Woody Tried in Vain to Stare Down Woods

By Associated PressAugust 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA ChampionshipTULSA, Okla. -- Woody Austin played better than Tiger Woods on Sunday. Again.
 
Didn't have to lug around that big old Wanamaker Trophy when the tournament was over, either.
 
Austin finished second in the PGA Championship, two strokes behind Woods after a final round in which he actually beat the world's best player by two.
 
Austin tied Woods on Saturday and was three shots better than him in the first round Thursday. Austin insists he outplayed -- his words -- Woods on Friday even though Woods tied the major scoring record with a 63. Austin said his 70 in the second round came only because he couldn't make a putt.
 
Revisionist history aside, it all added up to a two-stroke loss for the world's 75th-ranked player, which was still good for a $756,000 paycheck and a spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup team.
 
It was something to celebrate because of the way he held up throughout the tournament, especially on Sunday when the pressure was the greatest. And something to lament because maybe it should have been better.
 
'To go out and play and perform like I did, I've got only good thoughts for myself, praise for myself,' Austin said.
 
But, he said, 'I can't help but think of the missed opportunities. I'm human.'
 
This was the most interesting of coming-out parties for Austin, a 43-year-old who practically has the word 'journeyman' stamped on the back of his tropical-print golf shirts. He earned his third PGA Tour win this year. He had never finished higher than 16th in a major.
 
It was strange to listen to him all week talking about how he played better than Woods, how he was disappointed with his scores even though they were keeping him near the lead, how nobody can hit shots as good as he does when he's on.
 
Maybe the strangest part was how he went out and showed everyone what he was talking about Sunday.
 
In the second-to-last group, one hole ahead of Woods, Austin hit the ball straight and close to the pin to start the round -- a great way to overcome the jitters he fully expected.
 
He stayed within striking range, then really did make a move. Three straight birdies on 11, 12 and 13 pulled him within two strokes.
 
On 12, he chipped in from the front of the green and heard the biggest roar he'd ever experienced, tugging on his ear as he walked to the next tee box, asking for more.
 
'I wanted to hear them,' Austin said. 'You always hear it for (Woods) and you hear it for yourself but the decibels are different. I wanted to hear it for me. I wanted him to know there was someone else out there.'
 
That's how he is -- brash, unafraid. A bit nervous, too, but never willing to back down.
 
This week, he had the game to back up the talk.
 
'I think it's great how me and Ernie didn't just let him coast in,' Austin said, mentioning third-place finisher Ernie Els, who also kept things interesting. 'All you ever hear about is how unbeatable he is.'
 
There was a moment, ever so brief, when Austin actually had a chance to tie Woods late in the tournament. Woods had just three-putted on the 14th green. Austin had a 15-foot look at birdie on 15 and was trailing by one.
 
'I didn't know that,' Austin said.
 
He missed, and the rest of Woods' 13th major championship win would've been routine were it not for Austin's refusal to quit.
 
On No. 18, trailing by two, he pulled out the driver -- not the preferred play this week -- took a mighty rip, then let out an angry scream as the ball veered off to the right.
 
He saved par there, though, and walked into the clubhouse to watch Woods grind through the last hole.
 
At the end, Austin sounded as though he'd like this kind of challenge again someday. Maybe in the same group with Tiger instead of behind him.
 
'People always say, `Are you intimidated by him?'' Austin said. 'What, are we going to get in a fight? I'm not intimidated by him. I'm intimidated by the fact that I have a chance to win a golf tournament. I'm not intimidated by any other person. I'm intimidated by the golf.'
 
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    USC's Gaston leaves to become head coach at A&M

    By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

    In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

    This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

    Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

    Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

    The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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    Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

    Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

    Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


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    “Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

    Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

    “There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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    Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

    By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

    Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

    Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

    Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

    “Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

    Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

    “Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

    Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.

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    Just like last year, Spieth in desperate need of a spark

    By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Jordan Spieth has arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a turnaround. Again.

    Spieth’s playoff victory last year over Daniel Berger, complete with a bunker hole-out and raucous celebration, went down as one of the most electrifying moments of 2017. It also propelled Spieth to some more major glory, as he won The Open in his very next start.

    So it’s easy to forget the state of Spieth’s game when he first stepped foot on the grounds of TPC River Highlands a year ago. Things were, quite plainly, not going well.

    He was struggling on the greens, even going so far as to switch putters at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He then failed to contend at Erin Hills, only netting a T-35 finish thanks to a final-round 69 that came hours before the leaders teed off.

    So here we are again, with Spieth in search of a spark after a series of underwhelming performances that included last week’s effort at Shinnecock Hills, where he bogeyed the last two holes of his second round to miss the cut by a shot. Except this time, the climb back to the top may be even steeper than it was a year ago.

    “I’m not sure where the state of my game is right now,” Spieth said. “If I strike the ball the way I have been this year, then the results are coming. But the last couple weeks I’ve played Muirfield and then the (U.S.) Open, and I hit the ball really poorly and didn’t give myself that many opportunities to let the putter do the work.”

    While many big names play sporadically in the time between the Masters and U.S. Open, Spieth remained as busy as ever thanks to the Tour’s swing through Texas. So even after failing to contend much in the spring outside of a memorable finale in Augusta, and even after struggling for much of his week at TPC Sawgrass, Spieth looked out at his schedule and saw a myriad of possible turning points.

    There was the AT&T Byron Nelson, played in his hometown and at a venue on which he was one of only a handful with any experience (T-21). Then a trip across town to Colonial, where he had beaten all but two players in a three-year stretch (T-32).


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    Throw in the missed cuts at Muirfield Village and Shinnecock Hills, and Spieth has made it to the last leg of a six-event stretch that has included only one off week and, to date, zero chances to contend come Sunday.

    “I think here this week, the key for me is just to get out in the first round and try not to do too much,” Spieth said. “I mean, 90-plus percent of the tournaments the last two years I’ve thrown out my chances to win a golf tournament on Thursday. I’ve had too much to do from here on.”

    That was certainly the case last week on Long Island, where Spieth’s hopes for a fourth major title evaporated well before course conditions became a focal point over the weekend. He was 4 over through his first two holes and spent much of the next 34 stuck in a fit of frustration. He gave himself a glimmer of hope with four late birdies Friday followed by a pair of bogeys that snuffed it out with equal speed.

    Spieth has continued to preach patience throughout the year, but there’s no getting around some eye-popping stats; he's 188th on Tour this year in strokes gained: putting and 93rd in fairways hit. It can foster a pressure to find a cure-all in any given week, especially given how quickly he got a middling summer back on track last year.

    “It’s something that you fight, sure,” Spieth said. “It’s been that way just about every tournament except Muirfield, because then you go to the U.S. Open and think you don’t even have to shoot under par to win this golf tournament. So as much as that kind of comes into your head, it’s not bothering me this time. I’m going to try and have fun, and make progress.”

    After this week, Spieth will have some down time with family before making the trip overseas to Carnoustie. He plans to have a few private dinners accompanied by the claret jug, one last toast to last year’s success before turning the trophy back over to the R&A.

    But even Spieth admitted that as it pertains to his chances to follow in Brooks Koepka’s footsteps by successfully defending a major title, he’ll be greatly aided by working his way into the mix this weekend. It represents the last chance in this early-summer swing to get his name back on the leaderboard, an opportunity to light fire to a pedestrian campaign like he did a year ago.

    No pressure.

    “It’s your basic stuff that sometimes gets off, that the harder you try to get them back on sometimes, the worse it gets,” Spieth said. “It can be frustrating, or you can just kind of wait for it to come to you. I think I’m OK with where things are, whether it’s the rest of this year or next year. I feel like there are good scores coming.”