No pressure on Scott as he cards 69 in Round 1

By Jay CoffinApril 10, 2014, 11:09 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Sound the alarm, Adam Scott has nothing to lose.

That should seem disconcerting for 96 other men looking to capture this 78th Masters.

“Having won last year, I think in some ways has taken a little pressure off me as I teed up today and kind of felt like, ‘what was the worst that can happen? I’m still going to be a Masters champion,’ ” Scott said Thursday after an opening 69 left him in a second-place tie, only one shot behind leader Bill Haas.

This is a common refrain from previous major winners. There are truckloads of pressure on most top-ranked players to win that maiden major. Once it finally happens, a weight is often lifted.

In fact, just two days ago Phil Mickelson was preaching to the press about how much easier it was to win jacket Nos. 2 and 3 after winning his first in epic fashion in 2004.

“I have won this thing,” Mickelson said. “I know how to win it and it’s a confidence and momentum-builder when you can look back on that. It’s a huge thing to have already done it.”

Scott is in this type of zone.

There’s little doubt that having one jacket in his closet has allowed him to be more comfortable, especially during an opening stretch where he made four birdies in the first 10 holes. In the past, Scott admitted to nerves and knees knocking on Augusta’s historic first tee. Now it’s booming drives, precise iron shots and smooth strokes with that infamous broomstick putter.

Scoring for the 78th Masters Tournament

Masters Tournament: Articles, videos and photos

The opening-round score marked the fourth time in the last five competitive rounds that Scott has shot 69. Each of the last three winners of the Masters shot 69 in the first round and each of the last six winners has shot an opening score in the 60s.

“It was really how you hope to come out and play at any major, and especially the Masters,” he said. “I’m not going to complain about my round.”

Sure, Scott hit 14 of 18 greens, 10 of 14 fairways and took 30 swats with the putting wand, but there was one swing the 33-year-old Aussie would love to have back.

In the heart of Amen Corner, walking from the 11th green to the 12th tee box, Scott received a standing ovation, a customary practice from Masters patrons to Masters champions.

Minutes later Scott completed his worst swing of the day and deposited a 9-iron shot into Rae’s Creek. He took a drop, chipped to 5 feet and missed the bogey putt.

“I just lost a little focus on that shot and didn’t commit fully to it and paid a price on that one,” he said.

Such hiccups are bound to happen occasionally around this place.

Although Scott made birdie on the 14th hole, he three-putted both par 5s on the back (Nos. 13 and 15) to make par when birdie seemed likely both times. He salvaged par on the last hole after hitting his approach over the back of the green. He got up and down by converting a longish par putt.

Still, Scott has everything going for him. He’s the first defending champion in 13 years to break 70 in the first round – Vijay Singh did so in 2001. Since 1974 only four first-round leaders or co-leaders have gone on to win the Masters, but in 14 of the last 18 years the winner was inside the top 10 after Day 1.

Couple all those stats with Scott’s confidence, attitude and copious amounts of talent, and we could be on the verge of seeing only the fourth repeat champion in the history of this great tournament.

“There is a certain sense of freedom in the way you play, I think, and no doubt you can see that in the way Phil’s played around here since breaking through and hitting some shots that, if he had not had the success or the wins, he might not have hit being a little tighter,” Scott said.

“I’m swinging well, so I don’t mind taking on a couple shots… I’m kind of assessing everything and trying to play the percentages in my favor. That’s my kind of game.”

That game has a great chance to produce the same result it did 52 weeks ago here amongst the azaleas, dogwoods and Georgia pines.

Scott has fired the first warning shot.

Getty Images

McCarthy wins Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending 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 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.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

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 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 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.

Getty Images

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

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

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].”

Getty Images

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

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

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.

Getty Images

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

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

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.