Woods major march takes a detour

By Doug FergusonJune 1, 2010, 11:48 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Tiger Woods, dressed in a royal blue shirt, hopped over a short fence and onto the range at Muirfield Village. Jack Nicklaus, in gray blazer and tie, hosted a ceremony on the other end of the range.

Two players so closely linked in golf history suddenly seem so very far apart.

A year ago, after Woods won the Memorial for a record fourth time, Nicklaus was more convinced than ever that Woods was going to take another step toward his record 18 majors.

“I suspect No. 15 will come for Tiger Woods in about two weeks,” Nicklaus said, referring to the U.S. Open. “If he drives the ball this way, and plays this way, I’m sure it will. And if not, it will surprise me greatly.”

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has to win four more majors to tie Jack Nicklaus on the all-time list. (Getty Images)

Woods didn’t win the U.S. Open because of a balky putter. He didn’t win the British Open because of a shocking six-hole stretch in Turnberry that caused him to miss the cut. He didn’t even win the PGA Championship despite a two-shot lead going into the final round.

If that wasn’t enough to make Nicklaus wonder whether his record was safe, he watched Woods’ personal life unravel with sordid tales of infidelity that shattered his image.

One thing hasn’t changed, though.

Nicklaus still talks more in terms of “when” than “if” while talking about Woods’ pursuit of his record.

“I don’t think my feeling has changed,” Nicklaus said. “I felt for a long time that my record would probably get broken someday. Tiger has come along, obviously the best player that’s come along in a long time.

“Do I still think Tiger will break my record? Yeah, I think he probably will,” he said. “He is a very dedicated, hard-working golfer. But then again, I’ve always said you have to do it. It’s not just a gimme. You’ve got to go do it. We’ll watch.”

Adding to his tumultuous six months were Woods’ last two tournaments – events unbecoming the world’s No. 1 player. He missed the cut at Quail Hollow with the highest 36-hole score of his career, then failed to finish The Players Championship because of a neck injury that only Woods knew about.

Of greater interest to Nicklaus is what happens in the next two majors.

First up is the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which Woods dominated like no other 10 years ago with a 15-shot victory. Then it’s off to St. Andrews for the British Open, where Woods has won twice by a combined 13 shots. He will try to become the first player to win the claret jug three times at the home of golf.

Nicklaus won two of his majors at the British Open. He won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and nearly won another won until Tom Watson holed a chip for birdie on the 17th hole of the final round.

“Pebble Beach and St. Andrews were important golf courses for him,” Nicklaus said. “He basically won on those fairly easily through the years. If he has problems with those golf courses, sure, they won’t come around for a while. Maybe it might be tougher.”

Catching or even passing Nicklaus sure looks harder than it did a year ago.

Woods has never been more unpredictable than he is now. He went from a tie for fourth at the Masters – amazing in that it was his first competition in five months – to struggling to break 80. His health is now in question. His credibility is at an all-time low. Whatever is going on with his swing he’ll have to figure out on his own because he split with coach Hank Haney two weeks ago.

Even some of his peers are starting to wonder if he can catch Nicklaus.

“A year ago, I would have said 100 percent chance,” Robert Allenby said. “Now I would say 70 percent. It’s just the instability in his life right now, and the way he has played golf. And the older you get, it doesn’t get easier. But he’s still the fittest athlete in the world.”

Woods won 10 majors before he turned 30, and he won his 14th major when he was 32, well ahead of the Nicklaus pace. Then came a third knee surgery that kept him out eight months, and personal problems that kept him out five months.

Even among his closest friends, there is some doubt.

“It has changed a bit,” John Cook said. “I thought at one point he would win 25 majors. I do think he’ll break the record. But I think with last year and this year, getting golf back in his mind is a difficult task. And just because he loves St. Andrews and Pebble Beach, that doesn’t make it automatic. He’s got to find his golf swing, believe in the golf swing and have no other drama off the course.”

Even so, time is critical.

Nicklaus won 14 majors in his first 14 years on the PGA Tour, and it took him 11 years to win his final four majors. That includes the 1986 Masters at age 46, which Nicklaus jokingly referred to as a “mistake.”

Nicklaus believes most golfers hit their prime in the mid-30s, the area Woods is approaching.

The one thing Woods has going for him is a finish line. He knows that 18 majors represent the benchmark for greatness in golf. Nicklaus wasn’t even aware of the record he was chasing – Bobby Jones’ 13 majors – until he won his 10th. He broke the record when he was 33, and Nicklaus no longer had a carrot to chase.

Thinking his record would be broken, Nicklaus only wondered whether he would be around to see it. When Woods came along, the Golden Bear figured it would be a matter of time.

“I just want to be the first one there to shake his hand,” Nicklaus said.

He might have to wait longer than he would have expected a year ago.

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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."