Tiger ready to resume ascension up Mount Nicklaus

By John HawkinsJanuary 29, 2013, 12:59 pm

NOT THAT HE wouldn’t have won by four or five, anyway, but after launching his drive toward a maintenance shed, then receiving 20 yards of free relief because someone had the nerve to erect a fence in front of his golf ball, Tiger Woods was preparing for his second shot on Torrey Pines’ ninth hole Monday when Peter Kostis, of all people, captured the essence of lunacy in 21 words.

“He just drove it 50 yards offline, and these folks wanna stand 5 feet away from him on the next shot?” the CBS on-course analyst wondered aloud.

We see it almost every week: the rush of spectators to an errant tee ball, followed by 30 to 45 seconds of security-supervised chaos, which results in the formation of an alley of yahoos no wider than a Volkswagen Beetle. These people are in need of a mental examination. Have they any idea what would happen if Woods were to miss his line by 3 or 4 feet?

The good news is that Tiger would offer you a handshake and a glove. The bad news is that you probably wouldn’t be around to receive either, as the human skull was not designed to withstand hard objects traveling 140 miles per hour. No wonder the PGA Tour decided to let fans bring their cellphones to tournaments. Now anyone can call the hospital to address the guy lying motionless in the grass right of the seventh fairway.

Seriously, someone’s gonna get hurt out there, at which point the backlash will grow to become as sickening as the sight of the fallen fan. It’s a tough way to make the 11 o’clock news, but again, you may not be around to see it.

AS FOR THE shots he did hit straight, Woods’ 75th Tour triumph served as a pretty fair representation of what I’d call the high-end, post-Haney Tiger. His ball-striking throughout Sunday’s third round was extraordinary. Perfect tempo, an unbeatable rendition of controlled power, which earned him a lead so large that he could hit it shabbily over the final 18 holes and still win with room to spare.

What made this performance memorable was Woods’ short game. It was exemplary from start to finish – not the reason he won, but reason to believe he’ll start winning majors again. At Doral last spring, the guy with 14 big titles could not hit a decent bunker shot. At Torrey Pines, Red Shirt’s bunker play was nearly flawless. He also holed out twice from off the green – shots that carried him through potentially rough patches, and allowed him to coast against a decent field.

When the stakes get higher, the courses get tougher and the competition gets stronger – we commonly refer to these gatherings as major championships – Woods’ ability to salvage pars and economize strokes around the greens is what will keep him in the Sunday hunt. At that point, his competitive tenacity and composure under immense pressure will earn him valuable ground on what has been a dormant climb up Mount Nicklaus.

You’re not going to win a Masters from the wrong fairway. You’re not going to win a U.S. Open playing army golf, no matter how patriotic you feel. Sure, Woods still has terrific ball-striking days on occasion, but this isn’t 2000, when he went weeks without missing a shot. This isn’t 2006, when he won a British Open by ditching his driver, and subsequently, hit more fairways than anyone else.

Times have changed, as has the man himself. The Tiger we saw in the final round at Bay Hill last March was airtight from Tee to Green, which led to a five-stroke victory, but Woods couldn’t sustain that level of precision for any length of time. The Tiger we just saw at Torrey Pines wasn’t as pretty, but they don’t hold majors in beauty parlors, either. In the long run, this Tiger is far more likely to scale the mountain.

HERE IS WHAT I remember about the 2007 Presidents Cup: it took forever for Avis to get me a rental car, and then I got lost in a blur of French signage while trying to find the golf course. By the time I found the place, the U.S. was already crushing the Internationals, and the event was basically over before the end of the first day.

Near the end of play Saturday evening, I was confronted by Charles Howell III, who had a very stern look on his face and was upset about a column I’d written in Golf World listing the 10 players under age 30 most likely to win a major. Howell was seventh or eighth, and that didn’t sit well with one of the nicest guys in pro golf.

At the two big team-match gatherings, it is rare for a player to even acknowledge someone in the media while play is still going on. The pros and their wives walk in a cluster as the last matches reach completion. The veteran writers know there is a certain cache to participating in the event, so you leave them alone, which is another reason Howell’s approach caught me completely off-guard.

Time eventually heals most wounds, however, and CH3 remains one of my favorite people on the Tour. I mention all this because Howell has begun 2013 with three consecutive top-10s – another fast start for a guy whose best golf over the years has been played on the West Coast, whose only victory in the last 10 years came at Riviera in ’07.

Maybe this is the year Howell keeps things going, picks up a victory or two and becomes the player so many thought he would be. Looking at his numbers over time, it’s difficult to understand why it hasn’t already happened. In 2011, for instance, Howell ranked among the tour’s top 25 percent in a majority of key stats: driving distance, greens in regulation, sand saves, scrambling, putting and scoring.

Back when his career was still taking shape, Howell’s inability to win was blamed on his putter. Since 2009, however, those numbers have improved considerably. For someone who appears allergic to fairways, CH3 hits a ton of greens. And when he doesn’t? Howell ranked seventh in up-and-down frequency in 2010, fifth in 2011 and is third in 2013.

Every statistical profile on the PGA Tour tells a story, but this one is the mystery of mysteries. Given that Howell is coming off his worst year on the Tour (a career-low 73rd on the money list), I suspect he’s playing with a greater competitive fire in 2013 – and that he’ll finally begin to redefine himself as a legitimate top-tier performer.

We saw it last year with Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner. Hard though it may be to believe, Howell is still only 33, two years younger than Dufner and just 18 months younger than Snedeker. If my man Charles only seems like he’s been around forever, it hasn’t always been easy to notice.

SO THIS GUY whom I’ve done some writing for over the years called last summer and asked if he could bring a couple of his readers to Connecticut and play a round of golf with me. Sure, I told him, and the two cats, both of whom were from Philadelphia, could not have been nicer. Neither was a very good golfer, however, and on Brooklawn CC’s par-4 13th, I was nailed in the calf by a line drive off a 3-wood from about 30 yards away.

I just bent down to feel what is probably a permanent knot in my lower left leg. The dimple pattern on the skin stuck around for about a month, and there were some fairly abnormal shades of blue for a stretch, but I’ve always taken the bright-side approach to the incident. If that ball had been struck 5 feet higher, I wouldn’t be writing this.

Do yourself a favor: if you happen to be following Tiger Woods at a tournament and he hits one in the right trees, which happens just about everywhere he plays, stand behind him. He’s not going to notice you, anyway.

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Koepka: Second-place finishes becoming 'annoying'

By Al TaysMay 28, 2018, 12:02 am

Brooks Koepka didn't go down without a fight.

Trailing Justin Rose by four shots going into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational, Koepka shot his second 7-under 63 of the week - and made up precisely one shot. He finished solo second at 17 under par, three shots behind Rose.

He could only marvel at the Englishman's performance in closing with a 6-under 64.

"It was pretty impressive," he said. "Justin played well. Hat's off to him. Any time you can come into a lead with four shots and play the way he did today, that's impressive."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Although Koepka was pleased with his own play - especially his putting - he said it felt "annoying" to come in second. Again.

"I feel like we've had so many second-place finishes," he said. "Always seem to run into a buzz saw, whatever it is."

Since May of 2016, Koepka has five solo second-place finishes and one T-2. But he also has a U.S. Open title, won last year at Erin Hills. He'll attempt to defend that title June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills. "It's nice to finally be playing well and get going into the season," he said. "Kind of peaking right where I need to be."

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Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee's task was simple: A birdie on No. 18 would win her the tournament. It was a manageable par 5, the easiest hole on the course in the final round.

After a good drive, her second shot came closer to trouble than much of the gallery probably realized.

''I almost clipped the tree,'' Lee said. ''I overcut it a little bit, but it finished out in a good position.''

Lee's shot came to rest just to the right of the green, and from there it was a simple chip and putt for the birdie that gave her a one-stroke win over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship on Sunday. Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, won for the first time since 2016. It was the Australian's fourth career victory.

Lee three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round about the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18. The 18th hole was 470 yards Sunday. There were 44 birdies there in the final round.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

''The tee was up,'' she said. ''I was pretty confident that I could get there in two if I had a good drive.''

Lee made her winning putt from about 3 feet. She finished at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

''I kind of knew that 16 was the number and I mean, I give my best,'' Kim said. ''I make some good shots and birdies.''

Moriya Jutanugarn (65) finished third at 14 under.

Lee took a two-stroke lead into the final round, and that was her margin over playing partner Stacy Lewis before Lewis (71) bogeyed No. 7 and 8. Kim emerged as the biggest threat to Lee when she birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine. Lewis is playing four months' pregnant with her first child.

Kim and Lee were briefly tied at 15 under, but then Lee made a tap-in birdie on the par-5 14th, while Kim bogeyed 15. Lee saved par on 15 despite a wayward drive into a bunker.

''I wasn't sure where I was score-wise then. That par 5 is reachable in two, so I think a lot of people would have made birdie there,'' Lee said. ''The next tee shot I just pulled into the bunker. ... I think that was really important for me to hole that par putt just to keep the momentum going.''

Lee had gone 38 consecutive holes without a bogey before making one on the par-4 17th. That, combined with Kim's birdie on 18, left the two golfers tied, but Lee still had the 18th to come.

Su Oh (68) and Lindy Duncan (69) finished at 13 under, and Megan Khang (67) was another stroke back. Lewis finished at 11 under along with Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and Danielle Kang (70).

Lewis birdied three of the first six holes, but Lee did as well.

''It's hard to get close when somebody does that,'' Lewis said. ''She played great all day and played solid. When she needed to make a par putt, she did, and didn't make any mistakes.''

Lee lost this event by one stroke last year. Shanshan Feng, the 2017 winner , finished tied for 21st this time.

The LPGA has had a different winner in each of its 13 tournaments this year. The U.S. Women's Open starts Thursday at Shoal Creek.

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Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

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Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst wishes he had played this well in his 23 years on the European Tour.

''I know a lot more about my swing now and I guess you get that with age and experience,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said after shooting an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

Broadhurst finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round co-leaders Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory and moved to the top of the money list. He won six times on the European Tour, was a 1991 Ryder Cup player for Europe and has three European Senior Tour victories.

''It was really a special week,'' he said. ''It got a little bit tense out there. I knew I was playing well but I didn't seem to making any progress against Tim Petrovic. He was side-by-side on the back nine it seemed.''

He learned his lead was three strokes standing on the 18th tee when his caddie asked a television announcer.

''So we put my driver away and reached for the rescue club,'' he said. ''If I made a 5 there that would be fine.''

Broadhurst started the round two strokes behind Petrovic and McCarron, birdied the first hole and was tied with Petrovic for the lead by the turn. He took his first lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, led by two after 16 and birdied the final two holes, including a dramatic 40-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole.

''I guess it would have been a bit of anti-climax if I would have three-putted the last green, but that would have given Tim a chance of holing his second shot,'' he said. ''I actually spoke to my caddie about that going down the last - we don't want to three-putt and five him the opportunity because stranger things have happened in golf. To see it go in the middle of the hole was just a special feeling.''

Petrovic said missed birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 8 were costly, but it might not have mattered with the way Broadhurst was playing.

''In hindsight it was all for naught,'' he said. ''He was so far ahead of us. Hat's off the guy. It was a great week - we just got beat. When he made the putt on 18 ahead of us I almost started clapping in the fairway and waving a white towel. It was well-deserved. That was great playing. He won the championship for sure.''

Broadhurst shot 72 in the first round, started rolling in putts with a 66 in the second round and was 15 under on the weekend. In addition to the leading 26 birdies, he topped the putts per greens in regulations numbers for the tournament as well with a 1.574 average.

''I wasn't aware I made that many birdies,'' he said. ''That's pretty impressive around this course.''

He said his game has long been unpredictable.

''I'm not blessed with a consistent swing like Bernhard Langer, but when it's on, it works,'' he said. ''If I'm putting well, then anything can happen, really.''