Woods the only one who can measure his progress

By Doug FergusonMay 22, 2012, 10:10 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The trouble with trying to measure the progress of Tiger Woods is that by his own definition, he never really gets there. Even when he was at his best, Woods always thought he could get better.

So while winning tournaments is the goal, that's not always the best gauge.

Woods preached patience two weeks ago at The Players Championship when he said, ''Guys, I've done this before. I've been through this. ... I had some pretty good runs after that, and this is no different.'' He then tied for 40th at Sawgrass for the worst three-tournament stretch of his PGA Tour career, which followed what some thought was a breakthrough victory at Bay Hill.

Puzzling? Yes.

Alarming? Not necessarily.

Go back to early 1999, when it looked as though Woods had finally figured out the swing overhaul under Butch Harmon with a 62-65 weekend at Torrey Pines for a two-shot victory. At his next tournament, Woods began a streak of 15 consecutive rounds without breaking 70. It wasn't until that epiphany on the range some three months later - ''Butchy, I've got it,'' he famously told his coach - that Woods was able to play by feel and went on a run for the ages.

The revamped swing under Hank Haney appeared to finally come together in 2005 when Woods outlasted Phil Mickelson in that dramatic duel at Doral, and then a month later he won the Masters with a birdie on the first extra hole. Mission accomplished? Not quite. Two tournaments later, Woods missed the cut for the first time in more than seven years.

Woods is finishing up what could be his last two-week break until October. Starting next week with the Memorial, he is scheduled to play seven tournaments in the next 11 weeks through the PGA Championship, which precedes the FedEx Cup playoffs.

To figure out his progress going into this pivotal stretch is more difficult than ever.

Consider his last six tournaments. Woods closed with a 62 and made Rory McIlroy sweat to win the Honda Classic. He withdrew midway through the final round of Doral with tightness in his left Achilles tendon. He won Bay Hill. He had his worst showing ever at the Masters as a pro. He missed the cut at Quail Hollow. He was never a factor at The Players Championship.

Woods was at Congressional on Monday to promote the AT&T National, which benefits his foundation, when the question came up again.

How will you know you're back?

''Well, I won a tournament already,'' Woods said with a laugh.

When he won the Chevron World Challenge in December for his first win since November 2009, he told of getting a text from a friend reminding him of the lyrics from an LL Cool J song: ''Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years.''

But it is a comeback. The old Tiger Woods, who averaged more than six wins a year for an entire decade, had gone MIA. And by now, Woods knows he will always be measured against his past.

''I remember I had a pretty good year in 2000,'' Woods said. ''And I didn't win for a couple months. And the word 'slump' came about. And that's basically the same thing that just happened here. I just played three events and, 'When are you back?' Well, I just won a tournament three tournaments ago.''

Looking back on his performance during the other two swing changes, there's room for skepticism.

Harmon said he and Woods began revamping his swing after the 1997 season. Based only on results, Woods' big run began with back-to-back wins in Germany and the Memorial at the end of May 1999. In the 35 tournaments he played while rebuilding his game, he still managed to finish in the top five in nearly half of his tournaments, and he was in the top 10 just over 65 percent of the time. He never missed a cut. Only five times did he finish out of the top 25. He won three times.

Haney said he formally began working with Woods before Bay Hill in 2004. In the 24 tournaments until he won the 2005 Masters, Woods finished in the top five 50 percent of the time, 63 percent of the time he was in the top 10, and he finished out of the top 25 just twice. He never missed a cut (he wound up missing two cuts later that year). He won three times.

The results are far different during his latest swing change.

In the 28 tournaments since Sean Foley first worked with him at the 2010 PGA Championship, Woods has finished in the top 10 only 36 percent of the time (10 tournaments), and he has finished out of the top 25 the same number of times. He has missed three cuts. He won twice.

Then again, Woods went nearly four months without completing a tournament because of leg injuries in 2011. It wasn't until last fall when he could work out and practice without restrictions. Even if the starting point more realistically is the Frys.com Open last October, Woods has five finishes in the top five (and top 10) compared with four finishes out of the top 25.

It's the number of tournaments where he was an also-ran that raises questions.

But so much is different under Foley, unrelated to what he is teaching. Unlike the previous two changes, Woods did not have to cope with physical scars (four surgeries on his left knee) and emotional scars (public ridicule from serial adultery that led to divorce).

He began changing his swing with Harmon when he was 22. He was 28 when he revamped his swing under Haney. Woods is now 36.

It's not as easy, and it shows.

But if or when he goes on another big run, he shouldn't argue if someone calls it a comeback.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.