Woods thrives on big moments

By Jason SobelJune 4, 2012, 1:59 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – Tiger Woods is staring at his ball nestled in a thick patch of bentgrass behind the 16th green. No, he’s stalking it. Examining the lie, contemplating his options.

Multiple permutations are running through his mind. Five. Ten. Hell, it could be a hundred. If he uses too much loft and too much strength, the ball will hit the green and keep on rolling off the other side. If he uses too little loft and too little strength, it’ll never even get there. Every single maneuver in the swing must be absolutely perfect in order to achieve the desired result.

As he prepares to hit the shot, Woods’ inimitable frame, draped in his familiar Sunday red and black, is bordered by a large scoreboard nearby. Maybe he looks, maybe he doesn’t. It shows him one stroke off the lead, but it almost doesn’t matter.

What matters is this shot. Right now. He can’t control the other contenders, can’t play defense to prevent them from winning. He can only control the ball sitting at his feet and where it will wind up seconds later.

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There are some who may claim this is just a golf shot. Just one in what will turn out to be 279 times this week that one of his 14 clubs will make impact with the ball.

But they would be wrong. This isn’t just another golf shot. This is a moment.

Tiger Woods thrives on moments.

Performance and talent are what separate the good from the great. We know this much. It’s written into record books, reflected in every statistic.

What separates the great from the greatest, though, is something more intangible. It can’t be proven by money earned or public adoration or even victory totals.

It’s the ability to live in the moment. Not simply withstand it or persevere, but the ability to embrace all aspects of the situation, assess the importance of the result and succeed to the highest possible degree.

Just ask Jack Nicklaus. The cherished host of this Memorial Tournament knows a thing or two about living in the moment. He won 73 career PGA Tour titles and an all-time-best 18 major championships, but the mystical numbers are superseded by the magical moments.

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There was the 1-iron on the final hole of the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, 238 yards uphill and into a breeze, that was the icing on the cake in a victory over rival Arnold Palmer. Another 1-iron in the same event five years later, this one soaring toward the flagstick at Pebble Beach’s exquisite penultimate hole, landing just 3 inches from its intended target. The 18-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole at Augusta National in 1986, when he raised his putter in celebration with the ball halfway there, the lasting image of his sixth Masters win at the age of 46.

So yeah, Nicklaus knows a moment when he sees one. And with Woods’ ball in such a precarious position behind the green, he understands the gravity of the situation, knows the importance of the moment.

“It was either fish or cut bait,” Jack would later say. “He had one place to land the ball. He's playing a shot that if he leaves it short, he's going to leave himself again a very difficult shot; if he hits it long, he's going to probably lose the tournament.”

Wedged somewhere in the back of Woods’ mind, as he is assessing the lie and selecting a club and deciding on the proper trajectory and reading the green is the knowledge that if this shot is absolutely perfect, he has the opportunity to tie Nicklaus’ mark of 73 career wins, second only to Sam Snead on the all-time list.

For Tiger, it isn’t simply a chance to tie a legend, but to equal his hero, the golfer whose likeness adorned his bedroom walls as a child. To accomplish the feat in Jack’s own house, with the man himself watching his every movement, only adds to the significance of the moment.

And so with all of those permutations rattling around in his head, all of the thoughts about trying to win and trying to equal his hero, Woods stands over the ball and sets himself for the shot. In a week marred by cell phone distractions from outside the ropes, thousands of fans remain eerily silent. Teeth are gritted, fists are clenched, nails are bitten.

Woods makes his swing and the hush continues, every observer holding their breath in unison. The ball lands on the very back part of the green and catches the slope. It rolls toward the hole and the silence becomes deafening anticipation, the hair on the back of thousands of necks collectively standing on end.

It keeps rolling until it finds the right edge of the cup and drops inside. Mayhem ensues. Woods pumps his fist, an instinctual yet passionate reaction. Fans scream uncontrollably at the top of their lungs. Scoreboard operators quickly scurry to update his total.

The shot helps separate the great from the good. It propels Woods past his fellow contenders, leading to victory. His 73rd, tying the man who hosted the tournament, the man who served as Woods’ hero throughout his childhood.

It is about more than that, though. It is about the moment.

This is what separates the great from the greatest. The ability to live in the moment, to embrace it, to find the highest possible degree of success when it absolutely matters the most.

Tiger Woods thrives on moments.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

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Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.