Woods answering critics' questions

By Jason SobelJuly 2, 2012, 4:00 pm

When it comes to the biggest question surrounding Tiger Woods, it seems like everyone has the answer.

Most of us who follow the game – and even plenty who don’t – arrive to the debate armed with an arsenal of opinions.

They range from the philosophical ...

“Can’t get his game right until he gets his mind right!”

… to the physical …

“I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who says his knee is still killing him!”

... to the technical ...

“He’s got to get Butch Harmon on the phone – and then he’ll start dominating again!”

… to the irrationally statistical…

“You know, his proximity to the hole from 119-123 yards is below the median for a PGA Tour veteran of eight or more years!”

At varying degrees of plausibility, they are all responses to the most pressing recent question at 19th holes worldwide: “What's wrong with Tiger Woods?”

After winning the AT&T National on Sunday for his third victory of the year, we may finally have our decisive answer.

Absolutely nothing at all.

Hoggard: Woods storms to victory at AT&T

AT&T National photo gallery

Sure, it may have been a valid query during each of the past two seasons, when Woods accounted for a grand total of zero wins, but just as it took the collective masses too long to realize and understand that he wasn’t the same player in those seasons, it has similarly taken awhile for observers to adapt to this latest version of Tiger.

So far this season, he has faltered at each of the first two major championships, but does own a trio of titles in 11 starts on the PGA Tour. He leads the money list, the FedEx Cup points list and is No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking – up from 52nd just seven months ago.

The truth is, if there’s a notion that something is wrong with Woods, it may be more of an 'us' problem than a 'him' problem.

The public tends to remember the 12-stroke win at Augusta National in 1997, the 15-shot differential at Pebble Beach in 2000 and the eight-shot triumph at St. Andrews one month later. What's forgotten, though, are the legions of backdoor top-10 finishes and final rounds marred by burned edges and weeks where he simply wasn't as good as the guy who won.

And there were plenty of 'em. From 1996-2009, Woods prevailed in 'only' 29.7 percent of his starts – easily good enough for the best percentage over that time span in a career, but hardly the revisionist history that would have us believing that number was somewhere closer to 99 percent.

Even when he was at the top of his game, Tiger was never a slam-dunk, no-doubt-about-it lock to take home the hardware. In some of his best seasons, he still lost more than he won. In 1999, his percentage was 38.1; the next year it jumped to 45.0; and in 2007, it was 43.8.

In fact, only twice has Woods triumphed in more than half of his PGA Tour starts in a season – when he won eight titles in 15 tries in 2006 and when he went 4-for-6 in his injury-shortened 2008 campaign.

All of which means “what’s wrong with Tiger Woods” is less about him reaching his previous levels or trying to surpass the bar that he personally raised increasingly higher, and more about him failing to live up to the unreasonable expectations based on foggy memories.

As the aforementioned question dissipates, it will lead to the other major proposal that inquiring minds have also been asking: “Is he back?”

Quite frankly, it’s a query for which every eyewitness can proffer a different answer. For some, he was “back” when he literally returned at the 2010 Masters; for others, he was “back” when he won again; for others still, he isn’t “back” until he wins his 15th major championship; and then there’s a faction who believes he can’t be “back” since he never technically left.

Woods often claims he doesn’t read the editorials or watch the talk shows, but he remains acutely aware of public sentiment when it comes to the state of his game.

Following his two-stroke win at Congressional Country Club, he said, “I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again. That was, I think, what? Six months ago? Here we are.”

Here we are, indeed, watching a new version of the player which is starting to look eerily similar to the former edition.

What’s wrong with Tiger Woods? Those still asking that question clearly own a skewed sense of history. Forget the perceived philosophical, physical, technical and statistical issues with his game. Really, there’s a different question which is much more valid.

We should be asking what’s right with him instead.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”