Woods changing more than his swing as year ends

By Doug FergusonNovember 16, 2010, 7:40 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – After his best finish of the year that looked close only on paper, Tiger Woods went from shaking his head to chuckling before he even heard the rest of the question.

After spending a full year out of contention, will he have to teach himself how to win again?

“No,” Woods quickly replied, still laughing. “No, no, no.”

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods left Australia feeling better about his game after a closing 65. (Getty Images)
There is no reason for him to be alarmed, although some of the numbers are startling. He went an entire season without winning for the first time in his 15 years as a pro. He was at least 10 shots behind the winner in six of the 12 tournaments he finished. Only once this year did he go into the weekend within three shots of the lead.

And the last time he really felt the heat on the back nine Sunday? Maybe the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and that was lukewarm.

“Saturday at the U.S. Open was probably it,” Woods said.

He is in the process of changing his swing for the fourth time under a third teacher, and Woods realizes it will take time. In some of his most candid remarks about going to Sean Foley for help, Woods said he was waffling about a change the week of the PGA Championship.

“Every night, I was trying to figure out, ‘Should I actually do this or not?’ Because I know what the undertaking is,” he said. “I know how much effort it takes, how many swings you have to make in the mirror, how many things you have to think about. Do I really want to do that again?”

By all accounts, Woods is picking up on Foley’s concepts much quicker than he did with Butch Harmon and Hank Haney. If history is any indication, he will return to win tournaments in the bunches, majors included.

But even in the midst of two big changes since turning pro, he still managed to give himself chances. He was still able to measure his progress on the back nine Sunday. In 1998, when he won only two tournaments, he also had five top-3s, including two playoff losses. In 2004, when his only wins were the Match Play Championship and his last event of the year in Japan, he had six top-3s and twice finished one shot out of the lead.

This time, however, it’s more than a swing change.

His whole life has changed.

Woods has always said he doesn’t enter a tournament unless he thinks he can win, a goal that has never changed. He also conceded in an interview last week that there were times this year when winning wasn’t always at the forefront of his mind.

His marriage was crumbling. His image had been shattered. His mystique was being questioned.

Along with studying a pin sheet, he was poring over divorce documents. He wasn’t just trying to map out a strategy on how to play a golf course, he was trying to figure out how to stay involved with his two children.

“This summer,” he said, “was very difficult.”

There have been flashes of great play, just not for long. He was tied for the first-round lead at The Barclays, then began his third round by hitting a 5-wood off the property. He played six flawless holes at Deutsche Bank Championship, but all that did was ensure he made the cut. At the Ryder Cup, he played his final seven holes in 7-under par. And at the Australian Masters, he played his last six holes in 6 under to finish fourth, only three shots behind Stuart Appleby.

Finishing high on the leaderboard only reminds him of how many shots he threw away during the week, mainly with his putting.

“I can do this in streaks,” Woods said. “Unfortunately, I haven’t done this for an entire round. One of things when you’re making changes in the game is that it takes time. I’m pleased with some of the progress I’ve made. The streaks are now lasting longer. I still need to do it for an entire round. And obviously, I didn’t do it for 72 holes.”

He has one more tournament to give it a try, in an 18-man field at the Chevron World Challenge the first week of the December that features 13 of the top 20 in the world.

When he starts his 2011 season at Torrey Pines, perhaps then Woods will have settled into his life adjustments, too.

That’s the wild card.

That’s what is different about this swing change.

“I would never doubt anything that Tiger Woods could do because he’s the best player I’ve ever seen play,” Stewart Cink said at Disney. “So it’s dangerous territory when you start saying, ‘No, I don’t think he’ll ever be the same.’ So I just can’t say that.”

Cink, like so many others, pointed to that singles match at Celtic Manor as an indication Woods is getting closer, that he can be the same dominant force he has been his entire career.

“But he’s been through so much – mentally, off the course – that it does tend to sort of weigh into your performance,” Cink said. “And the mental edge is such a big part of his dominance.”

This year – on and off the course – raises more questions than ever about his future. Every great sportsman goes through slumps, no matter how dominant he has been. Woods is no different.
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Country singer Owen shoots 86 in Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Web.com Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Web.com Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.

Full-field scores from the Nashville Golf Open

Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics:

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New putter propels Hoffman to Fort Worth lead

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:30 pm

After sitting at home last week, Charley Hoffman decided it was time for a change.

The veteran estimated that he has been using the same version of a Scotty Cameron putter for the last five years, but heading into this week's Fort Worth Invitational he wanted to shake things up.

"I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman told reporters. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."

The swap provided immediate results, as Hoffman opened with a 7-under 63 while picking up more than two strokes over the field on the greens to take a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and Andrew Putnam. It was an all-around effort Thursday for Hoffman, as he missed only two greens in regulation and never faced a par putt longer than 5 feet.

"I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Hoffman had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, capping it with a Presidents Cup appearance and a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he has made nine cuts in 12 starts this year, his T-12 finish at the Masters remains his best result as he has struggled to turn top-20s into opportunities to contend.

Hoffman is making his seventh straight appearance at Colonial, where he tied for 10th in 2015. But he had never shot better than 65 before Thursday, when his decision to switch to a heavier Scotty Cameron model seemingly put a magnet on the bottom of the cup.

"Putting is a fickle part of the game," he said. "So hopefully the good mojo continues."

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McIlroy shoots 67, two off BMW PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 6:56 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.

Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.

The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.

McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

''Walking off the 16th green and going to No. 17 at 5 under par, it was good after being 1 over after three (holes),'' McIlroy said, before diverting away from revisiting the end of his round.

''I played really well, gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well, for the most part hit my irons a lot better than I have done, so it was nice to get off to a good start.''

McIlroy is playing the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2015. He won it in 2014, the year he won The Open and the PGA Championship – his most recent major victories.

After bogeying No. 3, the former top-ranked McIlroy reeled off seven birdies in 13 holes and later said the greens were in the best condition he'd seen them.

Bjerregaard, whose only win came in Portugal last year, made seven birdies in a bogey-free round – his last at No. 18 giving him the outright lead over South Africans Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.

Burmester earlier played his last eight holes in 6 under par – including making eagle at the 15th – to draw level with compatriot Fichardt, who was also bogey-free.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished 7-6 on the two par 5s to drop from the outright lead at the time to 4 under.

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Stricker opens with 65 at Colonial despite back pain

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 6:45 pm

After four holes of the Fort Worth Invitational, things were looking bleak for Steve Stricker.

The ageless veteran was already 1 over when he tweaked his back playing his approach to No. 13, his fourth hole of the day at Colonial Country Club. He ended up making another bogey, but at that point his score took a backseat to the health of his ailing back.

"I tried to hit a pretty solid 6-iron and got right into the impact area, and actually felt my lower back crack right where I had surgery back in 2014, pretty much right on the spot," Stricker told reporters. "Tried to walk to the green and that wasn't going so well. Kind of tightened up on me. I thought I was going to have to stop and just stand there for a minute, which I did a couple of times. It didn't look or feel very good for a while."

Slowly but surely, Stricker's back began to loosen up, and with it came a turnaround on the scorecard. Stricker had a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 5 under, highlighted by a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 first hole. Despite the rocky start, he ended up shooting a 5-under 65 to sit two shots off the early pace set by Charley Hoffman.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I just kept plodding along," Stricker said. "I knew there were some birdie holes out here if you can get it in the fairway. There are some short irons."

Stricker had a spot in one of the marquee early-round groups, but his score bettered both Jordan Spieth's 1-under 69 and defending champ Kevin Kisner's 2-over 72. Stricker told reporters that he planned to get his back checked after the round.

Stricker continues to straddle both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions while crafting a unique schedule, and his appearance this week in Fort Worth came at the expense of skipping the Senior PGA Championnship, a major on the over-50 circuit. But Stricker won at Colonial in 2009 and has now played four straight years on what he described as one of his favorite courses.

"I like to play here. I know I'm going to play John Deere, another favorite tournament of mine, and FedEx St. Jude looks like I am going to try to play in a couple weeks, try to get in the U.S. Open," Stricker said. "So it's just kind of picking them as I go, and seeing where I want to go and seeing what feels good to me at the time."