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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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 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 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."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."