Tiger's desire to win majors may be crippling

By Doug FergusonJune 19, 2012, 7:24 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – He was sure Tiger Woods was going to win the U.S. Open.

All it took was one glimpse of The Olympic Club for this longtime observer of golf - especially when it comes to Woods - to reach this conclusion. The tight turns in the canted fairways, putting a premium on accuracy instead of sheer length. The thick, mangled rough around so many collars of the firm, small greens.

He figured if Woods played anywhere near the level when he won the Memorial two weeks earlier, the tournament was over.


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And if Woods was anywhere near the lead after the first couple of rounds at Olympic, forget it.

This was two days before the tournament.

Considering the source and his keen insight over the years, it was enough to get one's attention. It also raised a question. What if Woods played well and didn't win?

This was met with a long stare but no answer.

A week later, it remains a mystery.

Woods loves the toughest tests, and nothing stacks up to a U.S. Open unless nasty weather is involved. And yet he closed with rounds of 75-73 at Olympic, one shy of his worst weekend at a U.S. Open. Woods had a 73-76 at Shinnecock Hills in 2004, although there were some notable differences.

Only 12 of the 72 players who made the cut at Olympic had a higher score than Woods on the weekend.

Shinnecock was brutal enough to produce 31 rounds in the 80s on the weekend, including 28 on the final day. No one who made the cut at Olympic shot in the 80s, and more than one major champion suggested that Saturday was the easiest the course played all week.

And the biggest difference? Woods was not tied for the lead going into the weekend at Shinnecock.

So what happened?

How did he go from near the lead to a share of the lead to a tie for 21st?

Woods attributed his 75 in the third round to being fooled by the speed of the greens, to being ''just a touch off'' at a major that exaggerates mistakes and to being caught between clubs on so many of his shots into the greens.

Everyone faced the same greens. Everyone gets a yardage that makes him choose between taking something off and hitting it hard.

''I made a living hitting half clubs,'' two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange said while analyzing the round on ESPN.

Five shots behind going into the final round, Woods said he simply didn't play well on the opening six holes. Hard to dispute that. He played them in 6 over, and when he finally made his first birdie, he was already 11 shots out of the lead.

Halfway through the season, this is shaping up a lot like 2009. That was the year Woods won his tuneup event for every major - Bay Hill, Memorial, AT&T National and the Bridgestone Invitational - without winning a major. Already this year, he won by five shots at Bay Hill and then was an also-ran at the Masters. He rallied from four shots behind to win the Memorial only to lay an egg on the weekend at the U.S. Open.

That's just a coincidence. Even before the 2009 season, Woods had won 11 times in his last start before a major, and he failed seven times to win the big one. In the immortal hash tag of Bubba Watson on Twitter, golf is hard.

More relevant were the words of Webb Simpson after he won the U.S. Open for his first major. ''I had a peace all day,'' he said.Woods used that word - peace - a lot when he was winning majors with regularity. He probably could use some now.

Butch Harmon, who spent a decade as Woods' coach before getting fired in 2002, saw Woods tie for 40th at the Masters and wondered if he had lost his nerve.

Brandel Chamblee, a Golf Channel analyst known for his biting remarks about Woods, said the 14-time major champion ''choked'' in the third round at Olympic.

''He wants to win another major championship so bad to shut everybody up,'' Chamblee said on air during the Open. ''I honestly believe the pressure got to him, and he choked. He was tangled up with some technical issues. I don't think he is able to correct things like he used to be able to.''

For one thing, the trophy isn't awarded Saturday. It's also dubious to attribute his U.S. Open to technical issues. If anything, Woods struggled with the distance control of his short irons, which haunted him earlier in the year. And while Woods is increasingly bothered by what is written and said about him, he cares more about getting back on track toward Jack Nicklaus' record in the majors than any payback against the media.

The desire to win a major - Woods has been stuck on No. 14 for four full years now - is greater than ever.

Maybe too great.

Woods was on the cusp of understanding the swing changes under Hank Haney late in 2004 when he won the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan by eight shots. In his next event, the Target World Challenge, he was two shots behind going into the third round when he bogeyed three of his opening four holes.

His caddie at the time, Steve Williams, expected a start like that. Williams said after that round Woods had felt better about his game than he had in a long time, and ''he can't wait to get to the first tee.''

''He's just got to settle down and let the round come to him,'' Williams said.

The next day, Woods shot 66 and won.

Two years later at Augusta National, knowing it would be the last Masters his dying father could watch on TV, Woods tried so hard to win that he couldn't buy a putt and finished three shots behind Phil Mickelson. He missed two eagle putts inside 15 feet on the back nine and had six three-putts for the week.

Even this year, paired with Mickelson at Pebble Beach, Woods badly missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the second hole, and it looked as though he was desperate to make putts instead of letting the round unfold as he has done so many times.

The first two majors are alarming only because this sort of thing had never happened to Woods. It was his worst performance as a pro at the Masters. It was the first time he was in front at a major going into Saturday and teed off an hour before the leaders on a Sunday.

If it's a trend, the question is how long it will last.

Moments after the U.S. Open ended, the longtime observer sent a text message about Woods.

''Wow,'' it said. ''I was wrong.''

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Casey comes up short (again) to Bubba at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:07 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – Staked to a four-shot lead entering the final round of the Travelers Championship, Paul Casey watched his opening tee shot bounce off a wooden wall and back into the middle of the fairway, then rolled in a 21-foot birdie putt off the fringe.

At the time, it appeared to be a not-so-subtle indicator that Casey was finally going to get his hands on a trophy that has barely eluded him in the past. Instead it turned out to be the lone highlight of a miserable round that left the Englishman behind only Bubba Watson at TPC River Highlands for the second time in the last four years.

Casey shot the low round of the tournament with a third-round 62 that distanced him from the field, but that opening birdie turned out to be his only one of the day as he stalled out and ultimately finished three shots behind Watson, to whom he lost here in a playoff in 2015.

Casey’s score was 10 shots worse than Saturday, as a 2-over 72 beat only five people among the 73 others to play the final round.


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“I mean, I fought as hard as I could, which I’m proud of,” Casey said. “Not many times you put me on a golf course and I only make one birdie. I don’t know. I’d be frustrated with that in last week’s event, but it is what it is.”

Casey led by as many as five after his opening birdie, but he needed to make a 28-foot par save on No. 10 simply to maintain a one-shot edge over a hard-charging Watson. The two men were tied as Casey headed to the 16th tee, but his bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 combined with a closing birdie from Watson meant the tournament was out of reach before Casey even reached the final tee.

Casey explained that a “bad night of sleep” led to some neck pain that affected his warm-up session but didn’t impact the actual round.

“Just frustrating I didn’t have more,” he said. “Didn’t have a comfortable swing to go out there and do something with.”

Casey won earlier this year at the Valspar Championship to end a PGA Tour victory drought that dated back to 2009, but after being denied a second victory in short succession when he appeared to have one hand on the trophy, he hopes to turn frustration into further success before turning the page to 2019.

“I’m probably even more fired up than I was post-Tampa to get another victory. This is only going to be more fuel,” Casey said. “I’ve got 12 events or something the rest of the year. So ask me again in November, and if I don’t have another victory, then I will be disappointed. This is merely kind of posturing for what could be a very good climax.”

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Watch: Gary Player tires people out with sit-ups

By Grill Room TeamJune 24, 2018, 11:33 pm

Well all know Gary Player is a fitness nut, and at 82 years young he is still in phenomenal shape.

That's why it was incredible to see two mere mortals like us try to keep up with him in a sit-up competition at the BMW International Open.

Watch the video below.

The guy in blue makes the smart decision and bows out about halfway through. But give the other guy an "A" for effort, he stuck with Player for about 60 sit-ups, and then the nine-time major champion just starts taunting him.

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Japan teen Hataoka rolls to NW Ark. win

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 11:07 pm

ROGERS, Ark. - Japanese teenager Nasa Hataoka ran away with the NW Arkansas Championship on Sunday for her first LPGA title

The 19-year-old Hataoka won by six strokes, closing with an 8-under 63 at Pinnacle Country Club for a tournament-record 21-under 192 total. She broke the mark of 18 under set last year by So Yeon Ryu.

Hataoka won twice late last year on the Japan LPGA and has finished in the top 10 in five of her last six U.S. LPGA starts, including a playof loss last month in the Kingsmill Championship.

Hataoka began the round tied with Minjee Lee for the lead.

Austin Ernst shot a 65 to finish second.

Lee and third-ranked Lexi Thompson topped the group at 13 under.

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Tour investigating DeChambeau's use of compass

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 10:09 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Bryson DeChambeau’s reliance on science to craft his play on the course is well known, but he took things to a new level this week at the Travelers Championship when television cameras caught him wielding a compass while looking at his yardage book during the third round.

According to DeChambeau, it’s old news. He’s been using a compass regularly to aid in his preparation for nearly two years, dating back to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October 2016.

“I’m figuring out the true pin locations,” DeChambeau said. “The pin locations are just a little bit off every once in a while, and so I’m making sure they’re in the exact right spot. And that’s it.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


But social media took notice this weekend, as did PGA Tour officials. DeChambeau explained that he was approached on the range Saturday and informed that the Tour plans to launch an investigation into whether or not the device is allowable in competition, with a decision expected in the next week.

It’s not the first time the 24-year-old has gone head-to-head with Tour brass, having also had a brief run with side-saddled putting earlier in his career.

“They said, ‘Hey, we just want to let you know that we’re investigating the device and seeing if it’s allowable,’” DeChambeau said. “I understand. It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.”

DeChambeau won earlier this month at the Memorial Tournament, and the Tour’s ruling would not have any retroactive impact on his results earlier this year. Playing alongside tournament winner Bubba Watson in the final round at TPC River Highlands, DeChambeau shot a final-round 68 to finish in a tie for ninth.

“It’s a compass. It’s been used for a long, long time. Sailors use it,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just funny that people take notice when I start putting and playing well.”