Putting it All Together

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2011, 12:39 pm

API LogoORLANDO, Fla. – The images are burned in the brain.

Memories of Tiger Woods at his best, when he looked most like a golf warrior, have a common denominator.

Woods was connected to his putter.

Has he ever looked fiercer than when he rocked back on his heels and roared to the heavens after making that long birdie putt to tie Rocco Mediate and force a playoff at the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008?

How about when he holed that 24-foot putt at the 72nd hole at the Arnold Palmer Invitational to beat Brad Bryant and spiked his hat with another raucous roar two years ago?

Or all those trademark uppercuts he used to throw after holing putts in his youth?
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods Wednesday at Bay Hill, where he has won six times. (Getty Images)
Woods’ putter was like Excalibur over his best years.

While a lot is made of swing changes Woods is making with Sean Foley, Woods has shown us over the years he can win when his swing’s not quite right.

But he’s got no shot when his putting stroke’s not right.

That’s what intrigues about Woods’ return to the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week in a bid to win his seventh PGA Tour title at Bay Hill.

Woods used his new Nike Method putter again in Wednesday’s pro-am. The course seems a perfect place for the magic to return to his putting stroke. There are so many good memories for him with his putter here.

In his last two appearances at Bay Hill, Woods ended victories with dramatic tournament-winning putts.

There was the 24-foot birdie putt to beat Bryant in ’08 and the 12-foot birdie putt to beat Sean O'Hair in ’09.

Woods' triumph against O'Hair was good for what ailed him back then. It was his first taste of victory in nine months in the wake of his return from knee surgery.

The memories have to be enervating with Woods saying he’s feeling better about his putting stroke after a bout of lackluster putting the past year. He believes when his putting form returns, you can expect his entire game to begin to follow.

“The putting will come,” Woods said after Wednesday's pro-am. “The chipping will come.

“Because I’m learning a new release, that’s going to take time. But I know I can do that. I’ve done it before . . . I know from the work I’ve done it starts with the putting stroke and it works its way out. Once I get the release dialed in with the putting and the chipping and the irons, then eventually the driver just falls into place.”

When Woods said he was changing the release of his putter as part of his swing makeover with Foley, it got people’s attention. Woods’ putting stroke, after all, might have been the finest under pressure the game’s ever seen.

Notably, Woods said the release he’s working on with Foley is more a return to the release his father taught him. Earl Woods was Tiger’s putting coach until Earl’s death five years ago.

Tiger was asked Wednesday what he thought his father might have him working on as he tries to break out of his putting funk.

“It’s funny you say that,” Woods said. “I went back to all my old stuff that my dad and I used to work on. That’s when I felt that my stroke started becoming more sound, more solid. My speed became better.

“I don’t know what the dude saw in my game, but he really knew putting, and he knew my stroke. I miss him for a lot more reasons than just the putting, but as far as bouncing ideas off of him and what I was feeling and what he would say, I do miss that, certainly.”

Woods said what Foley’s teaching him doesn’t conflict with what his father taught.

“It’s exactly the same, what Foley is trying to get me to do with my full swing, and how he wants me to release it, and how I used to release my putter,” Woods said. “That’s one of the reasons I’ve gone back to my old stuff that my dad and I used to work on. It feels natural, because I’ve done it so long. I just got away from it, and now I’m going back to it.”

As athletic moves go, Woods’ slight rocking of his shoulders in his putting stroke in his prime didn’t thrill the way a Muhammad Ali combination did or Reggie Jackson corkscrew swing did, but it was one of sport’s marvels just the same. That gentle little pendulum swing could make the earth move.

If that returns, you know Woods’ confidence will follow and help every dimension of his game.

The challenge this week will come on green complexes that have changed since Woods last won here two years ago.

Palmer made considerable changes before last year’s tournament, an event Woods missed as he worked his way back from personal woes.

The course alternations aren’t enough, however, to lead Palmer to believe Woods can’t master these greens the way he did in six other victories at Bay Hill.

“I feel like Tiger has the golf game that he can come to the surface at anytime, and I think there’s certainly a possibility here,” Palmer said. “He likes this golf course, and what we’ve done. I’m just not counting him out at all.”

Ian Poulter believes Woods’ powers could return quickly with the putter.

“I think it’s a confidence thing,” Ian Poulter said. “I think as soon as he puts himself in a position of being in contention, I really mean being up there, I think it would be very easy for him to see his lines again, very quickly.

“If you start missing putts and you start missing your lines, and if everything is on top of you, you are kind of putting more pressure on yourself to putt well. I think if he puts himself in the mix, I would know where my money is going.”

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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.''