Woods dominating but fizzles at finish

By Randall MellJanuary 29, 2013, 2:05 am

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods limped home yet again to win another championship at Torrey Pines.

This wobbly march through the home stretch at the Farmers Insurance Open Monday wasn’t awe-inspiring like that win at the U.S. Open here five years ago, but it was nearly as head-scratching.

When Woods won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, he made us scratch our heads at how he could hit so many brilliant shots on a left leg ravaged by a torn ligament and fractured tibia.

He brought home this latest title, his eighth at Torrey Pines, limping home figuratively, with a sprained swing and hemorrhaging scorecard.

This time we marveled at how the greatest closer in the history of the game could look so invincible for 54 holes and so vulnerable for the final 18.

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We marveled at how the Tiger Woods of old came back to us through the first three rounds, how he emerged from the ethereal mist that shrouded this place with a game that made us think he could dominate again, that he will dominate again. We marveled at how all that brilliance could give way so quickly to the same doubts that have given us pause since he returned from his personal woes.

Yeah, it’s not fair, not at all, that a four-shot victory comes with scrutiny like this, but that’s the nature of the shadow Woods casts; that’s the specter that comes with his remarkable record.

Only Woods could win his 75th PGA Tour title by four shots and leave us thinking he didn’t somehow deliver all the goods.

That’s just crazy, but we see his career as a drama larger than any single moment. He’s our Odysseus, and we’re wondering if he’ll ever make it to Ithaca. We’re wondering where this great adventure ends because the task ahead still seems so great.

We see Woods in a picture frame larger than the PGA Tour events he is playing. So, when we see flashes of Woods’ brilliance returning, we think, yes, he will break Jack Nicklaus’ record. He will leave the sport with all the records, and then we see Monday’s stumbling finish and wonder if that’s the arc the bigger picture also takes. We remember his lost weekends after taking the lead at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship last year and failing to even grab a top 10.

There are so many ways you can look at Woods’ victory this week.

You can see the hard work paying off here in that terrific stretch where he hit one long, straight drive after another. You could see the power back with his ability to dominate par 5s. You could see the great escapes, the ability to recover from impossible lies that helped him erase so many mistakes in the past. You could see the sharpening short game that has helped him keep his scorecards so clean over the years. You could see the putting stroke continuing to come back.

You see all of that and think Woods is rebuilding the greatest arsenal of shots in the game. You see him being able to get away with mistakes again because he can erase so many of them.

You also see how his swing with his driver deserted him in the final round this past week, how the big misses returned in a rush, with tee shots spraying into trees, ice plants, bunkers and fences.

Woods built his reputation closing stronger, better and more fiercely than anyone who ever played the game, but he went bogey, double bogey, par, bogey and par coming home Sunday. He turned an eight-shot lead into a four-shot lead. Yes, there’s rust in his first PGA Tour start of the year, but this was Tiger at Torrey.

So what do you take away from his 75th PGA Tour title?

“That’s a good question,” said Joe LaCava, Woods’ caddie. “I’m a bottom-line guy, and the fact that he won is all that matters to me. I take away how he drove the heck out of the ball. Going forward, that’s a positive. I think he’s very confident now.”

Woods dismissed the stumbling finish with the idea that he knew all he had to do was “stay upright” to win. The slow pace play annoyed him, and he said he lost his patience.

No matter how he finished, winning here bodes well.

In the six seasons Woods has won this event, he has gone on to win major championships in five of them.

When he wins at Torrey Pines, big years always follow. He averages 6.3 wins a year when he wins at Torrey Pines.

“I didn't know those stats, sorry,” Woods said. “Does it feel good? Yes. Does it give me confidence? Absolutely. But as far as the other stuff, as I said, I'm excited about this year.  I'm excited about what I'm doing with Sean Foley and some of the things that I've built.  This is a nice way to start the year.”

Yes, but ultimately, it’s the finish that matters and that’s what Woods is working toward, finishing his great quest.

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1

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Perez (T-3) looks to remedy 'terrible' major record

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 7:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez’s major record is infinitely forgettable. In 24 Grand Slam starts he has exactly one top-10 finish, more than a decade ago at the PGA Championship.

“Terrible,” Perez said when asked to sum up his major career. “I won sixth [place]. Didn't even break top 5.”

It’s strange, however, that his status atop The Open leaderboard through two rounds doesn’t seem out of character. The 42-year-old admits he doesn’t hit it long enough to contend at most major stops and also concedes he doesn’t exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s biggest events, but something about The Open works for him.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I didn't like it the first time I came over. When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.”

Perez gave the fans plenty to cheer on Friday at Carnoustie, playing 17 flawless holes to move into a share of the lead before a closing bogey dropped him into a tie for third place after a second-round 68.

For Perez, links golf is the great equalizer that mitigates the advantages some of the younger, more powerful players have and it brings out the best in him.

“It's hard enough that I don't feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That's the best,” he said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won't run off and go off the green 40 yards. You're still kind of on the green. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”