Torrey Pines is like home to Woods

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2013, 9:43 pm

SAN DIEGO – This is still Tiger Woods’ dominion.

He made Torrey Pines feel like his Mount Olympus home when he won the U.S. Open here nearly five years ago.

There was something about his pain-racked performance that trumped any other feat in his remarkable career, that trumped his 12-shot victory at the 1997 Masters and even his 15-shot runaway at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

That’s because we saw something at Torrey Pines in 2008 that we had never before seen. We saw something so different in the way Woods savored the moment when the U.S. Open trophy was handed to him. It was as if he stepped outside himself. For the first time, it felt as if he was out there with the rest of us, looking back at the week and his playoff victory at Torrey Pines in awe. He winced, grimaced and limped his way to victory on a surgically repaired left knee that his doctor didn’t want him playing upon.

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Through the years, Woods has amazed us with his feats, but for the first time, holding that U.S. Open trophy, he seemed as amazed as we were.

“This is probably the best ever,” Woods said looking at the trophy that day after defeating Rocco Mediate at the 91st hole. “All things considered, I don’t know how I ended up in this position.”

Five years later, Woods still feels a little that way looking back. He said as much Tuesday after a practice round on the back nine of the South Course. After skipping this event a year ago to play Abu Dhabi, Woods is back making his 2013 PGA Tour debut. He’s back looking to rebound from missing the cut in Abu Dhabi last week.

Woods is back with plenty of rich Torrey Pines memories to use as fuel, none more powerful than his memory of winning the U.S. Open here.

“I do look at that week often,” Woods said. “I remember several things. No. 1 that comes to my mind every time I look at it, or see highlights of it, is just the pure pain that I was in. I don’t ever want to experience that again. That was a very, very difficult week. Having to go five days, I really don’t know how I quite got through it.”

Woods dug himself out of so many holes at Torrey Pines in that U.S. Open. He started with double bogeys on his opening hole in three of the first four rounds and with a bogey in the other regulation round. He spotted the field seven shots with those poor starts, but he kept fighting back.

“There were a lot of amazing things, but man, here I am just talking about it and my hands are sweating just thinking about the feeling I had to get through each and every day,” Woods said.

Woods might have surprised himself more than he surprised those who watched him win.

“Was I inspired?” says Brian Harman, who was coming off his junior year at the University of Georgia when Woods won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. “I was inspired by him long before that. He had already done so much, it’s not like I was even surprised.

“When you think of Torrey Pines, you think of Tiger, but when you think of a lot of places, you think of Tiger – Augusta National, Bay Hill, even Bethpage Black.”

Woods has won seven titles as a pro at Torrey Pines, six regular PGA Tour stops and that U.S. Open. He won twice at Torrey Pines in ’08. He also has won seven times at Bay Hill and Firestone, but when you also count major junior events, he hasn’t won more anywhere than he has at Torrey Pines. Woods has won 13 titles at Torrey Pines with six of them coming at the Junior Worlds.

Brandt Snedeker, the defending champion this week, shook his head and laughed when told that Woods’ scoring average is 68.62 in regular PGA Tour events played at Torrey Pines.

“That is just phenomenal,” Snedeker said. “That is just stupid. You shoot even par on the South Course and you are playing great. He does have an unbelievable record around here.”

Woods loved Torrey Pines the first time he saw it as an 8- or 9-year-old, when his father brought him to watch his first PGA Tour event.

“I first came down here during the old Andy Williams,” Woods said. “I came out and watched some Cali guys. I watched Mo (Mark O’Meara) play, Cookie (John Cook) and I think I saw Corey (Pavin) hit a couple shots. I saw Andy Bean hit the ball on the green in two on 18.

“Yeah, I feel comfortable here, there is no doubt. There are a few courses that are like that, where I’ve had my share of success, where I’ve either won or been in contention.”

In 13 pro starts at Torrey Pines, Woods has finished in the top 10 in all but one, his last start here.

Two years ago, still coming back from all the trouble in his personal life, Woods tied for 44th. He didn’t play at Torrey Pines in ’09 because of injury and in 2010 while repairing his personal life.

So while Woods returns to Torrey Pines enjoying the memories this place brings back, he returns mostly looking to win here again. His practice round Tuesday was business-like as he acclimated himself to the conditions.

“It’s nice to get out there and play a course I know, but obviously it’s different than what I remembered, because it’s normally not this dry, not normally this quick,” Woods said. “So, we get this every now and again with the Santa Ana winds blowing.”

Woods’ presence can be even stronger than when the Santa Ana winds blow here, and he would like to re-establish that fact this week.

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Thomas donating to hurricane relief at East Lake

By Jason CrookSeptember 19, 2018, 9:20 pm

Much like in years past, Justin Thomas is using his golf game to help with relief of a natural disaster.

The world No. 4 announced on Twitter Wednesday that he’d be donating $1,000 per birdie and $5,000 per eagle at the Tour Championship to a charity benefiting the victims of Hurricane Florence, which ravaged the Carolinas last week.

At a fan's suggestion, Thomas, who has averaged 4.35 birdies per round this season, also pledged to donate $10,000 for a hole-in-one.

Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday just south of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and has left much of the area flooded and without power. At least 37 people have died in storm-related incidents.

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Rose realizes his No. 1 ranking is precarious

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

ATLANTA – Asked how he would like to be identified when he was finished playing golf, Justin Rose didn’t hesitate – “major champion, Olympic gold medalist, world No. 1.”

He’s had only a week to enjoy the last accomplishment, but the Englishman is aware of what it means to his career to have finally moved into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It's a moment in your career that you always remember and cherish,” said Rose, who overtook Dustin Johnson with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.

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Rose said he took some time last weekend with family and friends to relish the accomplishment and will play his first event this week at the Tour Championship as the world’s best, but he also understands how tenuous his position atop the ranking is at the moment.

“I accept it's really tight up top. It could easily switch this week,” he said. “I just feel that if I go to [No.] 2 or 3 this week, if Dustin and Brooks [Koepka] both play well, I have an opportunity the week after and British Masters, and going to China and Turkey, there's going to be opportunities to get back there.”

Johnson, Koepka and Justin Thomas could unseat Rose atop the ranking this week depending on their finishes at the Tour Championship.

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Likely ROY Wise not looking past 'special' East Lake

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:05 pm

ATLANTA – Much like the PGA Tour Player of Year Award, voting for the Rookie of the Year Award is very much a rubber stamp this season.

Brooks Koepka is a lock to win the Jack Nicklaus Trophy after winning two majors - the U.S. Open and PGA Championship - despite missing a portion of the season with an injury. Similarly, Aaron Wise, who won the AT&T Byron Nelson, is the only rookie this year to advance to the Tour Championship, which is normally the threshold players use for voting for Rookie of the Year.

“I knew with the rookie class that we had it was going to be tough, and the players still have to vote but it’s definitely something that was important to me,” he said on Wednesday at East Lake. “My focus is just finishing strong this week and giving them a reason to vote for me.”

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For Wise, who had four top-10 finishes this season and begins the week 21st on the FedExCup point list, the chance to win the award is gratifying, but being among the best 30 players on Tour, and securing his spot in all four major championships next season, is an accomplishment worth savoring.

“To win Rookie of the Year you have to have a solid season, but to make it to East Lake, so many guys don’t get this far. You really have to have a special season and this is really special,” Wise said.

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Stanford returns home to share Evian celebration

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2018, 5:33 pm

Angela Stanford’s eyes welled with tears when her flight touched down at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in her return from winning the Evian Championship.

When she lands from the south, as she did Monday, she always looks for the towering grain elevators in her Saginaw hometown. She also always looks for downtown Fort Worth’s skyline.

She got teary with the replica of the Evian Championship trophy in her carry-on in the luggage bin above her seat, knowing she wasn’t bringing it home just for her.

But for her mother, Nan, who’s battling a second bout with breast cancer.

For her father, Steve, who got her started in the game.

For other family and friends.

For Shady Oaks, the club Ben Hogan made famous, where she is a member.

And for TCU, her alma mater.

She realized how empty she felt in so many returns from major championships.

She’s 40 now.

She won in her 76th try in a major.

For so long, Stanford believed she had what it took to win a major, but that only made the string of disappointments harder.

“So I remembered what it felt like coming home from so many disappointments, but not this time,” Stanford said. “This time I got to bring something home for everyone to see.”

When Stanford got off the plane, her parents were among a group of family and friends waiting to greet her. So was her TCU coach, Angie Larkin, who brought along the Horned Frogs mascot, Superfrog.

Tour pros Kristy McPherson, Dori Carter, Kendall Dye and Emory University coach and former tour pro Katie Futcher were all in Fort Worth helping Stanford celebrate.

“It was pretty cool,” Stanford said. “Of course, I asked them all if they wanted to see the trophy.”

She pulled it out of her carry-on and never put it back.

“It’s a heavy trophy, but I told them I’m carrying this everywhere,” Stanford said.

There was a celebration dinner with family and friends Monday night, and another celebration with friends on Tuesday.

“I think it’s just the start of many celebrations with more friends to see,” Stanford said.

Stanford went to work with a new swing coach about a year ago, Todd Kolb, from Sioux Falls, S.D. In her flight home, she thought about how grateful she was for all the help poured into her game, not just the good work Kolb is doing, but the foundation important figures in her life helped to lay. She thought about the lessons and wisdom Amy Fox, Mike Wright and Joe Hallett passed along.

“I’m still using things I learned from my first instructor,” Stanford said. “Amy Fox is a huge reason I’m playing on tour. Mike Wright is a huge reason why I’ve won on tour. Joe Hallett helped me navigate through a tough time in my career.

“They were all important to my winning Sunday. They all gave me building blocks, and they’ve all helped lay the foundation to what I’m learning now from Todd.”

Stanford said being able to share her gratefulness made her return home special.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. “It’s been everything you could imagine it would be.”