No 2 Tiger Swings to a New Beat

By George WhiteDecember 30, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Stories of the Year - #2Editor's note: We are counting down the top 10 stories in golf for the 2005 season. This is Story No. 2.
 
Has he done enough yet?
 
Does nine full years qualify, six of those when he was No. 1 on the money list, the other three when he was No. 4 or better? Does 10 majors do it, the most of anyone after nine years competing in the history of the PGA Tour? Does 46 tour wins do it, more than any other player in history who has competed just nine years? Maybe three full swing changes, brought about by, (1), a movement that he didnt think would hold up under the grind of the PGA Tour, or, (2), a combination of a knee injury and a back injury that wouldnt tolerate the constant stress that the first revamped swing brought?
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods reacts to his winning birdie putt at The Masters.
Has he done enough to finally vault him to the top of the heap among the storied list of vaunted PGA Tour competitors? The critics are being silenced one by one as the years slowly tick by ' can it be 10 years since Tiger Woods completed a victory in the U.S. Amateur and turned pro at Milwaukee in late August of 1996.
 
If consistently excellent play the first nine years is your criteria, without question 2005 pushed Tiger Woods to the front. If youre going by a full career, then maybe your guy is Jack Nicklaus or Ben Hogan or Sam Snead. But by any measuring stick, 2005 proved that Tiger Woods is part of a very, very exclusive club.
 
This was Tiger in 2005: won six times on the PGA Tour in just 21 attempts; won two majors; won twice in playoffs while losing none (he now has won eight times in nine attempts); was on the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup team, winning a pair of matches with Jim Furyk; won in excess of $10 million; and, in so doing, he reclaimed the No. 1 world ranking from Vijay Singh.
 
Along the way, he also learned that sometimes it doesnt turn out the way you had it figured ' he missed the cut at the EDS Byron Nelson, breaking a string of 142 times in which he had played on the weekend. And he later missed the cut at the Funai Classic in October. Still, that was only the second and third times he had missed in his nine-plus years on tour.

Tiger Woods 2005 actually began late in 2004. It was at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan where he finally won a stroke-play event after a drought of more than a year. That tournament was of huge importance for Woods as he fought to fashion his new swing under his swing instructor, Hank Haney.
 
I think the end of last year (2004) was a big step for me, to have put the pieces together and I won a tournament like I did in Japan - which was a big step for me, going through all the changes with Hank, said Tiger.
 
So I think for me the process has been arduous, a lot of work, a lot of countless hours on the range, in front of a mirror, trying to get it right and trying to teach my body to do something that it hadn't done before. And it's very similar to what I was trying to do back in the middle of '97 through '99 middle of '99. So that took me two years. This time it took me about a year to put the pieces together.
 
The changes he was making had by necessity taken a toll on his game as he struggled in 2004. During that season he won only once, and that wasnt a stroke-play event (the WCG-Accenture, which is match play.)
 
Any time you make changes in your game, it's not going to be an immediate success, and did I probably take a step back? Yeah, probably, I did in '98, too, end of '97, all of '98, and beginning of '99 - almost two years where I didn't really do anything in the game of golf, he said. But then again, once those changes kicked in, I had a pretty good run, '99 and 2000, won 17 times on our Tour.
 
But in only his second tournament of 2005 ' at the Buick Invitational near San Diego ' he nailed down a victory. And this one was in stroke play.
 
Now I know what to do, what to fix and how to fix it out there, he said then. To come down the stretch like that, and I finally hit some really good drives all of a sudden on the back nine when I really needed to.
 
It was at Doral, in a monumental struggle with Phil Mickelson, that Tiger finally reclaimed his first-place status that he had lost six months earlier ' to Vijay Singh. He then won two major championships ' the Masters in a playoff over a gritty Chris DiMarco and a dominating performance in the British Open at St. Andrews. He wrapped up the year with wins at two WGC events ' the NEC and a playoff victory in the American Express.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods now has 46 PGA Tour wins and 10 major titles to his credit.
Is he at the same juncture he was at for nearly three years, in 1999 until halfway through 2001, when he won 22 times? That was during his second swing change, remember. And the answer is no, he hasnt matched that record of victories. And he has missed two cuts this year, dont forget. But Tiger says he never looks back, and those years of greatness will forever be a part of the past ' not the present.
 
Everybody is always trying to say, you can try to get back to 2000, he says forcefully. I don't want to get back to 2000. I want to become better. I want to become better than that. That's the whole idea of making a change.
 
I won the Masters by 12 in '97. I changed my game. Do I want to go back to that? No, I don't. I want to become better than that and I was able to achieve that, and that's why I made this change. I've been scrutinized over the past year or so for doing that, and I'm starting to see the fruits of it now. I've got to continue down the path and continue working hard.
 
But he no longer is in his 20s. On Dec. 30 he turned 30 years old. He has a new bride. He has, once again, a new swing. And he has what he hopes will be an exciting new era in front of him.
 
The 20s have been certainly better than I thought they could ever be, he ventured. I have always thought that golfers' peak years are going to be in their 30s, and hopefully that will be the same for me. I've got a lot of great things I've been working on, and I see my best golf certainly being in the future, not in the past.
 
And for Tiger, the added maturity of turning 30 has had a multitude of advantages.
 
If I look back on my life at 21 versus my life here at 29, it's totally different. The things that used to worry me don't worry me. Things that I thought were important really aren't, that kind of stuff. You just understand, you've got a better grasp. Being out here enough times, enough years, you really start to get an understanding of what it takes to be out here.
 
Its been an adventure, working out here on the PGA Tour in his 20s with three different swing movements. And its a credit to Tiger Woods that he has been able to make changes while still playing at such a high level. And, the swing he has today isnt necessarily the swing he will have for the rest of his career.
 
You're always going to keep working, he said. You never get there - never. You never arrive. And you can only do better the following day.
 
And, golf is fun. Life, for that matter, is extremely enjoyable. There are negatives to being Tiger Woods, sure, but to Tiger,

I love playing. I love competing. I love the thrill of the hunt, getting out there and competing and trying to win a tournament. That's a rush, man, he said.
 
To me, that is as fun as fun gets. I enjoy going home and practicing and preparing just like I always have. I still, even to this day, emulate - whether it's Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer or Lee Trevino. Late in the evening - OK, Trevino is on the green, Palmer hits his shot on the green, Tiger Woods has a chance to win another one. I still do it, even to this day. It's how I grew up, and you never let those childhood dreams ever go away.
 
And Tiger counts his blessings and enjoys his life, completely satisfied that his world is in order.
 
The best part without a doubt is being able to do something you love every day, without a doubt. To do something where you can't wait to wake up and go do it, not too many people in this world can say that. I'm blessed that way.
 
Related Links:
  • The Year in Review
  • Tiger Woods' Bio
  • Full Coverage - The Masters
  • Full Coverage - British Open
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    Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

    There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

    Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

    She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

    It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

    Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

    "It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

    Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”