Woods ready to resume major chase of Nicklaus

By Randall MellJune 4, 2012, 5:00 pm

The greatest chase in this generation feels as if it is about to be renewed at next week’s U.S. Open.

Tiger Woods looks as if he has the legs again to make the final sprint it takes to catch Jack Nicklaus and his record 18 major championship triumphs.

With his dramatic victory Sunday at the Memorial, Woods could not have delivered that message in a more poignant setting or in more poignant fashion.

His win didn’t just match Nicklaus’ record of 73 PGA Tour titles in Nicklaus’ event at Muirfield Village. It stoked the magnificent possibility Woods still has what it takes to match and pass the Golden Bear’s major championship mark.

“Well, he had to rub it in my face right here, didn’t he?” Nicklaus said in good-natured needling of Woods.

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Woods made a Sunday charge that stokes promise as rich for the game as it is for Woods.

Tiger vs. Jack is the matchup of a millennium. It’s the only duel in golf with the potential to trump storylines generated by the NFL, Major League Baseball or the NBA. The possibility that Woods’ quest is fully re-engaged is the most electric storyline in what’s already a high voltage golf season.

That’s how large Woods’ remarkable flop shot at the 16th was Sunday, how large his three birdies over the final four holes were, how large this major championship summer becomes if history is in tow again behind Woods.

Whether you want to see Woods pass Nicklaus or not, the possibility the chase is renewed excites more than anything in sports today. The possibility is so compelling there will be a sense we’ve been robbed of something promised if Woods doesn’t make a last run at the Golden Bear. There will be the unsatisfying sense we’ve gotten to the end of a great book and there’s no final chapter to read.

That’s what resonated most in the hope behind Woods’ terrific finish Sunday in Columbus, Ohio: The game is on again.

The U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco looms as yet another important test for Woods in his quest. Yes, Woods won Arnold Palmer’s event at Bay Hill and then stumbled miserably at the Masters, but we’ve just seen Woods win in convincing, closing fashion now for the third time in six months. Yes, there will be more stumbles, to be sure, but the steps are so much surer now, the climb seems less precarious. The tools are there to complete the journey.

The Olympic Club will be a stern test, one that will allow Woods to separate himself with the kind of precise ball striking he showed at Muirfield Village. Woods can probably win at Olympic hitting his driver sparingly. That’s a plus, too.

“At Olympic, we're all going to have to hit the ball great there,” Woods said. “That golf course, you can look at the history of guys who were in contention, or who ended up winning, all were wonderful drivers of the golf ball and good, solid iron players. That's what it's going to take there at Olympic, more so than most U.S. Open sites.”

Woods is coming off a confidence building trip to the San Francisco venue early last week.

“When I went out and played Olympic, I hit the ball well there,” Woods said at Memorial. “I said, `Hey, that's as good a prep as any, if I can hit the ball well there. I just basically carried that into this event and hit it great all week.”

Woods tied for 18th when the U.S. Open was last played at The Olympic Club in 1998, but he wasn’t on top of a new swing change back then.

Woods conjured old magic Sunday at Muirfield Village, and he’ll need more of it to catch Nicklaus. The next four major championship triumphs loom with the feeling they’ll be a lot more difficult for Woods to win than his first 14.

If he rebounds from injuries to body and spirit, the last four to tie Nicklaus, the last five to pass him, will be remembered differently than the first 14. They’ll be remembered for what was overcome as much as what was won.

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U.S. Amateur playoff: 24 players for 1 spot in match play

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2018, 1:21 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer and Daniel Hillier were tied at the top after two rounds of the U.S. Amateur, but the more compelling action on Tuesday was further down the leaderboard.

Two dozen players were tied for 64th place after two rounds of stroke play at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. With the top 64 advancing to match play, that means all 24 will compete in a sudden-death playoff Wednesday morning for the last spot in the knockout rounds.

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

They'll be divided into six foursomes and start the playoff at 7:30 a.m. on the par-3 17th at Pebble Beach, where Tom Watson chipped in during the 1982 U.S. Open and went on to win.

The survivor of the playoff will face the 19-year-old Hillier in match play. The New Zealander shot a 2-under 70 at Spyglass Hill to share medalist honors with the 18-year-old Hammer at 6 under. Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas who played in the 2015 U.S. Open at age 15, shot 68 at Spyglass Hill.

Stewart Hagestad had the low round of the day, a 5-under 66 at Pebble Beach, to move into a tie for 10th after opening with a 76 at Spyglass Hill. The 27-year-old Hagestad won the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur and earned low amateur honors at the 2017 Masters.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."