Tiger Woods in his comfort zone against worlds best

By Doug FergusonNovember 4, 2009, 6:07 pm

HSBC Championship

SHANGHAI – Tiger Woods is playing for the third time in China with a strategy he’s used in winning 81 times around the world.

“Finish lower than anybody else,” Woods said Wednesday at the HSBC Champions.

That has proved elusive at Sheshan International Golf Club, and it doesn’t figure to be any easier this time around.

Woods headlines the strongest field ever in Asia, which includes world No. 2 Phil Mickelson, three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, defending champion Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, who leads the Race to Dubai.

The world’s No. 1 player was runner-up in 2005 and 2006 at the HSBC Championship, the latter when he finished two shots behind a South Korean that hardly anyone knew – Y.E. Yang, who is far more famous now.

Yang became the first player to win a major championship where Woods had the 54-hole lead, winning by three shots in the PGA Championship at Hazeltine. It was the first major for an Asian-born player.

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“It was a relaxed atmosphere for me,” Yang said. “Now, there’s a little bit more pressure, I guess. I’m not as relaxed as I was back in ’06. Maybe it’s because Tiger is here. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through a lot of tournaments. Maybe it’s because the stress finally is trickling down.”

There is a lot more punch behind the fifth edition of this tournament. On each of the bright red signs at tee boxes and grandstands is that familiar logo of a spinning globe to signify this has become a World Golf Championship, the first individual WGC held in Asia.

That might help Woods get over the hump.

Woods has won a WGC event every year since the series began in 1999, including the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in August. He now has won 16 times in his 30 starts in the WGCs, and has never finished out of the top 10 in a stroke play WGC event.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing against such great fields,” Woods said. “That’s the whole idea of having the World Golf Championships. It’s not just the major championships that we all get together, and The Players (Championship). It’s now these World Golf Championships events. It’s a lot of fun for players to compete against these guys. For some reason, I’ve also had a lot of success.”

Garcia and Mickelson are past champions at Sheshan International, and the memories are particularly fond for Garcia.

A year ago, his victory moved him to a career-high No. 2 in the world, and he had opportunities earlier this year to move past Woods to No. 1 in the world ranking. Instead, the 29-year-old Spaniard has gone an entire season without winning.

He’s hopeful that will change this week.

“It’s a deeper field,” Garcia said. “A World Golf Championship always has a little bit more special feeling.”

Even so, the biggest threat might be Mickelson.

With a putting tip from former PGA champion Dave Stockton, Mickelson feels as though he has put all the pieces together. It showed at the Tour Championship, which he won by three shots over Woods, and at the Presidents Cup, where he was 4-0-1.

Mickelson struggled last week at the Singapore Open, although he chalked that up to a grass he had never seen on the putting surfaces. He says he is just as excited now as he was when the FedEx Cup ended on the PGA Tour.

And it’s a big week for Lefty outside the ropes, too.

Mickelson disclosed Wednesday that he has two golf projects in China – a massive complex in Kumming that will feature two golf courses, a par 3 course and a teaching academy with former swing coach Rick Smith; and a course in Tian Jim in which the design is to be inspired by golf holes from around the world.

At a downtown press conference Tuesday, Mickelson spoke of the importance of helping stoke interest in China, and that it helps when he and Woods are among those appearing overseas.

This will be the first time they have competed against each other in Asia.

“I think this is a very important event for the players,” Mickelson said. “We want to help grow the game here in China. We want to compete against the best players in the world. And to be able to win a world-class event in China would mean a lot to me and all of the other players in the field.”

As for his courses, and his efforts to translate his short-game DVD and book into Chinese?

“To win here would help my cause in promoting the game of golf here,” Mickelson said.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

Anxiety.

Frustration.

Anger.

Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”

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Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

"Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

"I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

"I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

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Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

"Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

"I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."