Getty Images

With improved putting, Woodland eyes major success

By Rex HoggardAugust 10, 2018, 10:11 pm

ST. LOUIS – The Border War ended in 2012 when the University of Missouri bolted the Big 12 Conference for the greener pastures of the Southeastern Conference, but that doesn’t mean that the lingering rivalry with Kansas has been forgotten or forgiven.

“I'm getting more ‘M-I-Z’s’ than I am ‘Rock Chalks,’ which is very rare. It's funny. It's nice,” smiled Woodland, who played golf at the University of Kansas following a brief detour at Washburn (Kan.) University where he played basketball.

The 100th PGA Championship is as close to a home game major as Gary Woodland will ever have, with Bellerive about a three-hour drive from where he grew up in Topeka, Kan., but the Kansas alum knows his precarious position among the Mizzou faithful.

“We're kind of in enemy territory down here in Missouri,” Woodland joked following a second-round 66.

But if the Border War still lingers for fans on both sides of the state line, the Midwest masses have pushed aside their differences to appreciate Woodland’s play for two days. The 34-year-old is the square-shouldered snapshot of Middle America, a family man who despite his success still calls Topeka home and still fits in perfectly with the region’s basketball passion.

He once set a record for three-pointers in a half while at Washburn – dropping five in what ended up being an Ichabods’ victory – and when he took the Round 1 lead at Bellerive the same day NBA All-Star Steph Curry opened with a 71 at a Tour event he gave the quintessential point guard answer, “Yeah, shoot it more,” Woodland laughed.

PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage

He’s endured injuries and tragedy to become one of the game’s most explosive and endearing players, two traits that are often mutually exclusive in sports. He’s also able to impress fans and fellow competitors equally.

“I don't think I ever played with Gary on the Hooter's Tour. He's probably older than me. He looks older than me anyway,” joked Kevin Kisner, who was paired with Woodland for Rounds 1 and 2 at Bellerive. “He probably already made it [to the PGA Tour] by then, if he didn't, he sucks, because he hit it 350 and didn't make it?”

But then the man who appears forged in a laboratory of titanium and competitive moxie has never been a part of the conversation at the game’s biggest events. In 27 major starts, Woodland doesn’t have a single top-10 finish and his week at last year’s PGA Championship - when he sandwiched rounds of 68-69 around a pair of 74s on his way to a tie for 22nd - didn’t give him much to build on.

“Majors it's frustrating,” Woodland acknowledged. “The record of mine, I think 12th is the best I've ever finished, which is frustrating because I feel like where I am and where I should be is not results that I have had.”

It doesn’t take a statistician to figure out why Woodland, who has all the ball-striking tools needed to compete at the highest level, hasn’t performed on the Grand Slam stage. He ranks fifth on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee, eighth in driving distance and fifth in greens regulation, but a pedestrian 99th in strokes gained: putting.

“The putting was kind of just the last piece of the puzzle. [Swing coach Butch Harmon] and I focused so hard this year on driving the golf ball because, when I drive it in play, I'm playing a game a lot of guys aren't playing out here, and that's a huge advantage,” Woodland said. “When I see putts go in, I'm a completely different player, especially with as aggressive as I'm playing right now.”

Woodland seemed to hit rock bottom at last month’s Open Championship when he finished his week with rounds of 33, 34 and 33 putts. At the urging of his manager Mark Steinberg, Woodland met with Phil Kenyon, a putting guru who works with many of the game’s best players.

The turnaround has been dramatic, with Woodland ranked sixth this week in strokes gained: putting following a 66 that left him alone in the lead with a PGA Championship record 10-under 130 total.

The way Woodland described his rags-to-rich transformation on Bellerive’s greens it was simply the byproduct of switching grips on his putter, although it’s likely Kenyon would have a more nuanced take.

“I just love how calm he is out there, he doesn't let anything get him too rattled,” Kisner said. “He's absolutely striping it and rolling the rock, so if he's going to keep that up we're going to have a pretty good battle if I can, too.”

Earlier this week Woodland explained that there were no Tour events for him to attend when he was growing up. In fact, his first Tour event was his rookie season when he teed it up at the Sony Open. It explains why the massive crowds this week at Bellerive have happily weathered oppressive heat and summer storms, and at least partially justifies the gallery’s response on Friday as Woodland completed his round to chants of “Rock Chalk.”

Even without the annual “Border War,” there are still hard feelings between the Jayhawk and Mizzou faithful, but fans from both sides can appreciate one of their own.

Getty Images

Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

Getty Images

Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

Getty Images

Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.

Getty Images

S.Y. Kim leads Kang, A. Jutanugarn in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:24 am

SHANGHAI  -- Sei Young Kim led the LPGA Shanghai by one stroke at the halfway point after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday.

Kim made six birdies, including four straight from the sixth hole, to move to a 10-under 134 total. Her only setback was a bogey on the par-4 15th.

Kim struggled in the first half of the year, but is finishing it strong. She won her seventh career title in July at the Thornberry Creek Classic, was tied for fourth at the Women's British Open, and last month was runner-up at the Evian Championship.

''I made huge big par putts on 10, 11, 12,'' Kim said on Friday. ''I'm very happy with today's play.''

Danielle Kang (68) and overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn (69) were one shot back.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

''I like attention. I like being in the final group. I like having crowds,'' Kang said. ''It's fun. You work hard to be in the final groups and work hard to be in the hunt and be the leader and chasing the leaders. That's why we play.''

She led into the last round at the Hana Bank Championship last week and finished tied for third.

Brittany Altomare had six birdies in a bogey-free round of 66, and was tied for fourth with Bronte Law (68) and Brittany Lincicome (68).

Angel Lin eagled the par-5 17th and finished with the day's lowest score of 65, which also included six birdies and a lone bogey.