Tigers Two Glasses

By John HawkinsApril 30, 2010, 3:07 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – There are two glasses of water. Both are half-full, but one glass is splintered from top to bottom and the water is a yellowish-brown  – so murky that you’d be wise to think of it as half-empty, at which point optimism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

For the New and Supposedly Improved Tiger Woods, life as the world’s best golfer now comes with a double-edged sword. Scrutiny of the man has never been greater, and in an attempt to tidy up his public image, Woods has vowed to improve his on-course behavior. Tiger’s golf ball, however, keeps misbehaving: four-of-14 fairways Thursday at Quail Hollow, back-to-back tee shots in the agua, a morning full of misses to both sides and not enough magic with the putter to salvage a day that began with a birdie but ended with a series of very short answers in an interview with Golf Channel's Steve Sands.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods hit just four fairways in his opening round at Quail Hollow. (Getty Images)

Because he teed off at 7:40 a.m., Tiger’s round wasn’t televised, meaning the profanity factor wasn’t really in play, but it was a round worthy of a few expletives, a round we’ve seen Woods play 50 times before. A 78 he managed to turn into a 74 through the power of determination, because the best golfer at his worst is still better than anybody else’s awful. Still, coming off that shabby weekend at the Masters and the general tendency to overanalyze everything Woods does, Eldrick Almighty’s game is beginning to mirror his personal life. Unrest and uncertainty, further complicated by prolific doses of speculation.

A few minutes after Woods finished at 2 over par, I sent a text message to Hank Haney, merely expressing surprise that Tiger hadn’t asked his swing coach to accompany him to Charlotte. Haney quickly responded, saying he attended just four tournaments in 2009 and hasn’t been a fixture at Tour events for years, at which point he embarked on his customary media rant – a reply that would come as no surprise to those who know Haney as a sensitive man in a difficult position.

None of what Haney said changes the facts. Woods may spend the next three days spraying the ball all over North Carolina, or he may shoot 65-65 on the weekend to win by four, but he hasn’t driven the ball effectively or consistently for a long time, and his last three rounds are an extension of that problem. Last year marked the first time Tiger finished among the top 130 on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy (86th) since he began working with Haney in mid-2004. In ’05, he hit a career-low 54.6 percent of his fairways but still won two majors and six times overall.

If he drove it straight, he’d win every time he plays, but since Woods plays from the short grass barely half the time, he only wins about half his starts. You and I should be forced to cope with such nagging problems.

A natural left-to-right player who has spent the last six years working with a guy whose instruction template is built around a right-to-left ball flight, Tiger is well aware that some of the best stretches of his career have occurred under Haney, which hasn’t prevented the detractors from wondering whether Tiger has piled up the victories because of his swing coach or despite him. Hank, as you might suspect, isn’t a big fan of those people. Woods, meanwhile, for all his on-course histrionics, has never really leaned heavily in one direction or the other when it comes to addressing Haney’s critics.

He golfs his ball and beats 'em all – more often than not, anyway – and sometimes pays the consequences. From a wide-angle perspective, however, Woods’ skulking, hapless demeanor of late does not reflect that of a man who should be incredibly grateful for the physical gifts and mental toughness he takes to every first tee. I’m not expecting cartwheels after four-of-14 fairways and a double-water-ball 74, but this is not a man who seems pleased as punch to be out there after six months of tabloid hell.

The best only want to get better, and the best of all-time will accept nothing less. I don’t know if there’s a reason why Haney’s not in Charlotte, but it’s not Hank’s ball, it’s not Hank’s call, and it’s definitely not Hank’s fault if the glass is cracked and the water is murky.

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McIlroy needs putter to heat up to catch Woods

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:29 am

ATLANTA – Although Rory McIlroy is three strokes behind Tiger Woods at the Tour Championship and tied for second place he had the look of a man with a secret when he left East Lake on Saturday.

Trying to play catch up against Woods is never ideal, but McIlroy’s confidence stemmed from a tee-to-green game that has been unrivaled for three days.

“I definitely think today and the first day were similar,” said McIlroy, whose 66 included birdies at two of his final three holes. “I gave myself plenty of chances, and I think the biggest thing today was only just that one bogey. Got to put your ball in the fairway, put yourself in position, and for the most part, I did that today.”


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For the week McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained: off the tee, third in strokes gained: approach to the green and second in greens in regulation. But to catch Woods, who he will be paired with, he’ll need a much better day on the greens.

The Northern Irishman needed 30 putts on Day 2 and ranks 23rd, out of 30 players, in strokes gained: putting.

McIlroy skipped the first playoff event, opting instead for an extra week at home to work on his swing and the move has paid off.

“I hit the ball well. My wedge play has been really good,” he said. “I've done a lot of work on it the last few weeks, and it seems to have paid off.”

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Glover trails Straka at Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 12:19 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Sepp Straka moved into position Saturday to earn a PGA Tour card in the Web.com Tour Championship, shooting a 7-under 64 to take the third-round lead.

With the top 25 earners in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals getting PGA Tour cards Sunday, Straka birdied the final three holes to reach 18-under 195 - a stroke ahead of Curtis Luck, Lucas Glover and Denny McCarthy at Atlantic Beach Country Club.

''It's always good to get an extra birdie in late. I got three of them to finish, which was nice,'' Straka said. ''It's very bunched up there, so you can't really take off, you've got to keep the pedal down and see where you end up at the end.''

Straka entered the week tied for 80th in the card race with $2,744. The 25-year-old former Georgia player from Austria won the KC Golf Classic in August for his first Web.com Tour title. He finished 31st on the money list to advance to the four-tournament series.

''My ball-striking is really good,'' Straka said. ''It's been good all week. It's been really solid. I really haven't gotten in a whole lot of trouble and have been able to capitalize on a good number of chances with the putter. Hit a couple of bad putts today, but some really good ones to make up for it.''


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Luck also shot 64. The 22-year-old Australian went into the week 16th with $41,587.

''Obviously, it just comes down to keeping that momentum going and trying not to change anything,'' Luck said. ''That's the really important thing and I felt like I did that really well. I played really aggressive on the back nine, still went after a lot of shots and I hit it close a lot out there.''

Glover had a 68. The 2009 U.S. Open champion entered the week 40th with $17,212.

McCarthy shot 67. He already has wrapped up a card, earning $75,793 in the first three events to get to 11th in the standings.

The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com 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. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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Woods' dominance evokes an old, familiar feeling

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:14 am

ATLANTA – It felt so familiar – the roars, the fist pumps, the frenzied scramble to keep up with a leaderboard that was quickly tilting in Tiger Woods’ direction.

For the handful of players who were around when Woods made a mysterious and maddening game seem simple, it was like old times, times that weren’t necessarily good for anyone not named Tiger.

“I’m kind of nostalgic,” admitted Paul Casey, who turned pro in 2000, when Woods won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes, one of his nine PGA Tour victories that year.

Casey’s 66 on Day 3 at the Tour Championship vaulted him into a tie for sixth place, but as the Englishman quickly vetted the math he knew those numbers were nothing more than window dressing.

“Sixty-four is my best on a Sunday which puts me at 11 [under], so if he’s 12 I need to shoot my career best in the final round and he needs to do something very un-Tiger-like,” Casey laughed. “I think I’m just posturing for position.”

Casey wasn’t giving up. In fact, given that he outdueled Woods earlier this year to win the Valspar Championship he could have hedged his comments and left the door cracked however slightly. But he’s seen, and heard, this too many times to allow competitive necessity to cloud reality.

On Saturday at East Lake, Tiger Woods was his best version. Throughout this most recent comeback he’s offered glimpses of the old guy, the guy whose name atop a leaderboard echoed through locker rooms for the better part of two decades. After starting the day tied for the lead with Justin Rose, Tiger quickly separated himself from the pack with a birdie at the first.

He added another at the third and by the time he birdied the seventh hole, his sixth birdie of the day, he’d extended that lead to five shots and was sending an unmistakable message that reached well beyond the steamy confines of East Lake.


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This was what so many had waited for. This was the Tiger that Casey and others grew up dreading, a machine that never misses iron shots and makes clutch putts look like tap-ins.

“The crowds were electric,” said Rose, who was paired with Woods. “He was running the tables there. He was hitting good shots and making the conversion putts.”

Woods did come back to earth after his blistering start, playing his final 10 holes in 1 over par, but that did little to change the mood as the season moved to within 18 holes of the finish line.

He would finish with a round-of-the-day 65 for a three-stroke lead over Rose and Rory McIlroy. The next closest players were a dozen strokes back, including Casey at 5 under par who didn’t need to be reminded of Woods’ 54-hole conversion rate.

There are no guarantees in sports but Tiger with a 54-hole lead has been about as close to a lock as one will find this side of Las Vegas. He’s 42-for-44 when going into the final round with the outright lead and the last time he blew a 54-hole lead was at the 2009 PGA Championship.

Of course, he hasn’t had a 54-hole lead since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Truth is, he hasn’t had much of anything since ’13 when his dominance was sidetracked by an ailing back. As intimidating as Woods’ play has been this week there was an unmistakable sense of, let’s call it curiosity.

Asked if Woods’ lead felt different than it may have a decade ago, Rose’s response was telling. “Maybe,” he allowed after a pause. “It's a little more unknown now. Obviously his history, his statistics from this point are impeccable. They're incredible. But he's human, and there's a lot on it for him tomorrow, as well as the rest of us.”

Rose wasn’t trying to trick himself into thinking the impossible was possible, although many have when they’ve found themselves in similar positions, it was simply the truth. Woods has had multiple chances this season to complete the comeback and he’s come up short each time.

It was a poor iron shot off the 72nd tee at the Valspar Championship and an even worse drive a week later at Bay Hill’s 16th hole. It was a misplayed chip late on the back nine at The Open and a collection of missed putts at the PGA Championship, although in his defense it’s unlikely anyone could have caught Brooks Koepka at Bellerive.

Nor was Rose being disrespectful. It’s simple math, really, and Woods’ body of work to this point, although wildly impressive considering how far he’s come in 12 months both physically and competitively, paints a clear picture. Given multiple chances to break through the victory ceiling he’s failed to deliver the way he did before injury and multiple back procedures.

“I've felt very comfortable when I got into the mix there at Tampa even though it was very early in my start to this year. And because of that, I felt comfortable when I got to Bay Hill, (and) when I grabbed the lead at The Open Championship,” Woods said. “Things that didn't really feel abnormal, even though it's been years, literally years, since I've been in those spots, but I think I've been in those spots enough times that muscle memory, I guess I remembered it, and I felt comfortable in those spots.”

In many ways the script couldn’t have been written any better for Woods. It’s the bottom of the ninth, two outs and the bases are loaded for the 14-time major champion. Hero time, his time.

He’s been here so many times in his career and succeeded more times than not, and this new, reimagined version has the ultimate chance to complete what would arguably be the greatest comeback in sports history.

The ultimate test still remains, but for 18 holes on Saturday it felt so familiar.

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Woods, McIlroy in Sunday super group in finale

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 23, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy has made known his disdain for “super groups” in early tournament rounds.

Well, he’s now got one on Sunday at the Tour Championship. And it doesn’t get more super than this.

McIlroy will play alongside Tiger Woods in the final pairing, in the final round at East Lake Golf Club. Woods leads McIlroy – and Justin Rose – by three shots.


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“All I can do is worry about myself,” McIlroy said. “It doesn't matter who it is I'm playing with. It's obviously exciting for the golf tournament. It's exciting for golf, in general, that he's up there. But for me, all I can do is concentrate on myself. The game is hard enough without having to – without looking at other people. Go out there, take care of my business, and hopefully that's good enough.”

This is the fifth time that McIlroy and Woods have been grouped this year. They were alongside one another in the first two rounds of the Genesis Open and the first two rounds of the PGA Championship.

In the four previous rounds, McIlroy finished better twice, Woods once, and they tied once.

“It's going to be fun. We haven't done that much of late, because I've not been there,” Woods said of going head-to-head with McIlroy for a title. “He has been there, and he's won a bunch of tournaments. So it's nice for us to go back out and play against one another, be in the mix.”

We know Woods will be wearing his traditional red in the final round. As for McIlroy?

"I think I'll wear red," McIlroy joked. "No, geez, I've regretted wearing black out here today. It was hot."

They go out at 2:05 p.m. ET.