Woods gets last chance for a win in 2010
“As a golfer, I learned so much more this year than any other year – and as a person, infinitely more,” Woods said Tuesday. “So it’s been a very successful year, even though it was a very painful year, as well.”
That year comes to a close with the Chevron World Challenge, which starts Thursday featuring an 18-man field of players inside the top 50 in the world ranking. Woods has won the last two times he played, although he missed the last two years – in 2008 while recovering from knee surgery, and last year because of the Thanksgiving night accident that led to revelations of his infidelity.
It was a year that Woods described as “harder than anyone could have imagined.”
On Tuesday of tournament week a year ago, the Florida Highway Patrol cited him for reckless driving and fined him $164 for running his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree outside his home, while a magazine had a cover story from a cocktail waitress who said she had 300 text messages to prove her 31-month affair with Woods.
His personal life was just starting to unravel.
Woods said he never thought about walking away from golf for the entire year, shooting down speculation in a book that he would enlist in the Navy. Woods said as a kid, he either wanted to be a pro golfer or a Navy SEAL.
“I love playing the game of golf,” Woods said. “It’s fun, it’s certainly challenging, and it’s also something that I know when I do it right, I’m pretty good at it.”
That was not lost on Ian Poulter as he hit balls on the range Tuesday morning and talked about the world ranking, amazed that Woods has lost more ranking points than any player has earned this year.
Poulter recalled a time not long ago when the distance between Woods and whoever was No. 2 in the world was greater than No. 2 and the player ranked 100th or lower.
“It shows how good,” Poulter said, pausing. It sounded as though he was ready to say “how good he was,” but the Englishman caught himself, because he believes Woods will return. “It shows how good he can be when he’s at his best.”
Can he get it back?
“I think it’s in him even more,” Poulter said.
Woods talked about the need to change his personal life and his golf swing, but he never explained until Tuesday why he had to change a swing that had brought him 31 Tour victories, including six majors, under Hank Haney.
“As I played throughout the summer, I kept trying to do the things that I was working on with Hank over the years, and it just wasn’t working anymore, and it got to a point where I just couldn’t do it,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to try and play tournament level golf, major championship golf especially, when at the time I was struggling with which way the ball was going to go. That’s not fun.”
Why wasn’t it working?
“For some reason, it just wasn’t,” he said. “And it was time to go a different route.”
Woods is back to work this week, although only he knows to what degree his life is back to normal. He had a board meeting with the Tiger Woods Foundation on Monday night – Woods picked up the tab for dinner – and more meetings as the host of this tournament on Tuesday before a press conference and some work on the practice range.
He no longer is grilled about his personal life, including his divorce in August.
Instead, the focus has shifted back to his golf game, and there hasn’t been much to report on that front. Woods went without a win on the PGA Tour for the first time in his career. He lost his No. 1 ranking for the first time in five years to Lee Westwood of England.
The Chevron World Challenge does not count as official on the PGA Tour, although it does offer world ranking points, and Woods mathematically will have a chance to get back to No. 1 this week with a victory. That seems unlikely given his recent form.
Woods was asked why he hadn’t won this year, whether it was mechanical or mental, long game or short game.
“All of the above,” Woods said. “I think I’ve dealt with a few things off the golf course, and on the golf course I’ve had to make some changes in my game. You combine all that together, it’s very hard to be efficient for 72 straight holes.”
He has shown flashes – 7 under over his last seven holes in a Ryder Cup singles match, 6 under in his last six holes in Australia.
Still, this year goes down as an anomaly with Woods. No majors. No wins. And a career-worst 68th on the money list.
“It’s been difficult, but also it’s been very rewarding at the same time,” Woods said. “It forced me to look deeper into myself and … how I grew up and how those things didn’t match with the person who I am, and getting back to that, getting back to how my parents raised me. It’s been good. I’m very excited about the future because of that.”
High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball
TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.
''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''
Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.
''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''
The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.
''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''
In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.
Arizona captures NCAA DI Women's Championship
STILLWATER, Okla. – Turns out this match play format provides fireworks. Almost always.
In the four years since the women’s NCAA Championship has switched from the stale, 72-hole stroke-play format the championship matches have been pure magic.
This year, for the third time in the past four years, the final outcome came down to the last match and Arizona took home its third title with a 3-2 victory over Alabama on Wednesday when junior Haley Moore defeated senior Lakareber Abe on the 19th hole.
The Wildcats also won NCAA titles in 1996 and 2000, the later when current Arizona coach Laura Ianello was on the team as a player.
“Arizona is my home, it is where I went to school and it needs to be back home,” Ianello said. “So I am so proud to be the coach to bring it back.”
Two days ago, Arizona was in the midst of an epic collapse. They were safely in the third position after 54 holes of stroke play and needed to only be inside the top-eight after 72 holes to advance to the match play portion of the event.
But they played the worst round of the day and were on the outside looking in with one hole remaining when junior Bianca Pagdanganan made eagle on the par-5 18th hole. That propelled the Wildcats into a playoff against Baylor that they ultimately won.
On the first day of match play, Arizona continued to ride the wave of momentum by defeating Pac-12 rivals UCLA, the top seed, and Stanford, a match play stalwart the past three years.
Next up for Arizona was Alabama, the top-ranked team in the country and the second seed this week after stroke play.
“Win or lose tomorrow, this has been a helluva ride,” Ianello said, attempting to take pressure off her team, which, on paper, looked like an underdog.
But you know the saying, anything can happen in match play, and often does.
Alabama coach Mic Potter put out his three first-team All-Americans in the first three spots hoping to jump out to an early lead. Junior Lauren Stephenson played poorly in the opening match and lost, 4 and 3, to freshman Yu-Sang Hou.
Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight dispatched of Wildcats Gigi Stoll and Pagdanganan easily in the second and third matches.
Arizona’s Sandra Nordaas beat Angelica Moresco, 1 up, in the fourth match meaning the fifth and final match behind, which was all square after 16 holes, was going to be the one to decide the NCAA title.
Lakareber lost the 17th hole when her approach shot sailed well short and right of the green in thick, thick rough. She attempted to advance the ball but could not and headed to the final hole 1 down.
With seemingly every golf fan in Stillwater on site, including several men’s teams here to participate in next week’s championship, Abe hit a laser second shot into the par-5 18th hole setting up a 12-foot look for eagle. Moore failed to put pressure on Abe and Abe won the hole to set up extra holes to decide the championship.
In the extra frame, Moore was left of the green in two shots and Abe was short in the greenside bunker. Moore chipped to 4 feet and Abe’s bunker shot was 6 feet away. Abe missed, Moore made and Arizona walked away with the hardware.
“It means so much, it’s actually like a dream,” Moore said. “I’m just so happy for my team right now.”
Potter has been a head coach for 35 years – at both Furman and Alabama – and finally was able to collect his first NCAA Championship in 2012. Being so close to a second one will sting for quite awhile but he will be able to live with the outcome for one simple reason.
“They fought their hearts out all year,” Potter said. “I just want to congratulate them for the way they battled, not only today, but in match play. Everyone gave their best on every shot, that’s all we can ask.”
Arizona def. Alabama, 3-2
Yu-Sang Hou (AZ) def. Lauren Stephenson (AL), 4 and 3
Kristen Gillman (AL) def. Gigi Stoll (AZ), 4 and 3
Cheyenne Knight (AL) def. Bianca Pagdanganan, 4 and 2
Sandra Nordaas (AZ) def. Angelica Moresco (AL), 1 up
Haley Moore (AZ) def. Lakareber Abe (AL), 19th hole
Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier
Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.
Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.
And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.
Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.
The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.
The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.
''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''
Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.
Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.
That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.
''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''
Off the course, they're also different.
The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.
Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.
Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.
''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.
Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.
Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.
Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.
On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.
In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.
Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.
Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.
''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.
The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.
''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.
LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.
Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.
''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''