For Woods, Tour wins may foretell major success

By Ryan LavnerMarch 11, 2013, 5:55 pm

Nothing stirs the masses quite like a Tiger Woods victory, which helps explain why on Monday morning he checked in as a 4/1 favorite to win The Masters.

This, however, is a hype-free zone. It’s safe here. Just the facts.

But in the wake of Woods’ commanding performance at Doral, this is indisputable: This is the eighth time that Woods will enter the Masters with at least two wins on the PGA Tour. And the only year in which he did not go on to win a major was 2003. 

Already a two-time winner this season, and with one more scheduled start before the Masters (Bay Hill), here is how Woods has fared at the year’s first major with similar credentials: 

When Woods did not win a Tour event before the Masters: Zero green jackets

That’s right – if Tiger doesn’t have a win under his belt heading into Augusta, which was the case in 1998, 2010 and 2011, then he hasn’t won there. Not that he’s played poorly there, mind you. He didn’t finish outside the top 8 at the Masters in those three years.

When Woods won one Tour event before the Masters: Two green jackets

Twice Tiger has turned an early-season win into another victory at the year’s first major: In 1997, he captured the season-opening Tournament of Champions before winning at Augusta, and in 2002, he triumphed at the Arnold Palmer Invitational before slipping into the green jacket. The years that Tiger has won once before the Masters: 1997, '99, 2002, '04, '09 and '12. 

When Woods won two Tour events before the Masters: Two green jackets

Those predicting a Woods victory at Augusta undoubtedly will point to 2005, when Tiger won at Torrey Pines and Doral, then won the Masters a few weeks later. (Sound familiar?) He also made the Masters his third victory of the season in 2001, after previous victories that year at Bay Hill and The Players. The years that Tiger has won twice before the Masters: 2001, '05, '06, '07, '13 (with one start remaining). 

When Woods won three Tour events before the Masters: Zero green jackets 

Interestingly, Tiger has never won the Masters after winning three times in the run-up to Augusta. He came closest to making the Masters his fourth victory of the season in 2008, when he finished runner-up to Trevor Immelman. He was fifth in 2000, while tying for 15th in ’03.

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Stricker leads in hometown event; Daly three back

By Associated PressJune 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

MADISON, Wis. – Steve Stricker made himself at home at the top of the leaderboard on a rainy and breezy Friday at the American Family Insurance Championship.

The hometown star and tournament host shot an 8-under 64 at University Ridge to take a one-stroke lead over 63-year-old Brad Bryant in the PGA Tour Champions event. Stricker birdied five of the first eight holes, bogeyed the par-5 ninth, and birdied Nos. 11, 12, 13 and 16.

''The wind was out of the northeast, which is a wind that we don't see very much of this time of year,'' Stricker said. ''So there were some holes to start with that played pretty tough and I got through those holes in good shape. Then just kept giving myself a few opportunities. A little hiccup on No. 9, but other than that it was a good round today.''

Because of the wet conditions, the players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways.

''It's the same for everybody,'' Stricker said. ''It's a little wet out there at times. I think the mowers even had a hard time getting into some of the spots because of the softness, but not that big a deal. The course is in great shape. It's the best it's been in three years we've been here. It won't be a problem if we have to play it down. We did get some mud balls today here and there, so it was good to play it in hand, but I could see with the forecast looking good that we might play it down.''

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

John Daly, Colin Montgomerie and Steve Flesch shot 67.

Splitting time between the PGA Tour and the 50-and-over circuit, the 51-year-old Stricker had his 30th consecutive Champions round under par, the fourth-longest streak in tour history.

Stricker won in Arizona and Mississippi in consecutive starts in May for his first senior victories. The 12-time PGA Tour winner played the big tour the last two weeks, tying for 18th in Memphis and tying for 20th in the U.S. Open.

''It is a little bit different, but it's still golf,'' Stricker said. ''Get it in the fairway and then get it on the green, give yourself an opportunity, and did I that today. I took one shot at a time. For the most part I never got too far ahead of myself.''

Fellow Madison player Jerry Kelly and Illinois coach Mike Small, Stricker's teammate with the Illini, were at 68 with Bernhard Langer, Scott Verplank, Jeff Sluman, Glen Day, Billy Mayfair, Doug Garwood, Jerry Smith and Rocco Mediate.

Bryant had seven birdies in a bogey-free round.

''I had golfing success today - I started and finished with the same ball,'' Bryant said. ''It's the truth, so that was good. I'm a little bit surprised at the moment. I haven't played all that much golf and I've worked pretty hard on my golf swing, and my wife has me on this fancy diet where I've lost some weight. I don't know, things just kind of happened today.''

He made his only other tour start this year in February.

''I'm a retired person,'' Bryant said. ''I mean, c'mon. I go home, I get up in the morning, I go to McDonald's and then I hit golf balls for exercise and then I have lunch and then I go fishing and then I go to the couch.''

Defending champion Fred Couples had a 69. Stricker's brother-in-law, Mario Tiziani, caddied for Couples.

''My eyes aren't that good and these greens are very tough, so he read every putt,'' Couples said ''He's caddied for Steve for several events and he's a very good player. It was good.''

Daly returned from a knee injury that sidelined him for three events.

''For me a cart really helps not having to walk so much,'' Daly said. ''I'm still waiting for the steroid shot to kick in.''

Stricker played alongside Vijay Singh and Davis Love III. Singh shot 81, and Love 72.

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Aphibarnrat keeps promise to M. Jutanugarn

By Randall MellJune 22, 2018, 9:25 pm

Moriya Jutanugarn was inspired by a special fan Friday who kept a promise to her.

She will be looking to use that boost to make this a memorable new chapter in the Jutanugarn “Sisters Act” story.

Three weeks after Ariya won the U.S. Women’s Open for her second victory in 2018, Mo is in early position in Rogers, Ark., to join her sister as the tour’s only two-time winners this year.

Mo put up a 7-under-par 64 to get into early contention at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. She was tied for the lead among the morning wave with Aditi Ashok, who is looking to inspire the entire nation of India by winning a first LPGA title for her homeland. Lizette Salas and Mirim Lee also shot 64s in the early wave.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Moriya got in contention with PGA Tour pro Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the gallery following her. A fellow Thai, Aphibarnrat promised Mo he would come watch her if she won an LPGA title. She broke through for her first victory in April at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open, and Aphribarnrat lived up to his promise showing up this week.

“He's like my brother, and it’s very nice to see him,” Moriya said. “Really happy for him, as well, because he is having a very good year this year.”

At the Masters, Ariya caddied for Aphibarnrat during the Par 3 Contest.

Aphibarnrat said he is a big fan of the Thai sisters and also planned to watch Ariya in the afternoon.

“They inspire me,” Aphibarnrat told LPGA media official Christina Lance after the round.

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Two-time champ Bubba fires 63 at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 7:20 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Amid a resurgent season that has already included a pair of wins, it only makes sense that Bubba Watson is back in contention at the Travelers Championship.

TPC River Highlands has been one of Watson’s favorite haunts over the years; it’s a layout where the southpaw’s creative approach is often rewarded. This is where he burst into tears after earning his first PGA Tour victory in 2010, and this is where he beat Paul Casey in a playoff to again lift the trophy in 2015.

He’ll once again have a late weekend tee time after firing a 7-under 63 during the second round, tying the low score of the week and moving to within three shots of Brian Harman’s 10-under total.

“Little bit less wind, little more confidence on the ball-striking, and I made putts,” Watson said. “The key is making putts. When you start making putts, that’s where you’re going to score a decent number.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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Watson was well down the standings after opening with an even-par 70, a round that included three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on the back nine to negate progress he had made earlier in the day. But he ran into no such struggles the second time around, adding six birdies to an eagle on the par-5 13th hole when he hit his approach shot from 229 yards to within 18 inches of the hole.

The difference, according to Watson, was between the ears.

“Yesterday I was just thinking about some negative stuff instead of focusing on my target and focusing on the shot at hand,” Watson said. “I was focusing on hitting to the bunker, or focusing on, ‘Water is over here, so hit it over here.’ Just things like that, just things that you can’t do around the golf course.”

Watson was also a runner-up in 2012 here in addition to his two wins, and he has racked up nearly $3.5 million in earnings in 11 prior appearances. Once again thinking the right thoughts on one of his favorite tracks, he’s potentially 36 holes away from his third win since February.

“Obviously around here I feel pretty comfortable,” Watson said. “I can hit some shots around here, and I’ve made it work throughout some of the years.”

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Only putting is holding McIlroy back

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 6:48 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Through two rounds of the Travelers Championship, the tee shots are towering and the approaches are accurate for Rory McIlroy. Now he just needs the putter to heat up.

McIlroy started to show signs of life during the second round last week at Shinnecock Hills before missing the cut, and after putting in some extra work honing his swing over the weekend, his tee-to-green game is worth boasting about at the halfway point at TPC River Highlands.

McIlroy has missed only five greens in regulation through two rounds, barely breaking a sweat en route to rounds of 64 and 69 that left him at 7 under. He’s within striking distance heading into the weekend, three shots behind Brian Harman, but might be topping the standings with a more cooperative putter.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I felt like I left a few out there,” McIlroy said. “I felt like I had a lot of good putts that just didn’t go in. I started them on line, did everything I needed to do, and it’s just one of those days where they were sliding by the edges.”

McIlroy took 32 putts to complete his second round, including a three-putt on No. 7 for his only bogey of the day and another three-putt on No. 13 that turned an eagle opportunity into a par. Already with a win under his belt this year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he knocked in putts from all directions during a final-round 64, McIlroy feels confident that he might be only a few rolls away from having another shot to contend in his second career trip to the Hartford-area stop.

“I think if I can put the ball in the fairway and hit my irons as good as I have been over the first couple of days, I’ll give myself a lot of chances for birdies,” McIlroy said. “It’s just about converting them and taking the opportunities when they present themselves.”