Woods, stars headed on collision course with Augusta

By Jay CoffinMarch 11, 2013, 4:07 pm

DORAL, Fla. – Tiger Woods sat in the interview room late Sunday, wrapping up a few last-minute media obligations while autographing several bits of memorabilia for tournament sponsors, the duty of a winner each week on the PGA Tour.

An hour earlier, Woods had put together the final pieces of a WGC-Cadillac Championship victory that was his second this season, the 76th in his PGA Tour career and the 17th World Golf Championship on his resume.

A booming voice asked Woods if it pleased him more “to master the game, or master the field.” Woods gave the answer you’d expect, saying if he was able to master the game then mastering the field should follow suit.

But there was that word, master. Or, in our world, that little golf tournament in Augusta, Ga.


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WGC events annually boast the best players in the game; that’s the reason they were created. Rarely, however, do the best of the best end the week on the top of the leaderboard.

For four glorious days last week in South Florida, sponsors, media and fans alike all were salivating over the names they saw on the monster marquee floating in the water adjacent Doral’s famed 18th hole.

Woods’ name was there from Day 1 and never left; it was joined regularly by Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley.

Rory McIlroy had struggled mightily to begin this season but found confidence the last two days, making 11 birdies and an eagle to tie for eighth place, along with 2012 champion Justin Rose. Scott shot a tournament-low 64 Sunday to make his presence felt.

“It’s good for us,” Stricker said of all the notable names in contention. “It’s good for the Tour.”

This is the last time we’ll see a leaderboard like this until the Masters. We’ll see smatterings of these players over the next month, but not together – not until they spend that week amidst the azaleas.

It’s unclear who will be ranked No. 1 by then. McIlroy holds the top spot now, but Woods would assume the position with a victory in two weeks at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he’s won seven times including last year.

Woods will take two weeks off after Bay Hill, but McIlroy will play the Shell Houston Open and have a chance to either build on his No. 1 position, or regain it should Woods have it by then.

This is now the eighth time that Woods will arrive at the Masters with at least two Tour victories. In six of the previous seven times, Woods failed to win a major only once (2003). If Woods wins at Bay Hill it will be the fourth time he enters the Masters with three Tour titles in that respective year (2000, ‘03, ‘08).

“Any time I can win prior to Augusta, it always feels good,” Woods said. “I’ve been able to do it a few times throughout my career, which is nice.”

Americans have won every event on the PGA Tour so far this year. Europeans are rounding into form. South Africans always seem to find their way near the top of leaderboards this time of year.

Point is, we’re in the midst of one of the most memorable preludes to the Masters in a long time and Woods, as he has been so many times before, is the leading man.

Woods’ performance in winning the Farmers Insurance Open was dominating and he said Sunday that he played just as well to win the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He’s selling himself short. He played better at Doral in another epic triumph.

With a helpful tip from Stricker, Woods’ putting looks better than it has at any point over the past four years. He’s rolling it beautifully and needed only 100 putts last week to record 27 total birdies. He’s confident on the greens, he doesn’t consider the fact that he’ll miss a putt and the pep is back in his step.

“He’s been playing like this for quite some time,” Mickelson noted. “All last year and this year now. He’s pretty strong. Playing at a pretty high level week in and week out, it seems like.”

Said McDowell, who played with Woods the last 36 holes: “In ’10, ’11 when I was playing with him, he would hit the odd shot where you would just kind of blink twice and go ‘really?’ He’s got the ball under control now.

“He doesn’t have those kind of off-the-radar balls anymore.”

This is, technically, the fourth golf swing that Woods has used to win tournaments in droves, a fact that can’t be undersold.

Victory at the WGC-Cadillac is his fifth in the last 19 PGA Tour events, a span of 50 weeks. That is a 26.3 winning percentage, a clip that essentially is on pace with his career 26.9 winning percentage as a professional.

“That’s how I know I can play,” Woods said emphatically. “To be able to bring it out a couple times so far this year, and then be able to close and get the Ws on top of that, that’s nice.”

It’s nice for Woods. Not for others.

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Aiken, Waring tied at Nordea; Olesen three back

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 5:45 pm

MOLNDAL, Sweden – Paul Waring of England and Thomas Aiken of South Africa share the lead, three shots clear of their rivals, after the third round of the Nordea Masters on the European Tour on Saturday.

Waring was tied for first place with Scott Jamieson after the second round and shot a 1-under 69.

While Jamieson (75) slipped down the leaderboard, Aiken caught up Waring after shooting 67 - despite three straight bogeys from No. 15. He bounced back by making birdie at the last.

Thorbjorn Olesen (67) and Marc Warren (66) are tied for third.

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Koepka: 'Surreal' Woods waited to say congrats at PGA

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 3:47 pm

Brooks Koepka was moved by the respect shown when Tiger Woods waited for a half hour at scoring last Sunday to congratulate Koepka for his PGA Championship victory at Bellerive.

While Koepka stands as an example of the new athletes Woods has attracted to the game, he laughs hearing people compare his body to an NFL player’s.

Those were among the observations Koepka shared Friday on "The Dan Patrick Show."

“That was surreal,” Koepka said of Woods waiting to congratulate him. “To hang around on 18, I wasn’t expecting it. It was probably the coolest gesture he could have done.”

Koepka credits Woods for drawing him to the game.

“He’s the reason I am playing,” Koepka said.

Koepka said playing with Woods in contention was a noisy experience that went beyond the roars Woods created making birdies in front of him.

“Even when he makes contact, you know what shot he’s hitting,” Koepka said. “That’s how loud people are.

“When they are putting [his score] up on the leaderboard, you hear it three holes away.”

About those NFL player comparisons, Koepka said his parents wouldn’t let him play football when he was growing up.

“I wasn’t big enough,” he said.

Koepka said he marveled meeting former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

“To be compared to them, it makes me laugh,” Koepka said. “I’m about the size of a cornerback, maybe a free safety.”

Koepka said he’s just over 6 feet tall and weighs 208 pounds.

“I saw Brian Urlacher give an interview,” Koepka said. “It was kind of funny. He said he was impressed at how big I wasn’t ... If I stand next to Justin Thomas, I’m going to look big. Golf doesn’t really have many big guys.”

Koepka told Patrick he is impressed at the athletes just now coming into golf.

“I see the young guys coming out of college,” Koepka said. “They are bombing it past me. They hit it so far, they are leaving me in the dust. It’s hard to think of, because I’ve been one of the longest hitters on tour.”

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McIlroy skipping first FedExCup playoff event

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 3:19 pm

Rory McIlroy committed to playing the FedExCup Playoffs opener at The Northern Trust, the PGA Tour announced after The Open Championship last month.

But McIlroy left the PGA Championship last week saying he might need to skip the opener to regroup, and that’s just what he is doing.

McIlroy wasn’t on The Northern Trust field list published Friday on the PGA Tour’s website.

“I need to assess where I'm at,” McIlroy said leaving Bellerive last week. “I think the best thing for me to do right now is just sort of take a couple days off, reflect on what I need to do going forward.

“The best thing might be to take that first FedExCup week off and work on my game and come back, hopefully, in a better place for Boston.”

McIlroy also skipped the FedExCup opener in 2015, choosing to make his start in the playoffs at Boston that year. It appears he will do the same this year.

“Historically, the first FedEx playoff event hasn't been my best event of the four,” McIlroy said. “I've played well in Boston. I've played pretty well in the other two.”

McIlroy left Bellerive saying he would do some work on his game and see if he felt ready for the playoffs opener as part of a run of big events leading into the Ryder Cup.

“There's a lot of room for improvement,” McIlroy said. “My swing really hasn't been where I want it to be. It was pretty good at the start of the year. I had a couple of months to work on it, but it's just sort of regressed as the season went on and you start to play tournaments, you start to fall back into some of the habits that you don't want to fall back into."

McIlroy has won once over the last two seasons – at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last March – but he has given himself other chances this year with some frustrating finishes. Overall, he has five finishes of third or better in 2018. He got himself in the final pairing with Patrick Reed at the Masters but stumbled to a T-5 finish. He tied for second at The Open last month.

“Inconsistency with the swing has been the big area,” McIlroy said. “If you look at my statistics, especially with approach play on my irons, and even my driving, even though it's been OK, there's been a two-way miss, with sort of everything throughout the bag, and that obviously isn't a good thing. So that's something I need to work on.”

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Watch: Wagner saves season with walk-off eagle dunk

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2018, 2:45 am

Johnson Wagner kept his FedExCup Playoff hopes alive on Friday at the Wyndham Championship ... and he did it in dramatic fashion.

Needing a birdie on his final hole of the day to make the cut on the number, Johnson used a 9-iron from 153 yards out to dunk his approach for eagle to get inside the cut line.

Johnson's eagle at the last gave him a 66 for the day and earned him two more rounds to try and get inside the FedExCup top 125 for next week's start of the postseason, The Northern Trust.