Jumping Cholla

By Rex HoggardFebruary 26, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureMARANA, Ariz. ' Its called Jumping Cholla, vicious, spiny stuff that flourishes in this corner of the Arizona desert and attacks anything unfortunate enough to move within its circle of influence.
Once dug in, the stuff is almost impossible to shake loose, leaving a painful scar in its wake.
Sometime around the turn of his second-round match at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Tiger Woods must have been thinking that the Jumping Cholla should have been named after Tim Clark, the scrappy South African who took down the games Goliath with a broom-handled slingshot and a mid-round birdie-birdie-birdie burst that stunned the Tucson masses more than it staggered Woods.
The world will want to know whats wrong with Tiger Woods on Friday morning, and the answer is match play. Its a bitter pill for Woods, a mean mistress he cant shake. He loves the format ' nurtures his hyper-competitive personality. But like pineapples on pizza, Woods and match play don't always go together.
The world will wonder if it was the knee or the rust or a rebuilt swing, but the truth is there is nothing wrong with Woods that 72 holes of stroke play cant fix.
Woods could be at his best mid-summer form and hed still be even money to cash at the games most intense one-and-done track meet.
Its not that he cant win the Match Play ' fact is hes done it three times, which given the statistical vagaries of the format is almost as impressive as those 14 Grand Slam mantel pieces ' its just that when it comes to the games oldest form of play the devil is in the details for Woods. It wasnt the knee, it was a needing format that favors the hottest hand.
You have to be on your game right away, Woods said earlier this week. It's not like you can build into it. You can go out there and shoot 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-under par and still go home, so you have to make sure that you bring the intensity and bring your game from the very first hole, because if you don't, then I'll be going home. That's the fickleness of match play.
Take nothing away from Clark, the Tours best player without a title. Hes bogey-free for the week and threw six birdies in 16 holes at the world No. 1. It wasnt an out-of-body experience, it was an inner peace, that lifted No. 33 in the world past the games alpha male.
I was obviously under pressure. Don't get me wrong, I was working really hard to keep myself calm and try and play my own game, said Clark, who entered the Match Play having not finished worse than 22nd in his first four events this year. I put a lot of iron shots pretty close, and I think perhaps he wasn't expecting that or not. But I don't think I'm ever going to intimidate Tiger, let's put it that way.
Blinders, almost as much as that smooth long putter and a steady driver that has found 16 of 24 fairways this week, was Clarks secret weapon. It wasnt easy. Never is. But thats the beauty of match play, give me 18 holes and the best Ive got and Ill take my chances.
Yet even when it appeared that Woods had let the 5-foot-7 dynamo hang around too long, he conjured up some magic on the 14th. Down three holes, Woods went from the sand to the sand, and not in that good desert way, and appeared bound for an even earlier exit. But the man has a flair for the dramatic (see 2008 U.S. Open) and he blasted his bunker shot from 18 yards away into the hole for an unlikely birdie.
But Clark is not J.B. Holmes, the bomber who had Woods in a similar three-down-with-five-to-play hole during Round 1 last year but couldnt finish the sentence, and the drivable par-4 15th, although fine theater, is no place for the weeks first wayward tee ball. Woods swung for the fences, and came up with a long out.
Itll be a long flight back to Orlando, Fla. As Woods is fond of saying, Second sucks. We can only imagine his unprintable reaction to a T-17.
There are on excuses on Planet Tiger, and he wasnt particularly sharp with his irons or have a handle on Dove Mountains sluggish greens, but he was pretty good considering hes played one event in 10 months and was getting around on the best left knee modern medicine can piece together.
Truth is, match play is such a moving target that Woods may want to give himself an internal get-out-of-jail-free card. Or maybe its best if he stews on his early Match Play exit for bit. Theres nothing better than an angry Tiger and last checked, Jumping Chollas dont grow at Doral.

Related Links:
  • Match Play Scoring
  • Full Coverage ' Tiger's Return
  • Full Coverage ' WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

    Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

    By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

    South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

    Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

    Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

    “I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

    Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

    “Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

    Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

    “We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”

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    Spieth admits '16 Masters 'kind of haunted me'

    By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:38 pm

    Two years ago, Jordan Spieth arrived at Colonial Country Club and promptly exorcised some demons.

    He was only a month removed from blowing the 2016 Masters, turning a five-shot lead with nine holes to play into a shocking runner-up finish behind Danny Willett. Still with lingering questions buzzing about his ability to close, he finished with a back-nine 30 on Sunday, including birdies on Nos. 16-18, to seal his first win since his Augusta National debacle.

    Returning this week to the Fort Worth Invitational, Spieth was asked about the highs and lows he's already experienced in his five-year pro career and candidly pointed to the 2016 Masters as a "low point" that had a lingering effect.

    "Even though it was still a tremendous week and still was a really good year in 2016, that kind of haunted me and all the questioning and everything," Spieth told reporters. "I let it tear me down a little bit. I kind of lost a little bit of my own freedom, thoughts on who I am as a person and as a golfer."

    Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

    Spieth went on to win the Australian Open in the fall of 2016, and last year he added three more victories including a third major title at Royal Birkdale. Given more than two years to reflect - and after nearly nabbing a second green jacket last month - he admitted that the trials and tribulations of 2016 had a lasting impact on how he perceives the daily grind on Tour.

    "I guess to sum it up, I've just tried to really be selfish in the way that I think and focus on being as happy as I possibly can playing the game I love. Not getting caught up in the noise, good or bad," Spieth said. "Because what I hear from the outside, the highs are too high from the outside and the lows are too low from the outside from my real experience of them. So trying to stay pretty neutral and just look at the big picture things, and try and wake up every single day loving what I do."

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    Spieth offers Owen advice ahead of Web.com debut

    By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:22 pm

    As country music sensation Jake Owen gets set to make his Web.com Tour debut, Jordan Spieth had a few pieces of advice for his former pro-am partner.

    Owen played as a 1-handicap alongside Spieth at this year's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and this week he is playing his own ball on a sponsor invite at the Nashville Open. Owen joked with a Web.com Tour reporter that Spieth "shined" him by not answering his text earlier in the week, but Spieth explained to reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the two have since connected.

    "We texted a bit yesterday. I was just asking how things were going," Spieth said. "I kind of asked him the state of his game. He said he's been practicing a lot. He said the course is really hard. I mean, going into it with that mindset, maybe he'll kind of play more conservative."

    Owen is in the field this week on the same type of unrestricted sponsor exemption that NBA superstar Steph Curry used at the Web.com's Ellie Mae Classic in August. As Owen gets set to make his debut against a field full of professionals, Spieth noted that it might be for the best that he's focused on a tournament a few hundred miles away instead of walking alongside the singer as he does each year on the Monterey Peninsula.

    "Fortunately I'm not there with him, because whenever I'm his partner I'm telling him to hit driver everywhere, even though he's talented enough to play the golf course the way it needs to be played," Spieth said. "So I think he'll get some knowledge on the golf course and play it a little better than he plays Pebble Beach. He's certainly got the talent to be able to shoot a good round."

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    Presidents Cup changes aim to help Int'l. side

    By Rex HoggardMay 23, 2018, 6:20 pm

    In March when the PGA Tour announced the captains for next year’s Presidents Cup there was an understandable monsoon of attention for one element of that press conference.

    Tiger Woods being named the captain for the U.S. team that will travel to Australia late next year was just not news, it was a monumental shift in how many view the 14-time major champion.

    Although he’s slowly played his way back to competitive relevance, his decision to lead the red, white and blue side was the most glaring example to date that Woods is beginning to embrace a new role as a leader and a veteran.

    Newsy stuff.

    In that blur of possibility, however, were a few other nuggets that largely went overlooked but may end up impacting the biennial team event much more than the two high-profile captains (Ernie Els was named the International side’s front man for 2019).

    Among these subtle changes is a new rule that requires every team member to play at least one match prior to Sunday’s singles session, instead of the two-match minimum in previous years. In theory, this would allow a captain to “hide” a player who might not be at the top of his form.

    The Tour also announced each captain will have four, up from two, captain’s picks and they will make those selections much later than in previous years.

    Officials would understandably be reluctant to admit it, but these changes are designed to give Els and Co. a chance, any chance, to make the ’19 matches competitive.

    Following last year’s boat race of the International team at Liberty National in New Jersey – a lopsided rout that nearly ended late Saturday when the U.S. team came up just a single point short of clinching the cup before the 12 singles matches – most observers agreed that something had to change.

    The International team has won just one of the dozen Presidents Cups that have been played, and that was way back in 1998, and has lost the last five matches by a combined 20 points.

    Giving Els and Woods more time to make their captain’s picks is a byproduct of the timing of next year’s event, which will be played in Australia in December; but giving both captains a little more flexibility with the addition of two picks should, in theory, help the International side.

    The Tour also altered how the points list is compiled for the International team, with a move to a 12-month cycle that’s based on the amount of World Ranking points that are earned. The previous selection criteria used a two-year cycle.

    “That was a change that was important to Ernie Els to make sure that he feels like he has his most competitive team possible,” said Andy Pazder, the Tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations. “That in conjunction with having four captain’s picks instead of two, which had been the case prior to 2019, he feels that’s going to give him his best chance to bring his strongest, most competitive team to Australia.”

    The 12-month cycle will start this August at the Dell Technologies Championship and end at the 2019 Tour Championship, and puts more importance on recent form although had the new selection criteria been used for the 2017 team, there would have been just one player who wouldn’t have automatically qualified for the team. That’s not exactly a wholesale makeover.

    “It didn’t seem to be a dramatic change in the makeup of the team,” Pazder conceded.

    Still, a change, any change, is refreshing considering the one-sided nature of the Presidents Cup the last two decades. Of course, if the circuit really wanted to shake things up they would have reduced the total number of points available from 30 to 28, which is the format used at the Ryder Cup and as a general rule that event seems to avoid prolonged bouts of competitive irrelevance.

    Perhaps these most recent nip/tucks will be enough to break the International team out of a losing cycle that doesn’t help bring attention to the event or motivate players.

    There’s no mystery to what makes for a compelling competition, look no further than the Ryder Cup for the secret sauce. History makes fans, and players, care about the outcome and parity makes it compelling. What history the Presidents Cup has is largely one-sided and if last year’s loss is any indication the event is no closer to parity now than it was when it was started in 1994.

    Els has been a part of every International team since 1996 and if anyone can pull the side from its current funk it would be the South African, but history suggests he might need a little more help from the Tour to shift the competitive winds.