Does his win mean Tiger is back?

By Rex HoggardMarch 26, 2012, 1:05 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – He’s back.

He’s done.

He needs time.

He needs reps.

He needs rest.

One busy week for the game’s former alpha male doesn’t quiet or quantify any of these often-heard sound bites because, as the last 30-odd months have demonstrated, golf eschews instant analysis.


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Today’s reality is tomorrow’s recycled nonsense. Yet as a breezy spring day turned to dusk at Bay Hill, the only thing that was certain was that for four days Tiger Woods was good. Like 2006 good only with more shots out of the short grass and fewer walk-off putts. In his defense those types of theatrics would have seemed like overkill.

Truth is there was no need, not when your final line is the statistical embodiment of precision.

Bogey-free and nearly perfect on Friday hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation; slowed by a surreal two-hole stretch on Saturday that included a plugged lie (No. 14), a swooning teenager, a scream and a snapped tee shot out of bounds (No. 15); and ultimately a victory that ended a title drought that had stretched to 30 months with the type of Sunday performance that once defined his career.

Woods’ heroics at Torrey Pines in 2008 and Bay Hill in ’08 and ’09 aside, he made his competitive bones by undercutting his competition and removing all glimmers of hope one clinically played shot at a time.

It was a familiar modus operandi, Woods began his final lap at Arnie’s place by hitting six consecutive fairways – and the one he missed (No. 9) was by inches – nine consecutive greens in regulation and made the turn 2 up on Graeme McDowell. From there Woods played the final loop in 1 over in what on most Sundays is called a prevent defense.

If next month’s Masters begins on the back nine on Sunday, Bay Hill was over by intermission. At least it felt that way.

“I noticed coming down the stretch he was 3 under for the day,” Bubba Watson gushed. “In these conditions that’s unbelievable.”

Woods’ last official PGA Tour victory was at the 2009 BMW Championship but to watch him close at Bay Hill it was as though he was fresh off a ‘W’ and not a worrisome WD at Doral two weeks ago.

When he bolted the property 11 ¼ holes into his final round at the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier this month, his status for the Masters was a hot topic. Now the only talking point is whether he’ll be the outright favorite heading down Magnolia Lane or share the honor with Rory McIlroy.

The last two years he’s finished tied for fourth place at the year’s first major with a “one-dimensional game” and more distractions than a teenager with a BlackBerry. But his five-stroke victory over McDowell changed all that, at least for this news cycle.

But if the victory was defined by Woods’ stellar ballstriking there is also something to be said for his resilience following a miscue on the 15th hole on Saturday when a woman reacted loudly to a teen-aged boy who had passed out and Woods pulled his tee shot out of bounds.

Some may have considered that an untimely nod from fate. Not Woods.

“I saw a calmness last night on the range,” said Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava. “I’m a little frustrated because of what happened on 15 and he didn’t let it bother him. He heard what happened and understands the situation. Hit balls until dark and you could almost sense he knew he was going to play well today.”

But if that episode added a surreal element to the proceedings, the absence of tournament namesake Arnold Palmer from the award ceremony cast a pall over what was an otherwise circus-like atmosphere.

Fifteen minutes before Woods completed his closing-round 70 Palmer was sent to a local hospital with high blood pressure and planned to stay there overnight.

“It really puts a damper on the situation because he is what’s so special about this tournament,” said McDowell, who slipped three strokes behind Woods with a double-bogey 6 at the first hole and never got closer than two shots the rest of the way.

But then Woods has become accustomed to the surreal ever since he hit a tree and a fire hydrant in November 2009 to begin an uber-public free for all. Since that last official victory in ’09 in Chicago Woods has changed swing coaches, caddies, addresses and marital status.

Armchair psychologists would consider Woods’ Bay Hill breakthrough nothing short of monumental and, for a moment, Woods allowed the thought.

“It was pure joy,” he smiled before the inner competitor intervened a few moments later. “You don’t need to win. You want to win, that’s the misconception a lot of people have.”

Few, if any, of Woods’ contemporaries can attest to the ebb and flow of the past two-plus years better than Sean O’Hair. It was O’Hair who began the 2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational five strokes clear of Woods only to lose by a stroke. And it was O’Hair who helped facilitate the connection between Woods and swing coach Sean Foley in the summer of 2010.

“I just think it was a matter of time,” said O’Hair, who split with Foley last May. “He’s the best player that ever played the game and it was only a matter of time before he wins again. For the people who thought that he wasn’t going to win again I don’t think they know the game of golf very well.”

There had been close calls, including near misses last year at the Australian Open and this year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Pebble Beach and the Honda Classic. There had been breakthroughs, unofficial or otherwise, at last year’s Chevron World Challenge. But there was never any doubt. Not for Woods or Foley.

“All my guys are fantastic talents and when you put science to talent you’re going to get good things eventually but it takes time,” said Foley, who began working with Woods in August 2009. “Outside of his kids winning is what matters so to see him happy right now is what’s important.”

The scientist in Foley saw progress give way to near perfection this week. Bay Hill marked the first time Woods has posted four under-par rounds in the same event since the 2010 Masters, and his patience was matched only by his precision.

For the week Woods was first in greens in regulation, hitting 57 of 72 putting surfaces, 29th in fairways hit, sixth in driving distance and fourth in strokes-gained putting.

Woods also dissected Bay Hill’s par 5s playing them in 12 under, a key statistic during his halcyon days in 2006 and 2000. But most telling about Woods’ performance was that both teacher and student see plenty of room for improvement.

Both, however, took a moment to savor Tour tilt No. 72 and his seventh Bay Hill decision. Following Woods’ approach to the 72nd green he high-fived LaCava and beamed, “All that hard work has paid off. F’ing yeah.”

At the same moment adjacent the final green Foley allowed, “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re 50 percent of the way into the pattern.”

For those closest to him the question was never whether Woods was done or back. It was when would all the pieces fall into place?

“It’s been a long time. He was a man on a mission. Let’s be honest, you saw the ballstriking,” LaCava said. “He was pretty jacked up . . . He probably wishes the Masters was tomorrow.”

Don’t we all?

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.