando, Fla.

Woods remains somewhat coy about his work with swing coach Hank Haney, saying late last year that the changes all made sense to him one day on the range before he won two straight tournaments -- but saying after he won the Masters that he still has a long way to go.
 
Winning another green jacket didn't make the skeptics go away.
 
'If I read some of the stuff, it looks like I have no game left, so I might as well quit and retire,' Woods said Tuesday. 'I won a major this year -- that's pretty good. I like my chances. I've been playing well. This entire year has been a process of just an evolution of getting better. I'm excited about this opportunity this week.'

There are plenty of reasons for him to believe he can add the second leg of the Grand Slam, as his good friend Annika Sorenstam did this past weekend at the LPGA Championship.

Pinehurst No. 2 essentially comes down to the short game, and Woods is among the best. He circled the turtleback greens Tuesday with a variety of clubs, often using the putter, sometimes lofting chips with his wedge, occasionally using his 3-wood to bang the ball up the steep slope and onto the green.

Woods had an excellent chance to win the U.S. Open six years ago at Pinehurst, pulling within one shot of the lead until he made bogey from the bunker on the par-3 17th and finished two shots behind Payne Stewart.
 
But there are noticeable changes this year, some with the golf course, some with landscape on the PGA Tour.

Due to a cool spring that killed some of the grass, USGA officials had to plant sod around the slopes of the greens, and bare patches of dirt are evident on just about every hole.

'It's very difficult to execute the shots on the lies that we're getting around the greens, in that the grass is so closely mown,' said Phil Mickelson, the runner-up at Pinehurst in 1999. 'It's very easy for clubs to come just slightly behind the ball, the grass grabs it and stops it, and you see guys flub it. That's what's so tough about chipping.'

Woods seemed more concerned with the rough.
 
There wasn't much of it when he played a practice round last week, but it was nasty when he returned -- not the thick, sticky grass found at Northeastern courses like Congressional and Winged Foot, but Bermuda grass that makes the ball sink to the ground. That's important given the greens at Pinehurst, because players have to control their approach shots.

'Getting the ball to the green is not an easy task,' Woods said.

Woods will play the first two rounds with Chris DiMarco, who pushed him into the playoff at the Masters. It will be another reminder of how he won the first major of the year, and how much hard work it required at the end.

DiMarco remembers the time when Woods was atop the leaderboard and everyone could bank on the outcome, a feeling that no longer exists.

'I think the players have gotten better, and I think there's a little intimidation factor that's gone,' DiMarco said. 'Once people started beating him down the stretch, that kind of faded away. That usually goes a long way.'

But for all the questions about his game, and a long list of challengers -- Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Mickelson, David Toms, Sergio Garcia -- Woods still managed to win the Masters and two other big tournaments.

Cook can only wonder what will happen when his consistency catches up with his talent.

'There's a reason there's a Big Four or a Big Five, and it's because one guy is playing mediocre,' he said. 'If that one guy is playing his best, there is no Big Four.'
 
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

  • Tee Times - U.S. Open

  • Photo Gallery from Pinehurst

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    Masters champ Reed: 'I definitely had a chance'

    By Will GrayJune 17, 2018, 11:55 pm

    SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Patrick Reed’s Grand Slam bid made it all the way to the closing stretch of the final round at the U.S. Open.

    Reed had never cracked the top 10 in a major championship before a runner-up finish at last year’s PGA Championship, and he followed that with a convincing victory at the Masters in April. In the U.S. Open, despite starting the final round three shots behind a quartet of co-leaders, he made a concerted effort to add a second major title.

    With Shinnecock Hills declawed in response to third-round conditions that bordered on unplayable, Reed birdied each of his first three holes and five of his first seven to move to 1 over and within a shot of Brooks Koepka’s lead. He could get no closer, though, as three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on Nos. 9-12 effectively ended his title bid.

    Reed finished alone in fourth place at 4 over, three shots behind Koepka after closing with a 2-under 68.


    U.S. Open: Tee times | Full coverage


    “Of course, Grand Slam would have been nice. But you know, I mean honestly, to me, that was really the last thing on my mind,” Reed said. “It was go out, play some solid golf, try to post a number and see if you can get the job done. I had a chance. I definitely had a chance.”

    It’s the third top-15 finish at the U.S. Open in the last four years for Reed, who tied for 13th at Chambers Bay and finished T-14 last year at Erin Hills.

    Reed was bidding to erase a nine-shot deficit after 36 holes, which would have been the second-largest comeback in tournament history. He was also looking to join Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth on the short list of players to capture the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.

    “Of course it’s disappointing,” Reed said. “But at the same time … To finish in the top 10 my last three majors, and to have a chance to really win all three of them and to close one off, it means a lot.”

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    Watching Koepka, Fleetwood knew he was one shot short

    By Will GrayJune 17, 2018, 11:33 pm

    SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – In the end, even a record-tying performance wasn’t enough for Tommy Fleetwood at the U.S. Open.

    Fleetwood started the final round at Shinnecock Hills six shots off the pace, but he quickly moved up the board with a run of four birdies over his first seven holes. He added four more in a row on Nos. 12-15, and he had a 9-footer for birdie on No. 18 to become the first player to ever shoot a 62 in the U.S. Open.

    He missed, and that proved to be the difference – for both the record and the tournament.

    Fleetwood waited around in player hospitality for the next three hours while the leaders finished, alternating between watching the golf (with sandwich in hand) and playing with his newborn son, Frankie. He was on the chipping green when Brooks Koepka completed play at 1-over 281, successfully defending his title and finishing one shot ahead of Fleetwood.

    “Brooks kept giving me like a little bit of hope, and then he’d hole a putt just to stab you in the stomach a little bit,” Fleetwood said. “I always just had that feeling that I was one shy, so I never really got massively, massively excited.”


    U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


    This was the first year the U.S. Open would have gone to a two-hole, aggregate playoff, so Fleetwood needed to stay loose for a possible overtime that in previous years would have instead been an 18-hole playoff on Monday. He emerged from the locker room and headed to the range to warm up after Koepka birdied No. 16 to take a two-shot lead with two holes to play.

    “I just thought, 'I should really go up, because you never know,'” Fleetwood said. “I mean, the worst thing that could happen is if something did happen and I wasn’t really ready, so it’s better warming up with that intention.”

    The solo runner-up is a career-best major finish for Fleetwood, who also finished fourth last year at Erin Hills. He now shares a piece of tournament history, becoming just the sixth player to shoot a 63, joining a list that includes Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Johnny Miller, Vijay Singh and Justin Thomas.

    And after torching a demanding layout to the tune of eight birdies, he insisted he won’t dwell much on the final putt that got away – even though Koepka’s closing bogey meant that it ultimately made the difference.

    “The putt on 18, I actually wanted more for the 62 at the time, and then it became a thing for the tournament,” Fleetwood said. “Obviously, that’s the putt that will play on your mind because that was the last shot you hit and that was your chance. But I missed some putts in the week, and I made some putts. I think everybody did. And your score is your score. And for me, just getting that close to winning a major again, I think that is the ultimate thing I’ll take from it.”

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    DJ and more congratulate Koepka on social media

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 17, 2018, 11:31 pm

    Brooks Koepka won his second consecutive U.S. Open title at Shinnecock Hills. Dustin Johnson, his friend and playing competitor on Sunday, was quick to congratulate Koepka. And he wasn't alone.






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    Firefighter Parziale ties for low am with dad on bag

    By Associated PressJune 17, 2018, 11:07 pm

    SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Leaning on his club, Matt Parziale crossed one leg over the other and placed the free hand on his hip. His caddie mirrored his position and used Parziale's bag as his source of support. The two looked almost identical, just one older than the other.

    Being related will do that.

    Parziale's dad, Vic Parziale, has been with his son throughout his entire U.S. Open journey, starting Monday and ending Father's Day. Matt finished 5 over par Sunday to tie for low amateur at 16 over for the tournament.

    ''We do stand alike out there,'' Vic said. ''It's funny.''

    Said Matt: ''I don't like it, but that's how life goes.''

    He's kidding. The idea of turning into his dad doesn't scare him.

    ''He's the best guy I know,'' Matt said. ''If I can be half that good, I'll be doing all right.''


    U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


    It's a classic like father, like son relationship.

    Matt, 31, is a full-time firefighter back home in Brockton, Massachusetts. Vic retired from the same station last year after 32 years.

    The two, obviously, also share a love for golf.

    ''He stinks now,'' Matt said. ''I'd have to play pretty bad to let him win. He used to be much better than he is now.''

    Matt says he was 14 the first time he beat his dad. Vic says his son was 15. Either way, once Matt beat Vic's 73 by a stroke as a teenager, it was game over.

    Vic never beat his son again.

    ''Golf skipped a generation for sure,'' Vic said. ''Because I don't play like him.''

    As the first mid-amateur to make a cut at the U.S. Open in 15 years, Matt's second round was his best, carding a 73 with a birdie on No. 18 that guaranteed him a spot in the final rounds.

    On the last day, Matt shot a 75 to end up at 296, the same mark fellow amateur Luis Gagne scored. Will Grimmer was the only other amateur to make the cut, and he finished 23 over at 303. The tournament started with 20 amateurs.

    This was Matt's first U.S. Open. He played at the Masters earlier this year, but did not advance after two rounds. Vic was his caddie there, too.

    ''Mostly, I just carry the bag and keep my mouth shut,'' Vic said.

    His specialty is wind: Matt does go to his dad for advice there. It helped this week.

    ''I don't get paid,'' Vic said. ''I don't want to be, of course. I just love doing it.''

    The two have worked alongside each other for as long as either can remember. After college at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, Matt turned pro but called it quits after a couple years when it didn't pay off financially. That's when he became a firefighter.

    But Matt never fully gave up golf, regaining his amateur status and going on to win the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship back in October. Vic caddied, of course.

    ''It's not something that happened over night,'' Vic said. ''He just wasn't lucky getting here. He really worked hard on his game.''

    Being a firefighter actually allows him to practice and compete often. Matt works two 24-hour shifts a week.

    He's not returning straight to his full-time job immediately, though. His upcoming golf schedule is packed. Starting Wednesday, Matt will compete in the Northeast Amateur tournament. Then he'll have the U.S. Amateur - after he gets married on Aug. 3 - and more.

    Wherever and whatever, Vic will be standing nearby.

    ''He's always given me the opportunity to succeed,'' Matt said. ''None of this is possible without his support and his help.''