Tiger Goes Tiger

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 25, 2008, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the GOLFCHANNEL.com editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
CRAZY GOOD: Tiger Woods jumped up early in Sunday's championship match of the WGC-Accenture Match Play event and never looked back, drubbing Stewart Cink, 8 and 7, in the finale. It was Woods' third Match Play title and 15th career WGC event title overall.
BackspinLet's just state the facts here and then you can re-read them over and over until it starts to sink in: Three starts in 2008 - three wins; Has won six of his last seven PGA TOUR starts; 63rd career TOUR win, moving him past Arnie, within one of Hogan and nine back of Jack; And this was his 15th WGC title, staggering when you consider that these are fields comprised of the best of the best. Perspective? The rest of the world has combined for 12 WGC event wins. Grand Slam in 2008? Crazy yes, but crazy good he is.

EARLY EXITS: Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson got the weekend off after early losses at the WGC-Match Play. Els, one of four No. 1 seeds, got hammered by Jonathan Byrd, 6 and 5, in his first round match up, while Mickelson fell, 2 and 1, at the hands of Stuart Appleby in the round of 32.
BackspinThe Big Easy probably regrets his late entry into this tournament; but all things considered the South African actually performed as expected when you take into account that he has lost in the first round of this event four out of seven times. Els will deserve all the criticism he gets. Mickelson, on the other hand, does not. Phil shot the second best round of the day, 7 under, in his match. The best round, naturally, was shot by Appleby. Still, Lefty needs to improve his lackluster match play performance, particularly with the Ryder Cup just around the corner.

THE WEEKLEY NEWS: Boo Weekley may have lost to Woody Austin in the third round this past week, but per usual he made news in and around the course in each of his matches, the best copy coming from his opening-round match with Martin Kaymer.
Backspin On the very first hole of his first WGC-Match Play event, Weekley learned one of the most basic lessons of the match play format - the ability to concede a putt to your opponent. Kaymer, Boo's Rd. 1 competitor, left a birdie putt a foot short on the opening hole and waited for Boo to give him the natural, 'That's good' comment. It didn't come. Boo was just being Boo and had no idea that there was a situation in golf where you could just pick up your ball without holing out. Said Weekley, weakly afterwards, I mean, after I told him, Hey, man, I didnt know the rule. He was OK with that. As are we, Boo.

HOT PINK!: Paula Creamer staged a remarkable, late round rally to edge Jeong Jang and Annika Sorenstam to win the Fields Open in Hawaii. Birdies on four of her last five holes - including a 5-footer on the event's final hole - vaulted Creamer into the winner's circle for the fifth time in her young LPGA career.
Backspin Wow, what a start for Carolyn Bivens and the LPGA Tour. First, Annika Sorenstam wins the lid-lifter last week in the Hawaiian Islands and then Creamer, who along with Annika is one of the tour's most marketable stars, wins the following week while still in paradise. Next up? World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa finally joins the fray with her season debut at the inaugural HSBC Women's Champions event in Singapore. Yes, these girls do indeed 'Rock!'

A WIE BIT RUSTY: Michelle Wie made her 2008 LPGA debut in her native Hawaii and fired an opening round 3-under 69 that put her into early contention. She followed it up with a 1-over 73 in Rd. 2 and then stumbled home with a 6-over 78 to finish a full 20 strokes behind winner Creamer.
BackspinHard to judge by just one tournament, and the fact that it was her first competitive round in about five months, but the now 18-year-old freshman at Stanford did at least make the cut - the first time since last year's Evian Masters in July. But the good vibe was quickly doused with that 78 which put her dead last amongst those who made the cut.

GAY AND MERRY IN MEXICO: Brian Gay used a flawless third-round 8-under 62 en route to his first-ever PGA TOUR victory at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico . Gay, a 10-year TOUR veteran cruised to the win over runner-up John Merrick in the TOUR's opposite field event of the WGC-Match Play.
BackspinAlthough it was a breakthrough win for Gay, the fans in Mexico were no doubt hoping for a win from their native son Esteban Toledo. Toledo, playing in his 282nd PGA TOUR event and still seeking his first victory, thrilled the locals with a great third round that included six birdies and an eagle to climb into contention. Despite chants of 'Mexican Tiger!' from his supporters, Toledo was unable to muster the goods on Sunday and finished 11th.

SKINS GAME:Fuzzy Zoeller and Peter Jacobsen overcame a huge Day 1 deficit to overtake Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson to win the Champions Tour Skins Game. The duo split a cool $320,000.
Backspin Not a bad gig if you can get it - play golf for a living, travel to places like Maui, Hawaii, and play alongside the likes of Nicklaus and Watson, Palmer, and Player. Jake summed it up nicely, 'These guys in this thing are Hall of Famers. These are legends.' And the money ain't bad either.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Greg Norman made a rare appearance on the PGA TOUR this week at Riviera Maya in Mexico, a course he designed; It was announced that Tiger Woods' PGA TOUR event would get an extra year at Congressional Country Club as it will again host the 2009 AT&T National.
Backspin It's always a treat to see Norman back out on the course playing golf, but his first hand knowledge of the layout in Mexico apparently didnt help the 52-year-old as he missed the cut; Tiger has said that he wants Congressional to be the permanent home for his tournament, but with 2011 U.S. Open coming to the famed Blue Course Woods will need to look elsewhere for 2010 as the USGA gets Congressional U.S. Open ready.

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Match Play Championship
  • Full Coverage - Mayakoba Open
  • Full Coverage - Fields Open
  • Full Coverage - Champions Skins Game
  • More Headlines
  • Getty Images

    With baby on the way, Piller WDs from Zurich

    By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

    AVONDALE, La. – With wife Gerina set to give birth to their first child, Martin Piller figured he’d need to check his phone every few holes at the Zurich Classic.

    He didn’t even make it that far.

    Piller withdrew before the start of the first round Thursday.

    Piller’s partner, Joel Dahmen, who only got into the field because of Piller’s status as the team’s A player, was allowed to remain in the event.

    Piller was replaced in the field by Denny McCarthy. The new team of McCarthy-Dahmen will tee off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

    The format change at the Zurich should make things easier for the new teammates. The first round is now best ball, not alternate shot.

    The only event that Gerina, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cupper, has played this season was the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. The couple’s baby was due May 3, and she said that she plans to take off the entire year.

    Getty Images

    China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

    By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

    BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

    Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

    Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

    Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.

    Getty Images

    Putting prepared Park's path back to No. 1

    By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 12:13 am

    Inbee Park brings more than her unshakably tranquil demeanor back to the top of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week.

    She brings more than her Olympic gold medal and seven major championships to the Mediheal Championship on the outskirts of San Francisco.

    She brings a jarring combination of gentleness and ruthlessness back to the top of the rankings.

    Park may look as if she could play the role of Mother Teresa on some goodwill tour, but that isn’t what her opponents see when she’s wielding her Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet.

    She’s like Mother Teresa with Lizzy Borden’s axe.

    When Park gets on one of her rolls with the putter, she scares the hell out of the rest of the tour.

    At her best, Park is the most intimidating player in women’s golf today.

    “Inbee makes more 20- and 30-footers on a regular basis than anyone I know,” seven-time major championship winner Karrie Webb said.

    All those long putts Park can hole give her an aura more formidable than any power player in the women’s game.

    “A good putter is more intimidating than someone who knocks it out there 280 yards,” Webb said “Even if Inbee misses a green, you know she can hole a putt from anywhere. It puts more pressure on your putter knowing you’re playing with someone who is probably going to make them all.”

    Park, by the way, said Webb and Ai Miyazato were huge influences on her putting. She studied them when she was coming up on tour.

    Webb, though, believes there’s something internal separating Park. It isn’t just Park’s ability to hole putts that makes her so intimidating. It’s the way she carries herself on the greens.

    “She never gets ruffled,” Webb said. “She says she gets nervous, but you never see a change in her. If you’re going toe to toe with her, that’s what is intimidating. Even if you’re rolling in putts on top of her, it doesn’t seem to bother her. She’s definitely a player you have to try not to pay attention to when you’re paired with her, because you can get caught up in that.”

    Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

    Park has led the LPGA in putts per greens in regulation five of the last 10 years.

    Brad Beecher has been on Park’s bag for more than a decade, back before she won her first major, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. He has witnessed the effect Park can have on players when she starts rolling in one long putt after another.

    “You have those times when she’ll hole a couple long putts early, and you just know, it’s going to be one of those days,” Beecher said. “Players look at me like, `Does she ever miss?’ or `How am I going to beat this?’ You see players in awe of it sometimes.”

    Park, 29, won in her second start of 2018, after taking seven months off with a back injury. In six starts this year, she has a victory, two ties for second-place and a tie for third. She ended Shanshan Feng’s 23-week run at No. 1 with a tie for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open last weekend.

    What ought to disturb fellow tour pros is that Park believes her ball striking has been carrying her this year. She’s still waiting for her putter to heat up. She is frustrated with her flat stick, even though she ranks second in putts per greens in regulation this season.

    “Inbee Park is one of the best putters ever,” said LPGA Hall of Famer Sandra Haynie, a 42-time LPGA winner. “She’s dangerous on the greens.”

    Haynie said she would rank Park with Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright and Nancy Lopez as the best putters she ever saw.

    Hall of Famer Joanne Carner says Park is the best putter she has seen since Lopez.

    “I thought Nancy was a great putter,” Carner said. “Inbee is even better.”

    Park uses a left-hand low grip, with a mostly shoulder move and quiet hands.

    Lopez used a conventional grip, interlocking, with her right index finger down the shaft. She had a more handsy stroke than Park.

    Like Lopez, Park prefers a mallet-style putter, and she doesn’t switch putters much. She is currently playing with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter. She won the gold medal with it two years ago. She used an Oddysey White Ice Sabertooth winged mallet when she won three majors in a row in 2013.

    Lopez hit the LPGA as a rookie in 1978 with a Ray Cook M1 mallet putter and used it for 20 years. It’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame today.

    “I watch Inbee, and I think, `Wow, that’s how I used to putt,’” Lopez said. “You can see she’s not mechanical at all. So many players today are mechanical. They forget if you just look at the hole and stroke it, you’re going to make more putts.”

    Notably, Park has never had a putting coach, not really. Her husband and swing coach, Gi Hyeob Nam, will look at her stroke when she asks for help.

    “When I’m putting, I’m concentrating on the read and mostly my speed,” Park said. “I don’t think mechanically about my stroke at all, unless I think there’s something wrong with it, and then I’ll have my husband take a look. But, really, I rely on my feel. I don’t think about my stroke when I’m out there playing.”

    Hall of Famer Judy Rankin says Park’s remarkably consistent speed is a key to her putting.

    “Inbee is definitely a feel putter, and her speed is so consistent, all the time,” Rankin said. “You have to assume she’s a great green reader.”

    Beecher says Park’s ability to read greens is a gift. She doesn’t rely on him for that. She reads greens herself.

    “I think what impresses me most is Inbee has a natural stroke,” Beecher said. “There’s nothing too technical. It’s more straight through and straight back, but I think the key element of the stroke is that she keeps the putter so close to the ground, all the time, on the takeaway and the follow-through. It helps with the roll and with consistency.”

    Park said that’s one of her fundamentals.

    “I keep it low, almost like I’m hitting the ground,” Park said. “When I don’t do that, I miss more putts.”

    Beecher believes the real reason Park putts so well is that the putter brought her into the game. It’s how she got started, with her father, Gun Gyu Park, putting the club in her hands as a child. She loved putting on her own.

    “That’s how she fell in love with the game,” Beecher said. “Getting started that way, it’s played a huge role in her career.”

    Getty Images

    Teams announced for NCAA DI women's regionals

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 10:50 pm

    Seventy-two teams and an additional 24 individuals were announced Wednesday as being selected to compete in the NCAA Division I women's regionals, May 7-9.

    Each of the four regional sites will consist of 18 teams and an extra six individual players, whose teams were not selected. The low six teams and low three individuals will advance to the NCAA Championship, May 18-23, hosted by Oklahoma State at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

    The four regional sites include Don Veller Seminole Golf Course & Club in Tallahassee, Fla., hosted by Florida State; UT Golf Club in Austin, Texas, hosted by the University of Texas; University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., hosted by the University of Wisconsin; TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif., hosted by Stanford University.

    Arkansas, Duke, UCLA and Alabama are the top seeds in their respective regionals. Arizona State, the third seed in the Madison regional, is the women's defending champion. Here's a look at the regional breakdown, along with teams and players:

    Austin Regional Madison Regional San Francisco Regional Tallahassee Regional
    Arkansas Duke UCLA Alabama
    Texas USC Stanford Furman
    Michigan State Arizona State South Carolina Arizona
    Florida Northwestern Kent State Washington
    Auburn Illinois Oklahoma State Wake Forest
    Oklahoma Purdue North Carolina Vanderbilt
    Houston Iowa State Colorado Florida State
    Miami (Fla.) Virginia Louisville Clemson
    Baylor Wisconsin N.C. State Georgia
    Texas A&M Campbell Mississippi Tennessee
    BYU Ohio State Cal UNLV
    East Carolina Notre Dame San Diego State Kennesaw State
    Texas Tech Old Dominion Pepperdine Denver
    Virginia Tech Oregon State Oregon Coastal Carolina
    UTSA Idaho Long Beach State Missouri
    Georgetown Murray State Grand Canyon Charleston
    Houston Baptist North Dakota State Princeton Richmond
    Missouri State IUPUI Farleigh Dickinson Albany
    Brigitte Dunne (SMU) Connie Jaffrey (Kansas State) Alivia Brown (Washington State) Hee Ying Loy (E. Tennessee State)
    Xiaolin Tian (Maryland) Pinyada Kuvanun (Toledo) Samantha Hutchinson (Cal-Davis) Claudia De Antonio (LSU)
    Greta Bruner (TCU) Pun Chanachai (New Mexico State) Ingrid Gutierrez (New Mexico) Fernanda Lira (Central Arkansas)
    Katrina Prendergast (Colorado State) Elsa Moberly (Eastern Kentucky) Abegail Arevalo (San Jose State) Emma Svensson (Central Arkansas)
    Ellen Secor (Colorado State) Erin Harper (Indiana) Darian Zachek (New Mexico) Valentina Giraldo (Jacksonville State)
    Faith Summers (SMU) Cara Basso (Penn State) Christine Danielsson (Cal-Davis) Kaeli Jones (UCF)