A Season of Giving
All the man needs from Santa is a breakfast ball. That Great Big Comeback would have worked better if it hadn’t spent most of the year traveling in reverse. How else do you explain claims of progress after frittering away four shots on a Sunday afternoon?
Not that Woods is by himself in the Land of Fallen Stars. If 2009 was draped in twisted storylines – Tom Watson headed an illustrious cast in a compilation of major-championship heartbreak – 2010 should be remembered for its competitive landmines. Phil Mickelson basically turned invisible after winning his third Masters. Lee Westwood missed six weeks in the heart of premium-field season, then returned to find the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking waiting in his locker, his only triumph coming four months earlier after Robert Garrigus’ 72nd-hole collapse in Memphis.
Dustin Johnson? America’s most consistent leaderboard presence won tons of money and three truckloads of sympathy – lovely consolation prizes for anyone who vaporizes in the final round of a U.S. Open, then grounds his club in a fake bunker with a PGA Championship on the line. Now that Woods isn’t picking up a half-dozen or so victories and gaining a vertical mile on the climb up Mount Nicklaus, pro golf seems sort of rudderless.
We keep slobbering over the potential of Rory McIlroy, but in recent months, he has looked like just another kid with a balky putter down the stretch and a bottle of butter-pecan hair dye. Paul Casey didn’t take the next step. Padraig Harrington is still looking for that magical 2008 calendar – a very good player, not a great one. Geoff Ogilvy managed to go eight months without a top-10 finish. Anthony Kim? Never mind.
Poor Sergio. He spent the better part of 10 years hunting Tiger, sometimes with a butter knife, but if Eldrick Almighty’s career hasn’t been the same since the fire hydrant, Garcia seems to have suffered a head-on collision with a mid-life crisis. Woods made domination look routine, as if it was his divine right to leave everyone else feeling mentally and physically inferior. In a game in which all the random variables combine to undermine a competitive dynasty, Tiger ruled the earth for 13 years, give or take a week.
Name another athlete who ever pulled off that stunt. Didn’t think you could.
In the rare previous instances when Woods reached the crossroads, he’d take a deep breath, duck into a corner market and emerge with three or four new trophies. This time, in lieu of any real oncoming traffic, there’s a blinking yellow light. Earl and Tida’s kid is about to turn 35, no big deal, but more than in the past, Tiger seems preoccupied with the mechanics of the golf swing, as if you win tournaments by having the best form, not shooting the lowest score.
His latest coach, Sean Foley, is basically a swing scientist. Fifty-five percent of your weight here, then 80 percent of it there. . .from the sharp-eyed, old-school method of Butch Harmon to Hank Haney, who tutored under master instructor John Jacobs, Woods has found himself a dude with a slide ruler and a theory.
That’s not to say Foley isn’t an excellent instructor or that Tiger won’t turn things around under Foley’s watch. We’re talking about the greatest feel player of all-time, however, a guy with surreal golf instincts whose most amazing shots often come from the trees 25 yards right of the fairway. Tiger turns into Houdini when he’s in trouble, maybe because he’s forced to think about flight and shape instead of his position at the top of the backswing.
Now he’s plotting a much bigger escape – fleeing the land of the winless. His 2010 was a bust, but Woods can rationalize the poor season by blaming his personal problems or the swing changes brought on by a new coach, as was the case in 2004. He hasn’t won a major since the 2008 knee surgery, a drought due to poor putting more than anything, but again, Woods can look you in the eye and tell you he has gone 2 ½ years without winning a major twice before.
If the last 12 months taught us anything, it’s that the Dude in the Red Shirt played the game at a higher level than anyone has ever seen – and for longer than anyone could imagine. His shortcomings in 2010 provided a unique opportunity for his primary rivals, none of whom were able to assert themselves, which makes 2011 the Year of the Question Mark. Tiger has built a career out of exclamation points, but as the calendar turns, Woods finds himself with a challenge unlike any he has ever faced. Period.
Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way
Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.
Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.
And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.
Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.
Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.
Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.
Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.
“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.
Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.
A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.
It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.
There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.
Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.
The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.
Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.
“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”
Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why
In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.
Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.
With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.
"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.
So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.
"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.
Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away
Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.
On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.
And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship.
"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.
"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."
Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.
He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).
Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.
With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.
But he isn't celebrating just yet.
"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.
"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."
Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win
Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.
Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member.
The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.
In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.
"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.
"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."
Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.
But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.
"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...
"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."