Woods aura still strong outside the ropes
A large photo of Woods, dressed in black shorts and a red Stanford cap, was splashed across the front of The Melbourne Age on Tuesday morning. Imagine what it was like when he actually put a golf club in his hand. Even Woods was alarmed to see an estimated 7,000 fans covering every inch of space available at Kingston Heath to see his first appearance Down Under in 11 years.
Not long after he played nine holes with Craig Parry, the course was virtually empty.
“Nothing more to see for the day,” one fan said as he headed for the exit.
Combine that with a week in camera-happy China, where caddie Steve Williams set the golf bag down to use the restroom, and it was surrounded within seconds by some 50 fans. Just more evidence that Woods’ aura is larger than ever.
At least outside the ropes.
His mystique on the golf course has been a different story over the last three months.
It’s always best to look at the big picture with Woods, and that continues to illustrate his dominance in the game. Eight months after reconstructive knee surgery, unsure how his left leg would respond to practice and play, Woods won six times on the PGA Tour and finished out of the top 10 only three times in 18 tournaments. Even without winning a major, he considers 2009 a success.
The latest snapshot, however, is worthy of attention.
Woods, the best closer in golf, had gone five years without losing a PGA Tour event when he was atop the leaderboard through 36 holes. He has lost his last two tournaments from that spot, both times watching Phil Mickelson pose with the trophy.
The last four times Woods has played in the final group, he has won only one time – the BMW Championship outside Chicago, where he went into the final round with a seven-shot lead.
The latest mishap was the HSBC Champions, and while it’s no shame to spot Mickelson a two-shot lead and fail to win, it was the manner in which Woods so quickly became an also-ran.
With a chance to cut the lead to one shot on the second hole, he missed a 4-foot birdie. With Mickelson safely on the green about 18 feet from the cup on the par-3 fourth, Woods pulled his tee shot into the water and made double bogey. Two holes later, Woods was just about 30 feet from the flag and just inside Nick Watney, giving him a good read on the putt. Instead, he ran it 10 feet by the hole and three-putted for bogey.
If not for a 10-foot birdie on the ninth, he would have gone out in 40. Such a score is not unusual with Woods in the final group. It’s just that it usually belongs to another player.
“Just one of those days,” Woods said.
They happen to everyone. They used to happen less frequently to him.
Woods was in the final group of the Tour Championship, two shots behind Kenny Perry, but didn’t have a one-putt birdie until the 16th hole, and by then it effectively was too late to catch up to Mickelson.
It dates to the final round of the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, where Woods built a four-shot lead going into the weekend, still had a two-shot lead against unheralded Y.E. Yang, and lost for the first time in a major when leading going into the final round.
Woods has won four of the last 12 majors – that’s more than any of his peers have won in their careers. He also has finished runner-up in four of the last 12 majors, this after finishing second only twice in the previous 40 majors.
“You’re not going to win them all,” Woods said Tuesday, noting that Jack Nicklaus was runner-up a record 19 times. “The whole idea is to give yourself a chance in each and every one. I did that three of the four – I gave myself a chance. And unfortunately, just didn’t get it done. You learn from it.”
Even so, his missed chances in regular tournaments – The Barclays, Tour Championship, HSBC Champions – raises the question of whether Yang’s victory at Hazeltine chipped away at Woods’ mystique.
Remember, Woods had lost only one tournament in his career when leading by more than one shot going into the final round, and that was nine years ago in Germany against Lee Westwood. It had never happened in a major, the tournaments that mean the most to Woods.
“He’s normal. He was always going to do that,” Geoff Ogilvy said earlier this year. “I don’t think everybody is going to stand on the tee and say, ‘He’s going to give me a chance.”’
Ogilvy, however, said something could be taken away from Yang’s victory.
“The best thing about it is that the media will stop giving Tiger the tournament after 36 holes,” he said.
Maybe not. But the show still starts with Woods, whose appearance in Melbourne has made his $3 million appearance fee – half of that paid by the government – a non-issue among the Australian media.
The tournament has been a sellout for months, with tickets capped at 100,000 for the week. John Brumby, the Victoria premier, sat with Woods in a press conference Tuesday and said more than 35 percent of the tickets were sold to people either out of state or overseas. He said the economic return would be at least $19 million.
That part of Woods’ appeal hasn’t changed.
Watch: Koepka highlights from the Travelers
U.S. Open hangover? Not for Brooks Koepka. The two-time national champion has carried over his form and confidence from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands.
Koepka began his round with a par at the par-4 10th and then reeled off four consecutive birdies, beginning at No. 11.
And here is the capper at the 14th
Koepka turned in 4-under 31. Here's more action from his opening nine holes.
After a par at the first, Koepka added a fifth birdie of the day at the par-4 second.
A bogey at the par-4 fourth dropped him to 4 under, but just one off the lead.
Lyle going through 'scary' period in cancer recovery
MELBOURNE, Australia – Jarrod Lyle's wife says the Australian golfer is struggling through a ''really scary'' period in his third battle with cancer.
Lyle, 36, underwent a bone marrow transplant last December following a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia.
''It's been 190 days since Jarrod's stem-cell transplant and we are going through a really rough patch at the moment,'' Briony Lyle wrote on jarrodlylegolf.com. ''I'm typing this blog on his behalf because he's not able to do it. Jarrod's not able to drive, struggles to prepare any food for himself, can't read stories to the girls and is not able to offer much help at all around the house.
''He is also starting to look like a very frail, sick person.''
Briony Lyle added: ''We are both very aware of the amount of drugs and medication that has gone into Jarrod's body over the years but things are starting to get really scary at the moment. It looks as if this recovery is going to be the longest and hardest one so far.''
Lyle has twice beaten acute myeloid leukemia, in 1998 and 2012, and was able to return to play professional golf.
He made an emotional comeback to the golf course during the 2013 Australian Masters in Melbourne before using a medical exemption to play on the PGA Tour in 2015. He played four seasons on Tour, where he earned $1.875 million in 121 tournaments.
Lyle has since returned to Australia permanently to be with Briony and daughters Lusi and Jemma.
Vermeer wins PGA Professional; 20 make PGA Championship
SEASIDE, Calif. – Ryan Vermeer won the PGA Professional Championship on Wednesday, overcoming front-nine problems to top the 20 qualifiers for the PGA Championship.
The 40-year-old Vermeer, the director of instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska, closed with a 1-over 73 on the Bayonet Course for a two-stroke victory over Sean McCarty and Bob Sowards.
The PGA Championship is in August at Bellerive in St. Louis.
Three strokes ahead entering the day, Vermeer played the front in 4 over with a double bogey on the par-4 second and bogeys on the par-4 seventh and par-4 eighth. He rebounded with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-4 11th and also birdied the par-5 18th.
Vermeer finished at 5-under 283. The former University of Kansas player earned $55,000. He won the 2017 Mizuno Pro/Assistant Championship and finished ninth last year in the PGA Professional to qualify for PGA at Quail Hollow.
McCarty had a 68, and Sowards shot 69. Sowards won the 2004 title.
David Muttitt and Jason Schmuhl tied for fourth at 1 under, and 2012 and 2015 champion Matt Dobyns, Jaysen Hansen, and Johan Kok followed at even par.
Marty Jertson, Brian Smock and Ben Kern were 1 over, and Zach Johnson, Craig Hocknull, Matt Borchert and 2016 winner Rich Berberian Jr. were 2 over. Nine players tied at 3 over, with Shawn Warren, 2017 champion Omar Uresti, 2014 winner Michael Block, Craig Bowden and Danny Balin getting the last five spots at Bellerive in a playoff. Balin got the final spot, beating Brian Norman with a par on the seventh extra hole after Norman lost a ball in a tree.
Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers
CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.
Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.
While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.
“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”
Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.
“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”