Dramatic finish draws Tiger closer to Open lead

By Jay CoffinJuly 20, 2012, 7:05 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Hand it to Tiger Woods, he’s stuck with his game plan come hell or (pun intended) high water.

Woods hasn’t necessarily been forthright with his M.O. but best guess is he arrived at wet Royal Lytham & St. Annes this week with several strategies, none of which were drawn up for such benign conditions. Through 36 holes of this Open Championship Woods has shown flashes of his 2006 victory at Royal Liverpool, where he hit irons off the tee all week and shot 18 under par and won by two shots.

But let’s not call this Hoylake 2.0 just yet. The strategy is “brilliant” as they say in these parts, but only if Woods wins claret jug No. 4 and major championship No. 15. Anything other than that, and he likely will be criticized – rightly or wrongly – for being much too conservative.

Woods birdied two of the last three holes Friday to shoot a second consecutive 67 and is alone in third place at 6 under par. Brandt Snedeker is the leader at 10 under. Adam Scott is second at 9 under.

“My mantra all week has been to get the ball on the greens as fast as possible,” Snedeker said. “Once I'm on there I have a pretty good hand for the speed of the greens. I'm making every 25-footer I look at, so that makes it a lot easier. Just going to try and keep doing that over the weekend.”

There hasn’t been a lick of wind here in northern England for two days, only a few sprinkles during play and a heavy overnight storm Thursday that made these links soggy for the second round. Mostly, the conditions have been calm, making Lytham more vulnerable than could have been imagined.

Still, a stubborn Woods has hit driver precisely three times in two days – twice on Thursday, once on Friday. He’s content with hitting his “spots” and staying away from danger, a noble option. Woods confided Friday that he’d love to hit driver on both par 5s but the shot doesn’t suit his eye.  

While Woods is playing a version of hit-and-giggle, Snedeker and Scott have been more aggressive and haven’t been afraid to go flag hunting. Granted an iron off the tee rolls miles here but Woods has often left himself more than 200 yards into greens, making it difficult to hit the ball within birdie range.

Meanwhile, Snedeker has hit many drivers off the tee and has made 10 birdies and zero bogeys. He also hasn’t found one bunker. He’s hit a couple wayward drives but each time has been able to put a good strike on the approach. Scott has done much the same and played impressively Friday despite his lead being wiped out before he ever hit a golf ball.

“There’s only a couple of holes where I could have hit driver,” Woods proclaimed. “I had a game plan that I thought would fit well on this golf course, and I figured I could execute it.  And I've done that so far.”

It is hard to hammer the man. He has, after all, won 14 majors including three jugs on this side of the pond. And he’s done it with different methods. Through two rounds, Woods has hit 26-of-28 fairways and 29-of-36 greens and has taken 58 putts. He’s found only one bunker and that ended in birdie when he holed out from the side of the 18th green Friday, sending the British gallery into a roar.

It’s stating the obvious but we have no clue where Woods would be if he took more chances hitting driver from the teebox. More than perhaps any other time in his career, Woods is driving the ball on a rope so it’d be fun to see him test those skills here.

Part of the noise too is a competitive deal. We’re so used to watching Woods overpower a course during his heyday that it’s difficult to watch playing partners Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose consistently bomb it 50 yards past him even if they did both miss the cut by a shot.

On the par-4 15th hole, Woods hit iron off the tee and was left with 222 yards into the green, too long a distance to expect anything better than par. Iron worked off the tee at 16, where Woods drained a 20-footer for birdie and it worked off the last only because he holed out a vintage Woods bunker shot.

Woods made it clear that the leaders are not going to change his strategy, no matter how well they play or what the conditions are like over the next 48 hours.

“I'm hitting the ball in the fairway, and that's the thing around this golf course, you just have to do that,” Woods said. “You can't control it out of the rough here.

“So yeah, you can hit drivers down there, and some guys did. Or you can be more conservative.”

Come hell or high water.

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Woods talks about Ryder Cup prospects in third person

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 1:47 pm

Conversations between Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods have gotten a little awkward.

That’s what happens when Woods, the U.S. Ryder Cup vice captain, needs to assess the prospects of Woods, the player.

“We’re talking about myself in the third person a lot,” he said with a chuckle Tuesday at the Northern Trust Open. “That’s one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

“I’m one of the guys on the short list, and sometimes I have to pull myself out of there and talk about myself in the third person, which is a little odd.”


The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos


After placing second at the PGA Championship, Woods finished 11th on the U.S. points list with just eight months of tournament results. Three of Furyk’s four captain’s picks will be announced after the BMW Championship in three weeks, and barring a late injury, it’s almost a certainty that Woods will be one of those selected.

Still, Woods was named in February as an assistant for his third consecutive team competition, even though he told Furyk at the beginning of the year that he envisioned himself as a player on the 2018 squad.

“I’m very close to making that happen,” he said. “It’s been a long year, and that’s been one of my goals, to make the team. To be a part of that team you have to be one of the 12 best players, and I’m trending toward that.”

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Woods on busy schedule: 'It's about pacing myself'

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 1:34 pm

At the beginning of the year, Tiger Woods was anxious to see how his fused back would hold up to tournament play.

Now he’s in the midst of one of his busiest stretches in years.

With the Tour Championship and Ryder Cup likely to be added to his schedule over the next few weeks, Woods could play seven events in a nine-week span.


The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos


“That is a lot of golf,” he said Tuesday at The Northern Trust. “It’s about pacing myself and making sure I don’t practice too much, don’t overdo it and make sure my training schedule goes well.

“One of the hardest things this year has been finding the right balance. As the summer has gone on, I’ve gotten better and felt better. This is a pretty important stretch.”

Woods has already played 14 events – his most since 2013, when he had 16 starts.

He’s committed to playing the first three playoff events, beginning with this week’s event in New Jersey. There’s a week off after the BMW Championship, and at No. 20 in the FedExCup standings, Woods doesn’t need to do much to punch his ticket to East Lake. He’s also virtually assured of being a U.S. captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup, held in France the week after the Tour Championship.

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Tiger Tracker: The Northern Trust

By Tiger TrackerAugust 21, 2018, 1:00 pm

Tiger Woods begins his FedExCup Playoffs run at this week's Northern Trust. We're tracking him at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.


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Stock Watch: Will Bjorn buy or sell slumping Sergio?

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 12:07 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Sneds (+9%): It doesn’t always happen, a Tour player shooting 59 and then finishing it off with a W, so it was satisfying to watch Brandt Snedeker go wire to wire at the Wyndham. An in-form Sneds now should edge out Kevin Kisner for one of Jim Furyk’s final captain picks.

Viktor Hovland (+6%): Watching the Oklahoma State junior maul the field at the U.S. Amateur, a question arose: How does the fifth-ranked player in the world not win more often? The U.S. Am was just his second title, anywhere, outside of Norway. That could all change, after he proved to himself that he could handle the best field and the stiffest challenge.

Lexi (+4%): She once again was penalized – for playing preferred lies in a different fairway – but Thompson still shot 17 under and tied for 12th in her first start since a self-imposed break to recharge her batteries. In the media tent she was refreshingly honest about the difficulties of being a 23-year-old superstar who never went to college and whose life is consumed by golf. Here’s hoping she can find a better balance (like, say, Michelle Wie) over the next few years.

Tyler McCumber (+3%): The world rankings don’t reflect it, but McCumber is playing the best golf of anyone in the world right now. In his past four starts on the Canadian circuit, he’s gone win-win-3rd-win and shot 90 under par with a scoring average of 65.88 and just two rounds higher than 68.

Nick Taylor (+1%): Playing for his Tour card, Taylor shot a bogey-free 63 Sunday at the Wyndham – with an eagle and birdie in his last four holes – to jump from 129th to 119th in the standings. That’s clutch.


FALLING

Billy Hurley III (-1%): A winner two years ago at Tiger’s event, Hurley is now headed back to second stage of Web.com Q-School after finishing 201st in the standings – by a point. A tough break for one of the game’s good dudes.

Kevin Stadler (-2%): He reminded us of the dangers of slamming clubs, after the head of his 7-iron flew off and struck a spectator in the head, requiring stitches. It was a scary scene – “It’s been a while since I’ve seen so much blood,” said playing partner Shaun Micheel – that could have been even worse.

Sepp Straka (-3%): There were plenty of stories of heartbreak at the Web.com Tour regular-season finale, perhaps none as crushing as Straka, who went 5 over for his last seven holes (including three consecutive bogeys to finish) to drop outside of the top-25 bubble.

Sergio (-4%): At last, some signs of life – his tie for 24th in Greensboro was his best finish on Tour since March – but he still didn’t make the playoffs, and it still might not be enough to sway Thomas Bjorn. For the captain it may come down to a question like this: Who would you rather have in Paris, Sergio or Russell Knox?