Woods may need to abandon conservative play

By Jason SobelJuly 21, 2012, 8:07 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – There’s a reason Arnold Palmer is known as The King. It isn’t because of his seven major championship victories. It’s because of how he won them.

The classic images of golf’s consummate riverboat gambler are those depicting him hitching up his britches and taking a mighty lash at the ball. His aggressive nature spawned Arnie’s Army; it bought him legions of admirers around the globe.

A man of such royalty – even if it is just a nickname – deserves the dignity that comes with his role. He deserves to maintain that regal appearance without having to scramble for answers.

And yet, there was Palmer, a look of complete bemusement stretched across his face. This was three years ago, just days after Tiger Woods had shocked the world. This time, though, it wasn’t because of another dominant victory or clutch putt that led to an awe-inspiring celebration.

Video: Tiger Woods' third-round interview

Video: Highlights from Woods' Saturday 70

Instead, the greatest closer in the game’s history shocked us by losing. For the first time in 15 tries, Woods let a 54-hole major championship lead slip through his hands, as he watched Y.E. Yang climb past him for the PGA Championship title. He was roundly criticized for taking a conservative approach after jumping out to an early lead, a valid criticism considering his apparent strategy.

So when Palmer – the inimitable swashbuckler – was queried about Woods’ cautious game plan, he could hardly contain his puzzlement.

The King wrinkled his nose and furrowed his brow, then finally explained, “I don't like that. I think he's too good to be conservative. If you have the ability like he does, why be conservative? And obviously it didn't work out.”

It is a story that should perhaps be relayed to Woods prior to the final round of the Open Championship, which he will start in fourth place, five strokes behind leader Adam Scott. To this point, his game plan has echoed that of the aforementioned weekend at Hazeltine, a thoroughly conservative concept to keep himself from the depths of despair on a difficult Royal Lytham & St. Annes layout.

It’s tough to find fault with the strategy. An overly aggressive approach could have left Woods suffering the same fate as each of the year’s first two majors, when he essentially shot himself out of contention over the final 36 holes.

And yet, for a player ranked fifth in the PGA Tour’s total driving category, it remains a bit puzzling that he hasn’t at least pressed the gas pedal a bit off the tee. Through 54 holes, Woods has employed driver just four times, including once in each of his last two rounds.

It should serve as cruel irony that his third-round playing partner, Thorbjorn Olesen, doesn’t own a driver’s license – and yet, it was Tiger who wasn’t doing any driving.

The iron-off-the-tee strategy recalls the familiar tune “Iron Man” from the band Black Sabbath:

Has he lost his mind?
Can he see or is he blind?
Can he walk at all,
Or if he moves will he fall?

It might be time for Tiger to make a move – even if it means he falls.

After back-to-back scores of 3-under 67, he posted an even-par 70 that he called “about right” for how he played. Using driver only on the par-5 seventh hole – leading to birdie – on multiple occasions he left himself with more than 200 yards for his second shot into a par-4, which sounds conservative even by conservative standards.

Woods has already attempted to use a cautious game plan when leading a major championship, only to find it back fire in that battle against Yang. This time, he trails not only a world-class player in Scott, but remains one stroke behind plucky Brandt Snedeker and fellow major champion Graeme McDowell, his Sunday playing partner.

Nobody wants him
He just stares at the world
Planning his vengeance
That he will soon unfold

Woods makes no secret about what matters most to him in the game. In his pervasive pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championship titles, he often conveys the message that his game should peak four times per year.

It’s roundly assumed that a more aggressive approach – the Arnold Palmer approach, if you will – will either yield victory or a crash-and-burn scenario. If so, it may be the smartest style on Sunday. After all, Woods isn’t a guy who’s playing for fourth place.

Then again, the wind is supposed to howl around Royal Lytham for the first time all week, with expected gusts of up to 30 mph. Woods intimated after the third round that the course conditions – not his score nor place on the leaderboard – will determine his strategy.

“I've just got to execute my game plan,” he said. “I know the forecast is one thing, but let's see what actually happens. But whether the wind blows or not, I've still got to go out there and post the round that I know I need to post and execute my plan.”

Woods has won tournaments playing both aggressively and conservatively, and lost them using each method, too. There’s no doubt which one the man nicknamed The King would advise for the final round, but that doesn’t mean he can’t stick to the same game plan of the first three days – and it could mean victory once again for Iron Man.

Heavy boots of lead
Fills his victims full of dread
Running as fast as they can
Iron Man lives again!

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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.

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Playoff streaks in jeopardy for Garcia, Haas

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:12 pm

Since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007, only 13 players have managed to make the playoffs each and every year. But two of the PGA Tour's stalwarts head into the regular-season finale with work to do in order to remain a part of that select fraternity.

Sergio Garcia has rarely had to sweat the top-125 bubble, but the Spaniard enters this week's Wyndham Championship 131st in the current standings. Left with even more work to do is former FedExCup winner Bill Haas, who starts the week in Greensboro 150th.

Garcia got off to a strong start in the spring, sandwiching a pair of top-10 finishes in WGC events around a fourth-place showing at the Valspar Championship. But quality results largely dried up after Garcia missed the cut at the Masters; he has made only two cuts in 10 Tour starts since April, including early exits in all four majors.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Garcia has some history at Sedgefield Country Club, having won this event in 2012 to break a lengthy U.S. victory drought. He also finished fourth in 2009 but hasn't played the Donald Ross layout since a T-29 finish as the defending champ in 2013.

It's been a difficult year for Haas both on and off the course, as the veteran was involved as a passenger in a car accident on the eve of the Genesis Open that killed the driver. He returned to action three weeks later in Tampa, and he tied for seventh at the RBC Heritage in April. But that remains his lone top-10 finish of the season. Haas has missed 11 cuts including three in a row.

While the bubble will be a fluid target this week at Sedgefield, Garcia likely needs at least a top-20 finish to move into the top 125 while Haas will likely need to finish inside the top 5.

One of the 13 playoff streaks is assured of ending next week, as Luke Donald has missed most of the year with a back injury. Other players to qualify for every Tour postseason include Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore.

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Airlines lose two sets of Olesen's clubs in 10 days

By Grill Room TeamAugust 15, 2018, 7:50 pm

Commercial airlines losing the golf clubs of a professional golfer is not exactly a groundbreaking story. It happens.

But European Tour pro Thorbjorn Olesen is on quite the roll, losing two sets of clubs and five suitcases in the span of 10 days.

Olesen, the reigning Italian Open champ, claimed his primary set of golf clubs were lost last week. Having little faith they'd be found before this week's Nordea Masters, he decided to bring his backup set for the event in Sweden.

A veteran move by the 28-year-old, unless, of course, those clubs were lost too. And wouldn't you know it:

After pestering the airlines with some A+ GIFs, Olesen was reunited with at least one of his sets and was back in action on Wednesday.

He also still plans on giving his golf bag away to some lucky follower, provided it's not lost again in transit. Something he's no longer taking for granted.

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Podcast: Brandel compares Tiger and Hogan's comebacks

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 15, 2018, 6:48 pm

Tiger Woods on Sunday at Bellerive recorded his seventh runner-up finish in a major and his first in nine years.

A favorite guest of the Golf Channel Podcast, Brandel Chamblee joins host Will Gray to compare and contrast Tiger's return to competitive golf with that of Ben Hogan and Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the 1950s.

Chamblee also discusses Brooks Koepka's major dominance, Bellerive as a major venue, Tiger and Phil as Ryder Cup locks, and who else might be in line to receive Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn's remaining captain's picks.

Finally, Brandel shares what it was it was like to qualify for the Senior Open Championship and compete for a major title on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Listen here: