Can Woods rescue his season with a win?

By Rex HoggardAugust 22, 2015, 11:14 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Tiger’s done. Tiger’s back.

Let the faceless social media give-and-take commence, not that any of the background noise will slip through Woods’ long-established firewall.

Whatever happens on Sunday at the Wyndham Championship, Woods has made it abundantly clear it’s all part of a larger plan, the often-referenced “process” from competitive struggles to something more than simply a curiosity.

Crowds that swelled to more than 32,000 on Saturday at Sedgefield Country Club suggest otherwise, but any hint that a victory would somehow be worth more than the sum of its parts was quickly dismissed by Woods.

“I’m not looking at it like that,” said Woods, whose third-round 68 left him two shots behind Jason Gore. “I'm two back right now. I can go out there tomorrow and make a run and get myself up there and make some birdies. Anybody can make a run and shoot the score that Jason and Jonas [Blixt] did.”

It turns out Davis Love III was right, that Sedgefield was the tonic for what ails Woods’ game. For the week he ranks 16th in driving accuracy, he’s averaged 302 yards off the tee and is 10th in the field in proximity to the hole.

But the key this week has been about what has transpired on Sedgefield’s speedy putting surfaces. Woods’ play at the Wyndham is reminiscent of the Old Tiger, the guy who didn’t make every putt, just the ones that matter.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Specifically it’s been the par putts, the must-make moments to maintain momentum that have separated a chance to win Tour title No. 80 and another tie for 18th place, like his finish at the Quicken Loans National where he also felt like his driving and iron game were on point.

“I felt good. Very steady from the word go,” said Woods, who has converted 44 of 49 putts from inside 10 feet. “I felt like I could be aggressive today. I took a few runs at putts and ripped them past the hole. I just never felt like I was going to miss any of them.”

Clutch moments like at the 10th hole when he missed the green right, drew a bad lie and converted a 24-footer for par. And at the 11th when he calmly rolled in a 4-foot par save and from 5 feet at the 14th hole and 4 1/2 feet at No. 17.

In fact, the only par putt he didn’t convert was at the 18th hole when he ran his birdie attempt 5 1/2 feet by the hole and lipped out his par save.

Otherwise it’s been a clinic for a guy who has felt as if he was just one key moment away from a breakthrough. Your 54-hole front-runner Gore could relate.

After years of pedestrian play the affable veteran scorched Sedgefield with a 62 to move to 15 under and alone atop the leaderboard. Like Woods, it’s a spot he hasn’t felt was that far away despite a season that’s included just a single top-10 finish.

“I felt like I've been one momentum swing away. Like getting up and down on a par 5, something like that,” Gore said. “That's what's been so frustrating. You have to put your head forward and plow forward and keep moving. That's probably what he's going through.”

While a Wyndham win would go a long way to bolstering Woods’ battered psyche, if not quiet the expanding crowd of armchair swing coaches, it’s what an 11th-hour walk-off would do for his competitive fortunes that may be more interesting.

A victory is projected to move him into the top 75 on the FedEx Cup points list and effectively assure him a spot at not only next week’s Barclays but also the second playoff stop at TPC Boston, where he won in 2006.

It would also move him into the top 75 on the U.S. Presidents Cup points list with just two weeks remaining before captain Jay Haas makes his wild-card selections.

Although normally No. 70-something wouldn’t be elevated to “captain’s pick” consideration, even with a victory, but this is Tiger Woods. Haas’ assistant captain Davis Love III has become something of a confidant to the former world No. 1 in recent weeks.

As farfetched as it may seem considering the last two years for Woods, those of Haas’ generation have a preconditioned image of Tiger that is not easily clouded by a recent string of missed cuts and mediocre play.

Put another way, a victory on Sunday would add up to much more than simply Woods’ 80th Tour title. It would be a reason to be optimistic, maybe even provide a measure of validation, but then Tiger historically doesn’t think in those terms.

“I'm having a good time,” said Woods, his shirt soaked with sweat and admittedly “stiff” after playing back-to-back weeks for the first time since February. “It helps to play better and the atmosphere is incredible.”

Woods showed up at the Wyndham Championship to give this season one final chance, and a “W” on Sunday would certainly stand as an unqualified success, but his play this week will be measured in much more subtle terms.

He didn’t travel down Tobacco Road to prove he’s back or that he wasn’t done. He’s here to show that this process is nothing more than a road that had to be traveled no matter how long or difficult it may seem.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.