Woods Singh Begin PGA Preparations

By Mercer BaggsAugust 8, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 PGA ChampionshipSPRINGFIELD, N.J. ' Steve Williams took the striped head cover off of Tiger Woods driver. He then handed it to his boss. One swing later, the head cover was back on.
Woods capped his practice session Monday with one last booming drive. He then twirled the club and handed it back to his caddie.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods and coach Hank Haney work on some putting drills Monday morning at Baltusrol.
Woods looked quite comfortable practicing before hundreds of patrons amid the heavy humidity at Baltusrol Golf Club, site of the 87th PGA Championship.
After playing 18 holes early Monday morning, Woods, with instructor Hank Haney in tow, wowed onlookers with prodigious drives on the practice range. He then drew great applause while hitting bunker shots from the adjacent practice area. Williams placed a ball on a tee for which Woods used as a target. When the worlds No. 1 clipped the tee like a bowling ball knocking down the center pin, fans seven and eight rows deep showcased approval.
Woods, who is seeking his third major victory of the season, having won the Masters and Open Championship, as well as his third career PGA victory, wasnt long for Baltusrol on the first day of this PGA week. He left about the time the clock struck noon.
Almost on cue, it was exit No. 1, enter No. 2.
Ten minutes after Woods departure, Vijay Singh casually arrived on site and officially registered for the event.
The defending champion then went to the practice range, where he glad-handed and joked around with Fred Couples, before heading out to the course.
Woods has a press conference scheduled for Tuesday; Singh will speak publicly Wednesday.
While quite a few players have been on the grounds since this past weekend, Monday was a day for the entire 156-man field to get a look at what will be the longest par-70 layout in the championships 87-year history.
U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell was back Stateside after an eight-day celebratory trip to his native New Zealand.
Back to work now, he said enthusiastically. Looking forward to playing this week.
Of course, that was before he got his first look at the venerable venue. After his round, he referred to it as a 'beast.'
The Lower Course at Baltusrol officially measures 7,392 yards and plays to a par 70. It features a pair of par-4s (Nos. 1 and 5) that extend beyond 475 yards and two more (Nos. 3 and 7) in excess of 500. It also boasts the 650-yard, par-5 17th -- the longest hole in major championship history, which along with the 554-yard 18th are the only two official par-5s on the course.
'As far as par-5s go, there's four of them on the front nine,' kidded Lee Janzen.
Im playing them as par-5s, Zach Johnson said half-jokingly about the quartet of lengthy par-4s on the outward half.
Johnson, who played eight holes Saturday and 15 more Sunday, said he hit a 5-iron into the green on the third hole and a 4-iron into the seventh. He went driver-3-wood-9-iron to reach 17.
Still, Darren Clarke, who played the course Sunday and Monday, thinks it may take double digits under par to prove victorious. The championship record is 265, meaning it would take 16 under this week to break that mark. Thats unlikely, Clarke said, but not entirely out of the question if the course were to remain in its current state.
Its in great shape, he said. Its a little bit soft at the moment, so I think the scoring is going to be pretty good.
If it stays soft, somebody could go low. But youre going to have to play extremely well to do that.
Twelve years ago, Janzen tied the U.S. Open 72-hole scoring record when he shot 8-under 272 on the Lower Course. That was the last time Baltusrol hosted a major championship, and the last time Janzen played the course prior to Monday.
Little things here and there were different, he said. I think theres a few more bunkers than I remember. And the course is very long. Theyve added yardage on nearly every hole since we were here 12 years ago.
In all, 270 yards have been added to the course since 93. But Janzen said the conditions are the biggest difference between now and then.
In 93 it was very hot. I believe we were in the 100-degree temperature (range) up until Saturday anyway, and it was very dry and very fast, he said. So the course played pretty short for its yardage then.
Currently, as Clarke said, the course is on the receptive side. Rain threatened Monday afternoon, but never materialized. The forecast for the early part of the week calls for temperatures in the upper-80s to low-90s with the possibilities of scattered thunderstorms.
Its been pretty damp so the course is real wet, but its in good condition, said Jim Furyk. The greens are slow now, but Im sure theyll speed up later in the week.
Mark Kuhns, the Director of Grounds at Baltusrol, said the course is currently playing a little slow to their liking. But he expects it to be in championship form come Thursday.
As the week progresses we will bring the speeds (on the greens) up, he said. Hopefully the gods will smile on us and itll dry out a bit.
Kuhns added that the greens are currently running at 10.6 to 11 on the stimp meter. He hopes to have them in the mid-11s by the time the tournament begins.
As for a projected winning score, Janzen anticipates something in single digits, probably around the 8-under number that won him his first U.S. Open.
Kuhns is hoping for something a little higher.
I would like to go to 5 under, he said.
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    Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

    There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

    Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

    She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

    It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

    Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

    "It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

    Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”