Woods in danger of going four years without a major

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2012, 7:08 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – In three short weeks we’ll know if this season was a success or failure for Tiger Woods.

Seems like an overstatement, but it’s a fact.

If Woods doesn’t capture the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, he will have gone four years without winning a major championship. The U.S. Open walk-off on one leg at Torrey Pines in 2008 was the last.

Woods, 36, is healthy for the first time in several years. That’s a positive. He’s won three times on the PGA Tour this year, more than anyone else. That’s a positive. But those are no consolation for major hiccups.

Since that historic Monday at Torrey Pines where Woods defeated Rocco Mediate in a playoff, he has played in 13 majors and collected seven top-six finishes. Top-six finishes don’t cut it when you’re Tiger Woods. He has 14 majors on his resume and 18 is the only number that interests him. He’s no closer now than he was at Torrey.

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“It's part of golf, we all go through these phases,” Woods said. “Some people it lasts entire careers. Others are a little bit shorter. Even the greatest players to ever play have all gone through little stretches like this. When you’re playing careers last 40 and 50 years, you're going to have stretches like this.”

The most recent of those Grand Slam gaffes came here Sunday at the Open Championship, where Woods was grilled all week for being conservative then lost the tournament on a hole where he decided to be aggressive.

In the end it was one of Royal Lytham & St. Annes’ infamous 205 bunkers that cost him. Go figure.

Woods shot 67-67-70-73 for a 3-under 277 total, good enough for a third-place tie with Brandt Snedeker, four shots behind winner Ernie Els.

The “game plan” all week for Woods received much criticism. He was content to hit iron off the tee and aim for a particular portion of the greens, a strategy that Woods thought was working well despite benign conditions.

Woods hit driver off the tee only four times in the first 54 holes and was five behind Adam Scott heading into the final round. Many believed if he had hit driver more that it would result in more birdies. But he stuck with his plan and refused to budge, despite being in chase mode during the last 18 holes.

After five straight pars to open the final round – hitting no drivers – Woods’ Waterloo came on the par-4 sixth hole when he said he was “one yard” short of his mark on his approach.

The ball ended close to the face of the bunker in a fried egg lie and many wondered why he didn’t opt to take an unplayable lie. In that situation, he would have had to add a stroke penalty and still hit from the bunker, but it would’ve been a much better chance to get up and down for bogey.

Instead Woods hit the shot, it hit the reveted face of the bunker and nearly hit him before landing on the left side of the sand. On the next shot Woods was in an awkward position where he was on his left knee but his right leg was fully extended out of the bunker. The ball barely got out of the sand and ended 40 feet. Woods three-putted for triple bogey, missing a 4-footer for double.

Afterward, Woods said that he would’ve aimed left out of the bunker but he wanted to make sure he could advance the ball into the gallery to get a free drop. When he didn’t think he could pull off that shot, he decided to go straight at the pin.

“The game plan was to fire it into the bank, have it ricochet to the right and then have an angle to come back at it,” Woods described. “Unfortunately it ricocheted to the left and almost hit me. Then I tried to play an interesting shot after that and ended up three-putting.”

At that point Woods was six shots behind and scrapped his game plan and hit driver four times in the final 11 holes, which he played in even par with four birdies and four bogeys to shoot 73.

The most recent version of Woods is more inconsistent than any of the previous versions. The old Woods could win majors with his B game, probably his C game. This Woods will win with something resembling an A game – like at Bay Hill, the Memorial and AT&T National – but nothing else.

The A game hasn’t showed up once in a major this year. The T-40 at the Masters was a clunky performance. Woods was in contention after 36 holes last month at the U.S. Open but could not dial in distances with his short irons and faltered over the weekend. Here at Royal Lytham was similar to The Olympic Club. Woods was in contention, but he just is not crisp enough to put four complete rounds together under major championship conditions.

Woods doesn’t seem worried.

“I’ve got my pop back in my swing,” he said. “I’m hitting the ball distances I know I can. Unfortunately when I get out here with a little bit of adrenalin, it goes a little bit further.

“It’s not that far off.”

The PGA Championship isn’t far off either. When it’s over, we’ll know if this was another wasted season.

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Suwannapura beats Lincicome in playoff for first win

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2018, 10:49 pm

SYLVANIA, Ohio - Thidapa Suwannapura won her first LPGA event on Sunday, closing with a 6-under 65 and birdieing the first playoff hole to defeat Brittany Lincicome at the Marathon Classic.

The 25-year-old Thai player is the sixth first-time winner on tour this year. Her previous best finish in 120 starts was seventh at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

Suwannapura picked up three strokes over her final two holes, making eagle on the par-5 17th and closing with a birdie on the par-5 18th at Highland Meadows to finish at 14-under 270.

In the playoff, Suwannapura converted a short birdie putt after Lincicome hit her second shot into a water hazard and scrambled for par.

Lincicome shot 67. She had a chance to win in regulation, but her birdie putt from about 10 feet did a nearly 360-degree turn around the edge of the cup and stayed out. Next up for the big-hitting Lincicome: a start against the men at the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship.

Third-round leader Brooke Henderson led by two shots after six holes, but struggled the rest of the way. Back-to-back bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes dropped her out of the lead. The 20-year-old Canadian finished with a 2-under 69, one shot out of the playoff.

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Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.