Like Jack, Tiger wins by not beating self

By Doug FergusonMay 13, 2013, 7:30 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have never had a conversation longer than a couple of minutes, and rarely about golf. Maybe it's because they already think along the same lines when it comes to winning tournaments.

The Players Championship was another example of how Woods rarely beats himself.

Nicklaus was under the oak tree at Augusta National last month after hitting his ceremonial tee shot when he talked about one that got away, the first time he had a share of the lead going into the final round of a major and didn't win. It was the 1971 Masters, and he found the water trying to reach the 15th green with a 3-wood.

''I don't like to waste a tournament on one shot,'' Nicklaus said. ''If I was today thinking about strategy of what I wanted to do on that, I probably wouldn't have done it. I put myself out of the tournament. One shot shouldn't be a shot that puts you out of the tournament.''


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The island green on the TPC Sawgrass is nothing like the 15th at Augusta National, but it's hard not to think about Nicklaus when reviewing the hole that settled a weekend duel between Woods and Sergio Garcia.

Woods was standing on the 17th tee Sunday when he looked over and saw Garcia approaching the par-5 16th green with a putter in hand, realizing he was there in two and at worst would make birdie to tie Woods for the lead.

The pin was in its traditional Sunday location, the back right corner behind the bunker. Finding land is always the priority. From there, it's a bonus to catch the ridge that feeds the golf ball down a gentle slope toward the hole.

''The thing is, you can get baited into hitting it over there, and that's the hard part,'' Woods said. ''I thought that the prudent play for me was hit it in the center of the green, even left-center, and try and hit kind of a pull-cut. It I hit a pull-cut, it's going to have a little bit of distance to it, and it might have the shape where it might land up on top and feed down. But when I hit it, a little bit of gust came up and it stalled out.''

The ball stayed on the front of the green, leaving a difficult putt from 45 feet. Woods hit a lot of good putts that didn't go in Sunday. This might have been the best putt that he wasn't expecting to go in. The pace was perfect, 3 feet away, and he made his par. Mission accomplished.

Garcia, who two-putted for birdie on the 16th, was standing on the 17th tee watching Woods make his par.

The Spaniard won The Players Championship in 2008 in a playoff on the 17th hole. Paul Goydos came up short and in the water, Garcia found the green.

This wasn't a playoff.

Garcia, however, went at the flag and posed over the shot until he saw the splash.

''As the ball was in the air I was thinking, 'Please be right,' because it was straight at it,'' Garcia said. ''It was probably 3 feet left of the hole. When it splashed, you think, 'Well, hopefully I hit a good shot after this and make 4 and still have a chance on the next.' It's pretty much as simple as that.''

Only it wasn't that simple. His next shot bounced off the mound framing a bunker and caromed back into the water. He wound up with a quadruple-bogey 7. Adding to his misery, Garcia put his tee shot into the water on the 18th for a double bogey.

To say such mistakes never happen to Woods would be to ignore the final hole at Dubai in 2001, when he went for the green on the 18th hole and found water for a double bogey to lose by two shots. He has lost tournaments down the stretch. More often than not, the other guy beats him.

Back to Nicklaus, talking about Augusta National, though it can apply to other golf courses and situations.

''If you've got a 50-50 chance of doing it, I wouldn't be doing it,'' Nicklaus said about high-risk shots. ''If you've got a 90-10 chance, think real hard about it, and try to make sure you eliminate the 10.''

(Nicklaus said he has never talked to Phil Mickelson about this.)

Woods made a mistake on Sunday when he hit a pop-hook into the water on the 14th, leading to double bogey that gave hope to about a half-dozen players, at least for a short time. That was because of a bad swing, which is bound to happen over 18 holes of a final round. It's his head that kept him in the game.

''I stayed really patient,'' Woods said. ''I kept telling myself, 'That was your only bad swing you made all day. You can still win this tournament.'''

He figured if he could play the last four holes in 1 under, he would at least get into a playoff. He played the last four in 1 under and won The Players Championship. Of the four players tied for the lead, two went into the water on the 17th – Garcia and Jeff Maggert – while David Lingmerth made a gallant try. He missed an 8-foot birdie chance on the 17th and had to make a 70-foot putt down two ridges on the 18th to tie. He three-putted for bogey.

Woods now is 52-4 when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round on the PGA Tour, which does not count his playoff win over Tom Lehman in La Costa. They were tied for the lead when rain washed out the last round. Woods won in a playoff when Lehman hit into the water, and Woods hit his tee shot to a foot.

His four wins this year speak to why Woods is such a good closer. He has yet to break 70 in the final round in those four wins. He didn't need to.

Of the 52 times that Woods won with at least a share of the lead after 54 holes, his average score in the final round is 70.5. The 22 times he has won when trailing after 54 holes, his average score in the final round is 66.6.

It's all about doing whatever it takes to win. And when you don't, make sure it's because someone else beats you.

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Woods talks about Ryder Cup prospects in third person

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 1:47 pm

Conversations between Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods have gotten a little awkward.

That’s what happens when Woods, the U.S. Ryder Cup vice captain, needs to assess the prospects of Woods, the player.

“We’re talking about myself in the third person a lot,” he said with a chuckle Tuesday at the Northern Trust Open. “That’s one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

“I’m one of the guys on the short list, and sometimes I have to pull myself out of there and talk about myself in the third person, which is a little odd.”


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After placing second at the PGA Championship, Woods finished 11th on the U.S. points list with just eight months of tournament results. Three of Furyk’s four captain’s picks will be announced after the BMW Championship in three weeks, and barring a late injury, it’s almost a certainty that Woods will be one of those selected.

Still, Woods was named in February as an assistant for his third consecutive team competition, even though he told Furyk at the beginning of the year that he envisioned himself as a player on the 2018 squad.

“I’m very close to making that happen,” he said. “It’s been a long year, and that’s been one of my goals, to make the team. To be a part of that team you have to be one of the 12 best players, and I’m trending toward that.”

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Woods on busy schedule: 'It's about pacing myself'

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 1:34 pm

At the beginning of the year, Tiger Woods was anxious to see how his fused back would hold up to tournament play.

Now he’s in the midst of one of his busiest stretches in years.

With the Tour Championship and Ryder Cup likely to be added to his schedule over the next few weeks, Woods could play seven events in a nine-week span.


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“That is a lot of golf,” he said Tuesday at The Northern Trust. “It’s about pacing myself and making sure I don’t practice too much, don’t overdo it and make sure my training schedule goes well.

“One of the hardest things this year has been finding the right balance. As the summer has gone on, I’ve gotten better and felt better. This is a pretty important stretch.”

Woods has already played 14 events – his most since 2013, when he had 16 starts.

He’s committed to playing the first three playoff events, beginning with this week’s event in New Jersey. There’s a week off after the BMW Championship, and at No. 20 in the FedExCup standings, Woods doesn’t need to do much to punch his ticket to East Lake. He’s also virtually assured of being a U.S. captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup, held in France the week after the Tour Championship.

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Tiger Tracker: The Northern Trust

By Tiger TrackerAugust 21, 2018, 1:00 pm

Tiger Woods begins his FedExCup Playoffs run at this week's Northern Trust. We're tracking him at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.


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Stock Watch: Will Bjorn buy or sell slumping Sergio?

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 12:07 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Sneds (+9%): It doesn’t always happen, a Tour player shooting 59 and then finishing it off with a W, so it was satisfying to watch Brandt Snedeker go wire to wire at the Wyndham. An in-form Sneds now should edge out Kevin Kisner for one of Jim Furyk’s final captain picks.

Viktor Hovland (+6%): Watching the Oklahoma State junior maul the field at the U.S. Amateur, a question arose: How does the fifth-ranked player in the world not win more often? The U.S. Am was just his second title, anywhere, outside of Norway. That could all change, after he proved to himself that he could handle the best field and the stiffest challenge.

Lexi (+4%): She once again was penalized – for playing preferred lies in a different fairway – but Thompson still shot 17 under and tied for 12th in her first start since a self-imposed break to recharge her batteries. In the media tent she was refreshingly honest about the difficulties of being a 23-year-old superstar who never went to college and whose life is consumed by golf. Here’s hoping she can find a better balance (like, say, Michelle Wie) over the next few years.

Tyler McCumber (+3%): The world rankings don’t reflect it, but McCumber is playing the best golf of anyone in the world right now. In his past four starts on the Canadian circuit, he’s gone win-win-3rd-win and shot 90 under par with a scoring average of 65.88 and just two rounds higher than 68.

Nick Taylor (+1%): Playing for his Tour card, Taylor shot a bogey-free 63 Sunday at the Wyndham – with an eagle and birdie in his last four holes – to jump from 129th to 119th in the standings. That’s clutch.


FALLING

Billy Hurley III (-1%): A winner two years ago at Tiger’s event, Hurley is now headed back to second stage of Web.com Q-School after finishing 201st in the standings – by a point. A tough break for one of the game’s good dudes.

Kevin Stadler (-2%): He reminded us of the dangers of slamming clubs, after the head of his 7-iron flew off and struck a spectator in the head, requiring stitches. It was a scary scene – “It’s been a while since I’ve seen so much blood,” said playing partner Shaun Micheel – that could have been even worse.

Sepp Straka (-3%): There were plenty of stories of heartbreak at the Web.com Tour regular-season finale, perhaps none as crushing as Straka, who went 5 over for his last seven holes (including three consecutive bogeys to finish) to drop outside of the top-25 bubble.

Sergio (-4%): At last, some signs of life – his tie for 24th in Greensboro was his best finish on Tour since March – but he still didn’t make the playoffs, and it still might not be enough to sway Thomas Bjorn. For the captain it may come down to a question like this: Who would you rather have in Paris, Sergio or Russell Knox?