Woods feels 'everything’s headed in the right direction'

By Jason SobelFebruary 7, 2012, 9:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – His personal scandal, the one that rocked the tabloids for months on end, has long since faded from the headlines.

His divorce was finalized 18 months ago.

His knee injury – along with any other aches and pains – has been rehabilitated and healed.

His swing changes have taken effect, appearing more fluid with every round.

The ebbs and flows, ups and downs of Tiger Woods’ career over the past two-plus years have been caused by varying degrees of emotional, mental, technical and physical anguish. There may never be a time – not for Woods, not for anybody – when all such aspects are completely flawless, but it’s difficult to argue that the symphony between them hasn’t produced a melody like this in years.

Complete coverage: Tiger Woods | AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

And so with everything back to normal – or at least as “normal” as things get for him – there’s only one proper conclusion going forward.

It’s time for Woods to do what he does best. It’s time for him to win.

This is less instruction than observation, just the natural progression of his continued comeback. Woods has often talked about his return being a “process” and the next logical step is to win his first official tournament title since November of 2009.

Sure, throughout the cacophony of lowlights since that time, there have been highlights, too. He helped the United States to a Presidents Cup victory. He won his own Chevron World Challenge, an event that carries unofficial status, but official world ranking points. In his last two official starts – at last year’s Australian Open and this year’s Abu Dhabi Championship – he finished in third place.

All are signs that Woods’ gradual journey toward success is nearing its destination.

This week he will make his U.S. season debut at the AT&T National Pro-Am, a tournament he won in 2000 – along with the U.S. Open at this same venue later that year – but hasn’t played since 2002. His winless streak in official PGA Tour events now stands at 22 starts spanning 27 months, easily the longest respective such periods of his professional career.

Woods has long maintained that he only feels internal pressure, that no measure of tension applied from fellow players, sponsors, media or fans will overrule the pressure he applies to himself. When asked on Tuesday whether that internal pressure is weighing heavier than it did earlier in his career, when the wins were easier to come by, he insisted that it wasn’t.

“I feel very at peace where I’m at,” he explained. “I had to make some changes and that took time, and I’m starting to see the results of that now, which is great. My last four events, I’ve really played well. So I’m just building on that. Everything’s headed in the right direction.”

For most players, “headed in the right direction” would be good enough. Signals toward optimism permeate the practice range prior to the start of each tournament, with every competitor searching for a secret in the dirt and hoping they’ve found it.

If there’s a difference between Tiger and his fellow professionals, though, it’s in the expectation level. And it makes sense. Others have built borderline Hall of Fame careers based on an average of one victory per year. Such numbers pale in comparison to those of Woods, who compiled 71 official wins in his first 14 seasons as a PGA Tour member.

As a result, strong finishes may serve as a barometer for future performances, but they’re still considered failures. Woods has always lived by the Ricky Bobby mantra, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” He’s fond of talking about how all that matters is the “W.” He’d rather that didn’t stand for “waterloo” any longer.

It shouldn’t. Now 36, he believes knowledge in how to win should inherently assist him in reaching that plateau once again.

“I think I understand how to get my ball around the golf course better,” he said. “I’m far better at managing my game now than I was at 26, just like I can say at 16 versus 26. I keep understanding how to play the game.”

There’s no doubt that Woods is making the turn in his career. He’s endured a brief intermission, but is now back on course, playing the back nine. That doesn’t mean the second half of his career will equal the accomplishments in the first half, but it does mean that he’s ready to find the winner’s circle.

After the anarchy that derailed his personal and professional lives over the past few years, it finally feels like business as usual once again. Woods’ usual business is winning golf tournaments. That time is here once again.

Watch first- and second-round coverage of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Thursday and Friday on Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET.

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Wise wins first Tour title at AT&T Byron Nelson

By Nick MentaMay 21, 2018, 1:22 am

On the strength of a final-round 65, 21-year-old Aaron Wise broke through for his first PGA Tour victory Sunday, taking the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest. Here's how Wise beat the field and darkness following a lengthy rain delay:

Leaderboard: Wise (-23), Leishman (-20), Branden Grace (-19), J.J. Spaun (-19), Keith Mitchell (-19)

What it means: This is Wise’s first PGA Tour win in just his 18th start as a member. Tied with Leishman to start the final round, Wise raced ahead with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 4-10 and never looked back. He'd make eight straight pars on his way into the clubhouse and the winner's circle. The 2016 NCAA Division I individual champion just locked up Tour status through 2019-20 season and guaranteed himself a spot in the PGA Championship.

Best of the rest: Leishman reached 20 under par but just couldn’t keep pace with Wise. This is his second runner-up of the season, following a solo second in the CJ Cup in October.

Round of the day: Grace carded a 62 – where have I heard that before? – with eight birdies, an eagle and a bogey to end up tied for third, his best finish of the season on Tour.

Biggest disappointment: Adam Scott looked as though he had done enough to qualify for the U.S. Open via the Official World Golf Ranking when he walked off the golf course. Unfortunately, minutes later, he’d drop from a four-way tie for sixth into a three-way tie for ninth, narrowly missing out on this week's OWGR cutoff.

Break of the day: Wise could very well have found the hazard off the tee at No. 9 if not for a well-placed sprinkler head. Rather than drop a shot, he took advantage of his good fortune and poured in another birdie putt to extend his lead.

Quote of the day: "It's a dream come true to win this one." - Wise

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Otaegui wins Belgian Knockout by two

By Associated PressMay 21, 2018, 1:20 am

ANTWERP, Belgium – Adrian Otaegui beat Benjamin Hebert by two shots in the final of the Belgian Knockout to win his second European Tour title.

The hybrid format opened with two rounds of stroke play on Thursday and Friday, before the leading 64 players competed in nine-hole knockout stroke play matches.

Otaegui and Hebert both finished three shots off the lead at 5 under after the first two days and worked their way through five matches on the weekend to set up Sunday's final at the Rinkven International Golf Club.

Full-field scores from the Belgian Knockout

''I'm very happy, very relaxed now after the last nine holes against Ben that were very tight,'' Otaegui said. ''I'm just very proud about my week.

''I just tried to play against myself. Obviously your opponent is just next to you but I just tried to focus on my game.''

Scotland's David Drysdale beat James Heath of England by one shot in the playoff for third spot.

Herbet said he was ''just a little short this week.''

''Adrian is a very good player, especially in this kind of format,'' he said. ''He's already won one tournament in match play last year. This format is fun, it puts you under pressure almost every hole because everything can happen. I think it's a great idea.''

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Spieth looking forward to Colonial after T-21

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:10 am

DALLAS – Jordan Spieth finally got a few putts to drop at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but after a frustrating week he’s looking forward to heading across town.

Spieth shot a 4-under 67 amid soggy conditions at Trinity Forest Golf Club, his lowest score of the week but one that still left him in a tie for 21st at 11 under par. His frustrations had a common theme throughout the week, as he ranked seventh among the field in strokes gained: tee to green but 72nd in strokes gained: putting.

“Felt like I played better than I scored,” Spieth said. “Just burned the edges or barely missed, and I misread a lot of putts, too. Overall just struggled a little bit matching line and speed and kind of getting it all together out here.”

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth remains in search of his first win since The Open in July, but his results in the interim haven’t exactly been a struggle. This marks his seventh top-25 finish in his last nine starts as an individual.

Spieth is in the midst of a busy part of his schedule, and will play his third of four events in a row next week at the Fort Worth Invitational. With runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017 sandwiched around a victory there two years ago, Spieth did little to contain his excitement for a return to venerable Colonial Country Club.

“It’s one of those courses where whether I have my A game or not, I seem to find my way into contention, which is really cool,” Spieth said. “It’s one of four or five places I go into, no matter where the game is at, I’m excited to get started and feel like I have a chance to win.”

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Razorbacks, Fassi scrambling to recover in NCAAs

By Ryan LavnerMay 21, 2018, 12:56 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – We’re not even halfway through this NCAA Championship, and the top women’s player in the country is already worn out.

Indeed, it’s been three rounds of hard work for Maria Fassi as she tries to claw herself and second-ranked Arkansas back into contention at Karsten Creek.

“I haven’t been able to create momentum of any kind,” she said after a third-round 73 left her at 16-over 232, 23 shots off the individual lead and outside the top 90. “I’ve been fighting every single hole. It’s just been exhausting.”

It’s been that way for her teammates, too.

Arkansas entered nationals as one of the pre-tournament favorites. The Razorbacks won the SEC Championship for the first time. They won seven events, including a regional title in which they shot 26 under par on the University of Texas’ home course. They were comfortable knowing that they not only had Fassi, the top-ranked player and a six-time winner this season, but also a strong supporting cast that includes Baylor transfer Dylan Kim and Alana Uriell.

And then the first two rounds happened. The Razorbacks had shot a team score in the 300s just once all season, but they posted two in a row here at Karsten Creek (308-300).

Fassi’s play has been even more of a mystery. In the opening round she shot 81 – with two birdies. She followed it up with a second-round 78, then birdied her last two holes just to shoot 73 on Sunday. She thought she had a smart game plan – taking fewer drivers, putting the ball in play on arguably the most difficult college course in the country – and it just hasn’t worked out.

“I just need to stay really patient, be true to myself and keep fighting,” she said. “I know what I’m capable of doing, and if I play my game it’s going to be plenty good.”

So what’s been the conversation among teammates the past two nights?

“It involved a lot of cuss words,” Fassi said. “We know this is not Arkansas golf. We know this is not the game that we play.”

The top-15 cut line should have been an afterthought for a team as talented as the Razorbacks, and yet they needed a 1-over 289 just to play Monday’s fourth round of stroke-play qualifying.

“Backs against the wall, they had to go get it done and they did an awesome job,” said Arkansas coach Shauna Taylor. “In our locker room we call it ‘Do the Possible.’ It’s doing what you’re capable of doing.”

And now the Razorbacks sit in 11th place, just six shots off the top-8 cut after their two worst rounds all season. They still have a chance to advance.

“You can’t panic,” Taylor said. “We’ve played great golf all year. We’ve put ourselves in a hole and it was time to go to work and dig yourselves out of it.”