Woods Seeking First Major in Two Years

By Associated PressJune 15, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Tiger Woods came to the U.S. Open fully ready to deal with the swirling winds, waist-high grass and quirky bounces at Shinnecock Hills.
 
He wasn't quite as eager to address another matter that got almost as much attention Tuesday -- the growing concern about the state of his game.
 
'Am I tired of it? Yeah,' Woods said.
 
He followed his words with a smile, but it's clear Woods has had enough of the same questions over and over.
 
They've come after every wayward tee shot, every back-nine disaster, and every tournament Woods has failed to win.
 
They came again after a practice round at treacherous Shinnecock Hills, where Woods won't be contending if he keeps hitting the ball sideways off the tee as he has in recent months.
 
'Certainly I try and just kind of take it in, but the problem is you guys keep asking me about it,' Woods said. 'Every tournament I go to you keep asking the same questions.'
 
The questions come because the player who used to dominate the majors doesn't seem to be the same player anymore. Woods hasn't won a major in two years, and you can't tune in to a tournament anymore without seeing him slashing it out from under a tree.
 
You also can't stop hearing commentators analyze his swing, and question why he refuses to seek help from former instructor Butch Harmon. At the Memorial, Woods' caddie put his golf bag in front of a camera so his swing couldn't be picked apart.
 
'We laugh on tour about how these guys think they know everything, but they don't,' Woods said.
 
Woods' biggest problem, though, may be the fact that it might be tough to be Tiger Woods, but it's even tougher to follow him.
 
When he last teed it up in a U.S. Open on Long Island, it was almost a given that Woods would win. The fans expected it, and so did most of the other players.
 
Two years later, things have changed.
 
Since winning about 50 miles from here at Bethpage in 2002 -- his seventh win in his last 11 majors-- Woods has gone seven major championships without a win. He hasn't won a stroke play title since October, and he's blown two 36-hole leads already this year.
 
Worse yet, he's in danger of losing the No. 1 ranking he has held since the 1999 PGA Championship. That could happen this week if Ernie Els wins the Open and Woods finishes worse than sixth.
 
'I know that I haven't played up to my absolute peak, but who does week in and week out?' Woods asked. 'It certainly is not from a lack of effort, and I know that I'm going to be making some great progress this year.'
 
Just what is wrong with Woods is easy to see, and just as difficult to pinpoint. His short game remains immaculate, and his irons are almost always the right distance.
 
Get him on a tee, though, and watch out.
 
Woods is 147th on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy this year, hitting barely more than half the fairways he aims at. At crucial times, like when he resorted to a safe slice off the tee in the Wachovia Championship to try to keep the ball somewhere in play while blowing a second-round lead, it seems even worse.
 
And it's not just the driver.
 
In his last tournament, Woods was trying to make a late comeback in the Memorial when he hit a 4-iron off the tee into the water. He has even struggled at times with the 2-iron stinger he likes to use off the tee to stay in play.
 
If it weren't for great putting, Woods wouldn't even be in the mix. Because of the putter, he has one win and seven top-10 finishes in 10 tournaments this year, numbers that anyone who isn't named Tiger Woods would take in an instant.
 
Even the hottest putter, though, won't win at Shinnecock if the tee shots bury in the deep grass that resembles fields of grain blowing in the coastal wind.
 
Woods says winning his ninth major championship will also involve some luck, the kind he got at St. Andrews in 2000 when he didn't hit a ball into a bunker for four rounds, although two bounced right over deep bunkers.
 
His rivals believe that sometimes Woods manufactures his own luck. He may not dominate anymore, but they're not counting him out at Shinnecock.
 
'I'd hate to rule out him coming back and playing at that level again because I think that's most likely going to happen,' Phil Mickelson said. 'I think we all expect him to come out and light it up like he usually does, and I think it's very, very soon going to happen. I just hope we can put it off as long as possible.'
 
Until then, Woods is trying to put things in perspective. He's won $51.5 million in eight years as a pro, made many times more than in endorsements and still wants desperately to compete just as he did in the past.
 
He laughed when someone suggested he might be the biggest celebrity in the Hamptons this week.
 
'I'm just a golfer, man,' he said. 'I chase a little white ball around and work on my farmer tan, that's it.'
 
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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.


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    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.