Woods still in hunt, despite putting issues

By Jason SobelJune 2, 2012, 11:33 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Well, I’ve got some good news for you, Tiger Nation, and I’ve got some bad news for you. It’s your choice which you’d like to hear first.

What’s that? Always start with the bad news? OK, the bad news is that Tiger Woods looked extraordinarily ordinary on Saturday. Don’t get me wrong. Ordinary isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just that it’s becoming a recurring theme for a guy who used to leave ordinary on the driving range.

Check that: He was actually a bit better than ordinary – or at least better than average. Woods posted a 1-over 73 that dropped him from a share of second place before the round to solo fourth when it was over, but on a blustery afternoon at Muirfield Village Golf Club, with Mother Nature once again baring her teeth at Jack’s place, it still exceeded the field stroke average of 74.32.

Even so, for someone who used to turn Moving Day into his own personal holiday, Tiger’s inability to go predictably low as of late on Saturdays should be cause for alarm. He’s now failed to break 71 in his last four third rounds, his scoring average of 72.00 the very definition of ordinary, independent of conditions.

On this particular Saturday, he continued his sublime ball-striking performance this week, finding 10 of 14 fairways and 13 greens in regulation. It was the putter that let him down on this occasion, as he took 32 putts for the day, including five misses from inside 10 feet.

Such stories have become a recurring theme for Woods, whose play often conjures images of a real-life Whack-A-Mole carnival game. Every time one of those undesirable little moles rears its ugly head, Woods is forced to whack it back down into the hole, only to see another spring up, ready to pounce. It’s just that in Tiger’s case, the moles represent things like driving accuracy and distance control and, yes, even putting.


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Video: Woods’ 73 keeps him in contention

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“I had a difficult time adjusting to the pace today,” said Woods, who opened his round by making a 21-foot putt from off the green on the first hole, then didn’t make anything longer than 4 feet the rest of the round. “I know they're faster than what they were yesterday. But they just didn't look that fast and I ran a couple putts by, also left a few short. And also I was trying to stay steady in this wind, which is a task in itself, too. I did the best I could today.”

I know what you’re thinking. And yes, there really is some good news to this story. Actually, for those reading this while cozily lounging in Tiger Woods pajamas, it’s great news.

He still has an excellent chance of winning this tournament.

After posting a Saturday round that he called “the highest score I could have shot,” Woods will find himself in the penultimate pairing on Sunday, just four strokes off the lead at a venue where furious leaderboard shifting is commonplace.

It’s certainly not a bad position from which to attack. Those in front of him include leader Spencer Levin, most widely known for blowing a six-stroke 54-hole lead in Phoenix earlier this year; second-place Rory Sabbatini, who entering this week had missed more cuts than he’d made; and third-place Rickie Fowler, who breaks the trend of potential optimism by serving as this week’s unofficial Hottest Golfer on the Planet with top-five finishes in each of his last three starts.

It is commonly known that Woods has never won any of his 14 major championship titles when coming from behind entering the final round, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t proficient at the task. Of his 68 career PGA Tour stroke-play victories, 20 have come when faced with that situation, including two of his four wins here at the Memorial.

“The winning score may not change from what it's at right now, or it may go higher, may go lower,” Woods mused. “We don't know. That's the hard part about this golf course is there's so many demanding holes that anything can happen.”

What we do know is that Tiger has always owned a flair for the dramatic. With the odometer currently at 72 wins – good for third place all time – his next would tie Jack Nicklaus, which is significant not only for the historic value itself, but because he could reach the mark at the tournament hosted by his hero, the man whose poster adorned his bedroom wall as a child.

If Woods is to claim his 73rd triumph on Sunday, he will ostensibly need to defeat that Whack-A-Mole game, beating down any major issues with any major components of his game.

The bad news is that he once again was forced to play that game in the third round, a balky putting stroke repeatedly popping up to make itself known. The good news is that he’s still very much in contention to win this event with 18 holes left to play.

Going into the final round, the good should outweigh the bad for Tiger Nation. It means there’s still a chance for a 73rd celebratory Sunday.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”