Woods chasing Snead in career wins

By Jason SobelJuly 3, 2012, 10:30 pm

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – “Will Tiger pass Jack?”

That quaint four-word query is golf’s answer to, “Who shot J.R.?” It stalks the undercurrent of the game, forever pressing against its imprint, lingering until the day either an affirmative answer is reached or the spector fades into oblivion.

In at least one way, though, Tiger Woods has already officially cruised past Jack Nicklaus. No, not in the Holy Grail of golf’s all-time records, of course – his 18 major championships remain the gold standard in that department – but on the PGA Tour career victory list.

Woods chased down the man whose likeness adorned his bedroom walls as a child at Jack’s own tournament last month, then one-upped him with a 74th career win at his AT&T National, leaving an impressive array of talent in his wake that includes not only Nicklaus but Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Byron Nelson, as well.

Next up on the hit list? The only man left ahead of him.

Sam Snead won 82 titles during a storied PGA Tour career that included victories in four different decades. While Tiger’s pursuit of Jack’s vaunted major mark receives the majority of the attention, he’s been trying to beat Sam for just as long.

Literally.

On Tuesday, prior to his first career start at The Greenbrier Classic on the very property where Snead served in a professional capacity from 1944 until his death in 2002, Woods spoke about his first attempt to beat the legend.

“I met Sam when I was five,” Tiger recalled. “He was playing at Calabasas out in L.A., doing that outing where he would play with a new group every two holes. So he had nine groups, and I was this little snot-nosed kid at five years old that he had to play the last two holes with.

“I remember it was a par-3. You know, I'm five; I can't carry it very far. I hit it into the water and he tells me to go pick it up out of the water. When my dad was alive, he would tell me that I was slightly competitive even at that age and I didn't like him telling me to pick the ball up, because my dad always taught me you play it as it is, there's no such thing as winter rules.

“So I went in and played it and I made bogey on that hole, the par-3, and I made bogey on the last hole. I still have the card at home. He signed it. He went par-par and I lost by two.”

More than three decades later, Woods continues to chase Snead. It was a pursuit that appeared stalled over the past two seasons, when he failed to record a single PGA Tour victory for the first two seasons of his professional career.

In recent months, though, the hunt has been rejuvenated.

Woods has claimed three titles in 11 starts so far this year. With that, common sentiment has shifted from focus on the question, “Will Tiger pass Snead?” to the more definitive, “When will Tiger pass Snead?”

With each trophy that Woods hoists aloft following a 72-hole triumph, his chances of passing Snead increase, to the point where it now feels like an inevitability.

Simply looking at it statistically, Tiger has won at a rate of 27 percent during his career – a number which he’s equalled exactly so far this year. With an estimated eight starts remaining this season and – if healthy – a probable 20 next season, he could reach the mark early in 2014. A hot streak could help him to the record sooner; another rut could leave it taking longer.

Either way, it seems very likely that the 36-year-old has plenty of gas in the tank to finally beat Snead.

“I think that Sam's record's just absolutely phenomenal, to do it for that long, to win a PGA Tour event in his 50s,” Woods said. “He didn't exactly have easy guys to play against, Hogan and Nelson. Those guys aren't chops, so to be able to do it that long for that many generations, five decades of doing it, it's pretty phenomenal. His swing is one of the classic swings that we all try and replicate, we all looked at it, we all analyzed it and we all tried to do it.”

Woods has been trying to beat Snead since he was five years old and the chase continues this week on the very turf that Slammin’ Sam called home.

Will Tiger pass Jack? That remains a question for the ages, one which won’t be answered anytime soon. In the meantime, we should be asking another pertinent query, too: When will Tiger pass Snead?

Check that. With nine titles left to go and nobody else between them, the only real question left to ask may be: “When?”

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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.”