Woods maintains control amid windy conditions at Sherwood

By Jason SobelDecember 8, 2013, 1:55 am

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - If you're reading this from a winter wonderland like Denver or Duluth or even Dallas, if you're scrolling this page with a lone fingertip cut out of your fleece-lined mittens, if all you've had to eat today were the marshmallows floating in your hot cocoa, well, those probably aren't sympathy pains you're feeling for some of the world's best golfers right now.

I know, your heart isn’t exactly bleeding for the 18 players competing in this week’s Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. Even though they’ve already endured hour-long frost delays before each of the first two rounds and Saturday’s third round featured - hold onto your furry hat – gusting winds of more than 20 miles per hour.

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On the final hole, holding a two-stroke advantage, Tiger Woods stood over his ball in the fairway, cocked his club back and did one of those things that only he does. Just as he started his downswing, Woods recoiled, feeling another gust howling through the trees. After a few more minutes of guessing and gauging, he finally hit the ball. Ten minutes later he rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt to match that of Zach Johnson and retain the lead, and 10 minutes after that he was sitting in the tournament’s interview room, hands cradling a cup of coffee so hot it was still steaming.

Yes, my frozen friends, this was a day that required some heat, as the sun only thawed conditions to brisk temperatures in the mid-50s. Surely you can relate. Some locales are afflicted by two feet of snow and some are afflicted by a two-club wind, but hey, we’re all in this together, right?

After the round, in between sips of coffee, Woods was still so focused on the breezes that had baffled him all day that he uttered the word “wind” nine separate times during his news conference. It affected his drives; it affected his approach shots; it even affected his putting.

“The wind was all over the place,” he maintained, and those words were more description than hyperbole.

One day after posting a 10-under 62 that was so good it looked easy, Woods’ even-par 72 might sound sloppy by comparison, but not when we consider how Mother Nature turned Sherwood Country Club into an entirely different golf course.

OK, so it wasn’t hurricane-type conditions. It wasn’t even Carnoustie-type conditions. What is was, though, was unsettled and unsteady. There was no consistency to the wind. This was no toss-some-grass-and-take-an-extra-club wind. This was the kind of wind that if you didn’t like which way it was blowing, you just had to wait a few seconds and it would change direction.

“Well, it's just trying to get a bead on this wind because it literally is going all over the place. It gets in these canyons and it starts swirling all over the place,” Woods explained. “You miss the ball in the wrong spots here, you're making bogeys. It's very difficult to save pars. And with conditions like this, it's very difficult to make birdies. So you want to be conservative on some of the iron shots in there, but you look at, ‘Where am I going to go?’ Because the target areas are so small around this place.”

Two by two, the windblown players trudged off the course, shaken if not stirred. Only three of them – in a field consisting of nothing but top-30 players – broke 70 for the day. On the devilish par-3 15th hole, with the wind huffing and puffing, eight of them found the hazard and three of those eight found it again.

When it was all over, when the dust had figuratively settled and literally kept blowing through the air, Woods held the same two-stroke advantage he’d owned entering the day, leaving him with an opportunity to win his own tournament for a sixth and final time before it leaves for theoretically benign climates in Florida next year.

This is the time when it’s appropriate to remind you that his record when holding the outright 54-hole lead in PGA Tour events is a not-too-shabby 39-for-41. And while this one may not be considered official, he doesn’t plan on treating it any differently.

“If you get the lead it's totally different; they’ve got to come get you,” he said. “If Zach and I go out there or any of the top guys go out there and shoot the same score, I win. … I'd always much rather protect leads when the golf course is hard, because you know that pars - dump it in the fairway dump it on the green, make it par after par after par - will win the golf tournament.”

Here in the dead of winter, where it can be a little chilly and the wind blows a bit, Woods has already dealt with plenty of adversity. Certainly you can empathize, even if it’s in between shoveling mounds of snow away from your own frosty troubles.

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McCarthy wins Web.com Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.

''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.

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Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

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LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”

Final FedExCup standings

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For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

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For Woods, is this only the beginning?

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.

Final FedExCup standings

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He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

Why go through all of that rehab again?

Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

Woods has put the golf world on notice.

It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

But that’s a talk for a later date.

Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

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Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.

Final FedExCup standings

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McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.