No more fear factor

By Randall MellAugust 10, 2011, 7:38 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Tiger Woods mercilessly choked new growth.

He towered so formidably over the game that young talent couldn’t blossom in his shadow. His beat downs stunted youthful ambition before it could threaten his dominion.

“Tiger destroyed a lot of players, confidence wise,” says Butch Harmon, Woods’ former swing coach.

It’s probably no coincidence that a new wave of youth is on the rise as Woods slumps.

The irony is that Woods inspired this new generation, and now he’s doing the kids a large favor by getting out of their way so they have room to grow.

The PGA Championship begins Thursday with so many gifted young players aiming for the big prize at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Matteo Manassero and Ryo Ishikawa don’t have clear paths to superstardom, but they have the advantage a generation didn’t have a decade ago. They have a path unblocked by Woods.

“Is it easier for young guys now that Tiger isn’t sucking up all the oxygen?” Stewart Cink said. “In a way it is, because it gives more young players an opportunity to show their stuff. He isn’t winning as much. He isn’t hogging all the attention, all the press. There’s room right now for a Rory McIlroy or Rickie Fowler to emerge and become a superstar. These guys were going to be good anyway, but in Tiger’s absence . . .”

In Tiger’s absence, there’s a chance to make it happen faster.

“These kids don’t have the fear of Tiger because they aren’t getting their brains beat in by Tiger,” Harmon said. “They are fearless.

“It’s unbelievable how good they are, and they’re only going to get better.”

The game’s at pivotal turning point with Woods off his form, with a changing of the guard at hand. The wonderful question looming over all of it is whether Woods regains his form, whether he bounces back to make these kids measure themselves against the guy they grew up idolizing.

If Tiger finds his form, the game could enjoy another terrific jolt seeing him take on his litter.

These kids weren’t just inspired watching Woods beat down all his peers. They dreamed of beating Woods themselves.

Growing up in Northern Ireland, McIlroy was 7 years old when Woods won his first major in a 12-shot runaway at the Masters. McIlroy said as a boy he imagined duels with Woods, imagined having putts to beat Woods in the U.S. Open or Masters.

McIlroy imagined measuring himself against Woods. He was asked Wednesday if he still imagines it.

“Tiger didn’t give anyone a chance 10 years ago,” McIlroy said. “Yeah, it would be great to measure yourself up against that, but on the other side, if he does get back to that, get back to the way he played, it gives us less of a chance. So, it’s sort of a double-edged sword.”

Manassero, the 18-year-old Italian who’s already won twice on the European Tour, was a week shy of his fourth birthday when Woods won his first Masters, but Manassero says he remembers it.

“I actually do have a little memory of it, because it was such a big Masters,” Manassero said. “I really watched the Tiger era, and I followed him closely. I think all of us who grew up watching him dominate would like to see him come back. We grew up with the idea he would own all the major championship records, so it would be really, really good to see him back doing it again after all that’s passed.”

Manassero said dueling Woods would be like walking through a dream.

“Getting to duel with Tiger would be an achievement in itself, but if it would go my way, that would be amazing,” Manassero said.

Fowler, 22, was 8 when he watched Woods win his first Masters.

“If you grew up watching Tiger and weren’t inspired, something’s wrong,” Fowler said.

Fowler said he would relish seeing Woods return to form in hopes he could measure himself against Woods at his best.

“Definitely,” Fowler said. “I want to win tournaments, and I’m obviously looking for my first, and I want to win with Tiger Woods in the field. I would like to see him playing well again. I want to beat the best players in the world.”

They want to beat the guy who looked like he was going to be the best who ever lived.

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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''

Full-field scores from the Sanford International

Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

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Glover (64) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the 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 regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

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Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

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McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”