Woods plays his best round of the year

By Doug FergusonAugust 26, 2010, 9:44 pm

PARAMUS, N.J. – In his first tournament since his divorce, Tiger Woods finally looked like the No. 1 player in the world Thursday at the Barclays when he opened with a 6-under 65, his lowest score of the year, to share the lead with Vaughn Taylor.

It was Woods’ first time leading after any round on the PGA Tour since the Tour Championship last September.

“It’s exciting to hit the ball flush again,” Woods said. “It’s something I’ve been missing all year.”

He didn’t miss much at Ridgewood Country Club. Woods hit all but one fairway and putted for birdie on all but two holes. And while he hit his driver only twice, they were two of his best shots of the day – including on the 291-yard fifth hole, where his drive landed pin-high and settled 15 feet away.

Was it just a coincidence that his game showed up so soon after his marriage was dissolved?

“I can’t really say that’s the case,” he said. “As far as golf, it was nice to put it together.”

Woods and Taylor both played in the morning, when the greens were smooth and the conditions were only breezy. They had a one-shot lead over Australian Adam Scott, Brian Gay and Ryan Palmer. Scott played in the afternoon, where a gust of wind played tricks on him at the final hole and led to bogey.

Tiger Woods
Woods shot his best score of the year Thursday with a 6-under 65. (Getty Images)
Scott endured a long day in the pro-am Wednesday and didn’t think Ridgewood would serve up a 65 to anyone.

“Seeing some good scores this morning made me change my mind,” he said.

That one of those scores belonged to Woods was hardly a surprise.

“For him to piece things together can’t be too hard,” Scott said. “He’s very good.”

The last time Woods’ was atop the leaderboard after any round of any tournament was when he won the Australian Masters on Nov. 15, less than two weeks after his life caved in on him – the car crash after Thanksgiving night, details of adultery, five months away from the game and a broken marriage, which officially ended Monday.

His golf hasn’t been very good either, which is why Woods began the FedEx Cup playoffs 112th out of 125 players who qualified. He was so low down the list that he was first to tee off under a sunny sky at Ridgewood, the first time he’s done that in his PGA Tour career.

It worked to his advantage.

“With fresh greens, everybody in our group was making putts on the front nine,” Woods said. “You had to get it today.”

And he did. The 65 was his lowest score in 46 rounds, dating to a 62 in the BMW Championship last year. Taylor grinned when asked if he was surprised to see Woods’ name on the leaderboard.

“Somewhat, you know?” he said. “It’s good to see him back up top.”

With sunshine and a light breeze, conditions were ripe for scoring. Palmer had a chance to join the leaders until a three-putt bogey on the 18th put him at 66. Even though the greens became bumpy in the afternoon after so much foot traffic, the course was soft enough to allow for good scores. There were 14 players who shot 67, including Davis Love III, defending champion Heath Slocum and Stewart Cink.

Phil Mickelson, with his ninth chance in the last four months to replace Woods at No. 1 in the world, made only one birdie for a 72.

For Woods, the timing could not have been better.

Only the top 100 in the FedEx Cup standings advance to the second round of the playoffs next week in the Deutsche Bank Championship. Woods at least needs to make the cut, then finish in the middle of the pack. He had a better solution.

“I figure if I win, I should be OK,” Woods said.

For one of the few times this year, he gave himself ample reason to believe that. Woods opened with a 3-wood down the middle of the fairway, a pitching wedge to 15 feet below the hole and a birdie putt.

More followed, even on the par 5s, which have given Woods fits in recent months.

He mostly used his 3-wood off the tee, figuring that was enough to reach the corners without having to take on the tops of trees that line the fairways. Plus, with saturated conditions from rain earlier in the week, tour officials allowed players to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

“With the ball in hand, it’s much more important to hit the fairways,” Woods said. It was the first time since the 2006 British Open at Royal Liverpool that he hit his 3-wood off the tee on every par 5.

The two times he hit the driver turned out to be two of his best shots of the day.

After the tee shot on the par-4 fifth – only six players hit that green off the tee – Woods used driver into the wind on the 18th, hitting it so well that he had only a 7-iron into the green. He hit a punch shot to just over 6 feet for a final birdie.

“It was just a low, bullet fade right around the corner,” he said. “It was just the shape of the shot, because it was different than most of the 3-woods I played all day. I didn’t hold a single 3-wood. I was turning them over. Now, the shape of the driver in the complete opposite direction … and I hadn’t hit a driver since the fifth hole.”

Getty Images

Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

"I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

"That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

"I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."

Getty Images

Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:08 pm

As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.

Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.

Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.

Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.

With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.

Getty Images

Pavin's season nearly ends after slow-play penalty

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 1:50 pm

Corey Pavin's season on the PGA Tour Champions nearly came to an end because of a slow-play penalty.

Penalties for pace are often discussed or threatened, but rarely doled out on either the PGA Tour or the over-50 circuit. But that changed Sunday during the final round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, where Pavin was told by a rules official after completing his round that he would receive a 1-stroke penalty for slow play.

The penalty was on the surface rather harmless, turning an even-par 72 into a 1-over 73 and dropping Pavin into a tie for 15th. But this was the first event of a three-tournament postseason for PGA Tour Champions players, and only the top 54 in points advanced to this week's Invesco QQQ Championship.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


Pavin, who has two top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season, barely held on at 53rd place after the penalty was enforced.

Slow-play discussions came up earlier this season surrounding Bernhard Langer at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, but Golf Channel analyst Lanny Wadkins expressed his surprise on the telecast that it was Pavin who got a shot added to his score.

"Of all the things to happen with all the times I have played - I can't even count the number of rounds - I never thought Corey Pavin was a slow player," Wadkins said. "All the guys we know are slow players have never been penalized out here. Where has this been for the last 15 years?"

The subject of the penalty also raised an eyebrow from Stephen Ames, who finished alongside Pavin in 15th place while Langer finished second behind Woody Austin:

Getty Images

Azinger 'lobbied' to captain Ryder Cup team a second time

By Rex HoggardOctober 22, 2018, 1:47 pm

In 2008, Paul Azinger became the first U.S. Ryder Cup captain in nearly a decade to lead a team to victory, doing so at Valhalla with his innovative “pod” system and a player-driven approach to leadership.

In the wake of that victory there were many, including the vast majority of his players, who said Azinger deserved a second chance to captain, but at the time the 12-time PGA Tour winner appeared to be undecided and the PGA of America named Corey Pavin the 2010 captain.

On Monday, Azinger was named NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst starting next year and among many revelations during an extended interview on “Morning Drive” he explained how much he wanted a second chance to captain.

“I wanted to do it again, I lobbied to do it again after we won in ’08, but I think I waited a little too long and they had already made a decision,” Azinger said. “The excuse I got was that there are more captains than there are Ryder Cups and I thought that was fair, but then they asked [Tom] Watson to do it again shortly afterward and I was like, ‘What, huh?’”

Watson was named captain of the 2014 U.S. team, which lost by five points and led to the creation of the Ryder Cup task force, which adopted many of Azinger’s ideas including his use of four-player pods.

It’s even more curious that Azinger was never given a second chance considering that Davis Love III was also named a captain twice, first in 2012 and again in ’16.

“I didn’t do it again, I didn’t carry the flag to Europe in 2010, which is fine, and now I’m never going to get to do it again,” he said.

As for who may be named the next U.S. captain after another loss to the Europeans last month in France Azinger could only speculate. “Looks like Wisconsin [site of the 2020 matches at Whistling Straits] and Steve Stricker are going to be a perfect match,” he said.