Woods closer to looking like 'the old Tiger'

By Doug FergusonNovember 21, 2011, 11:46 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – Tiger Woods hasn’t looked this good on the golf course in back-to-back weeks since he left Australia two years ago with his 82nd title and the indisputable No. 1 ranking.

OK, it’s a small sample.

The Australian Open and the Presidents Cup marked only the sixth time since the end of 2009 that Woods has even competed in consecutive weeks.

He finished third in Sydney, two shots out of the lead. He played just as well, if not better, at Royal Melbourne, even if his record will show him contributing only two points. Still to be determined is whether the last two weeks represent another tease or substantial progress that Woods really is on his way back. Nine rounds of solid play - mostly in windy conditions - would suggest the latter.

Next up for Woods is his season finale in the Chevron World Challenge next week in California.

It was a small coincidence that the decisive point in another American win in the Presidents Cup came down to Woods. U.S. captain Fred Couples put him in the 11th spot for the 12 singles matches on Sunday. Woods closed out Aaron Baddeley on the 15th hole with his sixth birdie, the most of any player on another tough day at Royal Melbourne.

The comments that followed were not so much of a coincidence.

Nothing irritates Woods more than people who either doubt or criticize him, and that list included International captain Greg Norman. Along with saying he thought Woods’ dominance in the majors was over, the Shark said he would not have picked Woods for the Presidents Cup, instead choosing PGA champion Keegan Bradley.

Couples not only used a captain’s pick on Woods, he announced it a month before his team was even decided.

“I’m thankful that he picked me,” Woods said. “Greg is probably not happy about it after I closed out the cup today.”

The Presidents Cup was a big step for Woods, and it ended with a small dig at Norman.

And there could be more to come.

Woods has spent a career wanting to prove the skeptics wrong. He was questioned for overhauling his swing under Butch Harmon after his watershed win at the 1997 Masters, but when he was finished, Woods reached incomparable levels. He won 28 times in a three-year span, and had a stretch of winning seven out of 11 majors.

Then came another change under Hank Haney, where everything was inspected except the number of trophies. Woods won a fourth green jacket at the Masters in 2005, was runner-up in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, then captured another British Open that showed he was back on top of his game, and his sport.

Woods couldn’t resist a shot at his skeptics.

“I’ve been criticized for the last couple of years. ‘Why would I change my game?’ This is why,” Woods said that summer day at St. Andrews. “First, second and first in the last three majors. That’s why.”

There are differences this time around.

Woods is 35, and five of the top 10 players in the world are in their 20s. That includes U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, former PGA champion Martin Kaymer and Dustin Johnson, the most talented American still in his 20s.

He had surgery for the fourth time on his left knee after winning the 2008 U.S. Open, his 14th and last major to date. He injured the left knee again at the Masters this year, and while he described it as “minor,” he hobbled off the TPC Sawgrass a month later and did not return to competition for three months.

When he came back, he looked ordinary at Firestone and missed the cut at the PGA Championship.

The excuses he offered were reasonable, even if not many people wanted to hear them. He had only been processing changes to his swing under Sean Foley for a year, and he couldn’t spend the proper amount of time on the range to work on them. He said his left leg was stronger than it had been in years, giving him time to practice. All he needed was competition, yet he wasn’t eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs, and he couldn’t play other events because of family commitments, set out in his divorce, that were not flexible.

As always, only Woods knows where he is in this “process.”

“This is the way I’ve been hitting it at home, “Woods said. “I’m very pleased with the progress I’ve made with Sean, and it’s finally paying off under pressure. It held up nicely last week at the Open, and it held up nicely this week.”

Questions remain about his putting. Woods used to make everything, or so it seemed, at the height of his powers. There are times it looks as though he makes nothing now. Making putts wasn’t easy for anyone at Royal Melbourne, especially with the wind. Even so, Woods missed his fair share at the Frys.com Open and at the Australian Open.

Woods once said he believed the yips were hereditary. When asked about his father - the best putting coach he ever had - about nine months before Earl Woods died, he smiled and said: “He still makes everything.”

That’s why John Cook shakes his head when people write off Woods.

“I watch and listen on TV and I cringe,” said Cook, perhaps Woods’ biggest supporter. “It doesn’t make any sense at all. A healthy Tiger Woods is trouble for a lot of people. He knows his place in history, and he wants his place in history. He just needed people to believe in him. I know Fred never stopped believing in him.”

Couples was the first to approach Woods after his win over Baddeley, shadow boxing with him on the 15th green.

Perhaps both of them shared a feeling on vindication.

“I felt like I was picking the greatest player I’ve ever seen,” Couples said. “I’ve never seen anyone play like Tiger.”

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."