Back To School

By Jason SobelOctober 10, 2011, 2:19 pm

Tiger Woods finished T-30 at the Open and carded three consecutive rounds under par. senior writers Randall Mell, Jason Sobel and Rex Hoggard grade Woods' performance in his first ever Fall Series event.


Give him a D.

It’s hard to imagine Woods giving himself anything more when he said he went to the Open looking to win, when he spoke so excitedly about the upturn in his game with the practice-round 62 at the Medalist and with his growing comfort with his new swing.

If I were grading Woods on a curve against the field, he would get a C. He tied for 30th, middle of the pack, in a Fall Series event that featured just three of the top 50 players in the world rankings. He finished 10 shots back and never got himself into contention to win an event that came down to a playoff between two players who had never won a PGA Tour event before.

But Woods is graded on a steeper curve. That’s why the story I read in my local newspaper about Sunday’s finish featured Woods in the headline and led with Woods and didn’t even mention the tournament winner (Bryce Molder) until the latter half of the story.

My grade is harsh because I’m grading Woods against the standard he set himself, against Jack Nicklaus and the record 18 professional major championships that make Nicklaus the greatest player who ever lived. Woods is chasing history. That’s what every tournament is still about, we think. It’s why he is still the most compelling figure entering any tournament today. It’s the grander game within today’s game and why we focus so much attention upon him.

Woods won’t challenge Nicklaus’ record by putting as erratically as he did at CordeValle Golf Club. His once magic wand could erase so many mistakes. The guy didn’t lead the PGA Tour in scoring all those years because he made more birdies than anyone else. He led the Tour in scoring because he could make so many great saves for pars. That’s more the pressing challenge now than a wayward driver. Woods won’t win another major making as many mistakes as he’s making.

Yes, Woods made progress at CordeValle with three consecutive 68s to close. That’s what he needs to focus on, to build upon, improvements that will bring back the confidence he needs to catch Nicklaus. He won’t get there with his D game.


There were six players who tied for 30th place at the Open this past weekend. If you asked me to produce a letter grade for five of them – John Merrick, Nate Smith, Vaughn Taylor, Nathan Green and Roland Thatcher – I’d probably give each about a B- or so.

After all, those players all took four turns around the difficult CordeValle course in a collective 7-under, earning $30,375 for the effort. It was hardly the stuff of greatness, but they did beat 97 other competitors in the 132-man field.

As for the other guy in the T-30 sextet, a B- feels like empathetic grading. For so long, Tiger Woods not only dominated this game at the highest level, but was always results-oriented. Even when he didn’t have his best stuff, the Tiger of old would usually sneak his way into a backdoor top-10 finish.

That isn’t the case anymore. Whether it says more about Woods or the competition, his B game – or even B- game – is no longer enough to persevere over 95 percent of the field.

When we assess his results now, we tend to hold him to the same standards that we had for the first 14 years of his professional career. But perhaps the current problem is more with us than him. Rather than compare Woods to his competitors, we compare him to the player who used to triumph more than one-quarter of the time.

Maybe it’s time to lower that bar. Maybe it’s time to treat him the same way every other 30th-place finisher is treated. In my book, that’s a B- – even if it still doesn’t feel quite right for Woods.


If one resists the urge to grade on a scale, ignoring the realities of a new swing and an old injury, Tiger Woods’ week at the Open was, at best, a C effort.

Sure, just making it 72 holes was a victory of sorts for a player that had withdrawn (Players Championship) and missed the cut (PGA Championship) in half of his last four starts. And those 19 birdies were a reason for U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples to celebrate his early selection.

Woods, however, doesn’t show up with pitch counts, doesn’t fist pump symbolic victories and doesn’t view a tie for 30th as an acceptable result at a Fall Series event or a major championship.

In this the former alpha male is every bit the victim of his own success. Jack Nicklaus, the benchmark for all things Tiger, won 73 of his 594 Tour starts (.122 average) and missed 81 cuts (.136). Woods has a .259 winning clip in his career and has missed just 15 cuts in 274 starts (.054).

Given the extenuating circumstances, Woods’ T-30 looks better on paper. But when that page is bound into a record book alongside 14 Grand Slam titles, his performance at CordeValle, despite all of his signs of progress, was pedestrian.

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”

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Spieth admits '16 Masters 'kind of haunted me'

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:38 pm

Two years ago, Jordan Spieth arrived at Colonial Country Club and promptly exorcised some demons.

He was only a month removed from blowing the 2016 Masters, turning a five-shot lead with nine holes to play into a shocking runner-up finish behind Danny Willett. Still with lingering questions buzzing about his ability to close, he finished with a back-nine 30 on Sunday, including birdies on Nos. 16-18, to seal his first win since his Augusta National debacle.

Returning this week to the Fort Worth Invitational, Spieth was asked about the highs and lows he's already experienced in his five-year pro career and candidly pointed to the 2016 Masters as a "low point" that had a lingering effect.

"Even though it was still a tremendous week and still was a really good year in 2016, that kind of haunted me and all the questioning and everything," Spieth told reporters. "I let it tear me down a little bit. I kind of lost a little bit of my own freedom, thoughts on who I am as a person and as a golfer."

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Spieth went on to win the Australian Open in the fall of 2016, and last year he added three more victories including a third major title at Royal Birkdale. Given more than two years to reflect - and after nearly nabbing a second green jacket last month - he admitted that the trials and tribulations of 2016 had a lasting impact on how he perceives the daily grind on Tour.

"I guess to sum it up, I've just tried to really be selfish in the way that I think and focus on being as happy as I possibly can playing the game I love. Not getting caught up in the noise, good or bad," Spieth said. "Because what I hear from the outside, the highs are too high from the outside and the lows are too low from the outside from my real experience of them. So trying to stay pretty neutral and just look at the big picture things, and try and wake up every single day loving what I do."

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Spieth offers Owen advice ahead of debut

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:22 pm

As country music sensation Jake Owen gets set to make his Tour debut, Jordan Spieth had a few pieces of advice for his former pro-am partner.

Owen played as a 1-handicap alongside Spieth at this year's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and this week he is playing his own ball on a sponsor invite at the Nashville Open. Owen joked with a Tour reporter that Spieth "shined" him by not answering his text earlier in the week, but Spieth explained to reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the two have since connected.

"We texted a bit yesterday. I was just asking how things were going," Spieth said. "I kind of asked him the state of his game. He said he's been practicing a lot. He said the course is really hard. I mean, going into it with that mindset, maybe he'll kind of play more conservative."

Owen is in the field this week on the same type of unrestricted sponsor exemption that NBA superstar Steph Curry used at the's Ellie Mae Classic in August. As Owen gets set to make his debut against a field full of professionals, Spieth noted that it might be for the best that he's focused on a tournament a few hundred miles away instead of walking alongside the singer as he does each year on the Monterey Peninsula.

"Fortunately I'm not there with him, because whenever I'm his partner I'm telling him to hit driver everywhere, even though he's talented enough to play the golf course the way it needs to be played," Spieth said. "So I think he'll get some knowledge on the golf course and play it a little better than he plays Pebble Beach. He's certainly got the talent to be able to shoot a good round."