Lytham may be perfect place for a new beginning

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2012, 2:25 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – With a modicum of creative license one could say it all began here on the Lancashire coast for Tiger Woods.

No, the 1996 Open Championship was not his first start in the game’s oldest soiree – that would have been a year earlier at St. Andrews – but it was here on the Irish Sea where the rail-thin prodigy posted a 5-under 66 on Day 2 on his way to a tie for 22nd and low-amateur honors.

“That was a pretty great accomplishment,” said Woods on Tuesday at Royal Lytham & St. Annes without a hint of hyperbole. “From that it pushed me towards turning pro versus going back to college.”

The rest, as they say, is a rewritten history book. Fourteen majors, three claret jugs and an affinity – at times unrequited but always there – for links golf followed.

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So it is that without much prompting one could imagine a new beginning this week at Lytham, at least in major championship terms. Woods is 0-for-his-last-12 Grand Slam starts since his historic 2008 U.S. Open triumph, but given this week’s “English summer” forecast Lytham seems as appropriate a place as any to stem the drought.

What better place to pick up his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors than the same bouncy ground that filled Woods with confidence and prompted him to bolt Stanford early?

Not that Woods seems fixated on No. 15, particularly after three PGA Tour victories this season and steady, if not solid, performances at the year’s first two majors (T-40 at the Masters and T-21 at the U.S. Open).

“If I continue to put myself there enough times then I’ll win major championships,” said Woods, dismissing the idea that there is a growing sense of urgency to get off the Grand Slam schnied. “I had to go through that whole process and just being healthy again. Being banged up and missing major championships because of it in a couple-year stretch there wasn’t a whole lot of fun.”

For the first time in some time Woods’ words ring without a hint of false bravado. No more is the Sean Foley-inspired action a work in progress. Although there is a lack of consistency that once defined his greatness – in his last nine Tour starts he has three ‘Ws,’ two missed cuts, including his last outing at the Greenbrier Classic, and a withdrawal – there is an undercurrent of success that suggests he’s closer to championship competency than he has been in some time.

But the most telling sign he’s closer to the end of the developmental process than the beginning can be found in the World Ranking math. For the first time since the 2011 Masters Woods arrives at a major with a chance to reclaim the top spot in the ranking.

That said major is on the type of links layout that historically brings out Woods’ creative best can only feed his inner Michelangelo.

Consider Woods’ answer when asked which of Lytham’s ubiquitous bunkers should be avoided this week, “all of them.” That would be 205 pitted round killers, to be exact, which immediately conjures memories of Royal Liverpool and the 2006 Open, which Woods won with clinical precision.

Hitting just one driver all week at Hoylake, Woods bunted his way around and over all but a single bunker on his way to claret jug No. 3. Although he quickly dismissed the comparisons, pointing out how wet Lytham is for this week’s championship, the wheels were clearly turning for the inner tactician.

“It’s not exactly the same game plan,” Woods said when asked to compare Hoylake to Lytham. “You have to hit probably a few more 3-woods and drivers here. This is different. The bunkers are staggered differently here. There’s some forced carries to where you have to force it and then stop it or try and skirt past them.”

Woods referred to this plan as a “plod,” which would be an apropos take on where he is in his quest for major No. 15. If age and injury are beginning to weigh on him it’s not showing.

Even with a 36-year-old knee that is going on 66 Woods remains content with the long view, and for good reason. This slice of English coast is, after all, where the seeds of stardom received a competitive B12 injection back in ’96.

“That (second-round 66 in 1996) gave me so much confidence that I could do it at a high level . . . I could play against the top players in the world on a very difficult track,” he said.

A perfect place for a new beginning.

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Watch: Reed races in 40-footer to put away Spieth

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 10:19 pm

Three up with three holes to play at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Patrick Reed missed an opportunity to close out his match with Jordan Spieth when Spieth won the 16th hole with a birdie.

But Reed wouldn't let the match move to 18. Putting for birdie from the apron, 40 feet from the hole, at the par-3 17th, Reed raced in this putt to end the match.

With the win, Reed moved to 3-0-0 for the week and advanced to the weekend at Austin Country Club.

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Garcia's win-win situation: Move on or baby time

By Rex HoggardMarch 23, 2018, 9:45 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Given his status as one of Europe’s preeminent Ryder Cup players, Sergio Garcia’s record at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is nothing short of inexplicable.

In 15 starts at the event, the Spaniard has played the weekend just once – in 2010 when he lost in the semifinals to Ian Poulter – and since the event pivoted to round-robin play he’s never made it out of the group stages.

His fortunes have changed dramatically this year, with Garcia going undefeated in pool play and cruising to the Sweet 16 following a 3-and-1 victory over Xander Schauffele on Friday.

“I would love to have done a little better than I have,” said Garcia, who will play Kyle Stanley in the Round of 16 early Saturday. “I have had some good weeks here. But not probably as good as I should have. So hopefully this week it will be better.”

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Garcia made no secret of the source of his turnaround following the birth of his first child last Wednesday, a girl named Azalea. Even on Friday when he found himself 2 down through 11 holes and in danger of not advancing he kept an upbeat attitude.

“The way I looked at it, when I was 2 down, we're going to try to turn it around, but if we don't, it means that I get to spend more time with [his wife] Angela and Azalea for the weekend,” Garcia said. “I tried to look at it in a good way.”

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DeLaet: WGC's robin-robin format 'sucks'

By Grill Room TeamMarch 23, 2018, 9:20 pm

Graham DeLaet isn't teeing it up at Austin Country Club this week because he didn't qualify for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, but that doesn't mean he lacks an opinion on the event's format.

DeLaet hopped on social media Friday during Day 3 of the WGC-Match Play to torch the round-robin format that's been in place for three years, saying he much preferred the single elimination that was in place when he played in 2014.

"Played Match Play in Tucson in 2014. Early group on Wednesday, lost. Threw clubs in my car and was on my couch in Scottsdale by 2:00 pm. Collect 30K and spend the weekend at home, he tweeted. "That’s a good format. This one sucks."

DeLeat's comments may be the strongest to date, but he's not alone in his opposition to pool play. Several players lamented Friday's "meaningless" matches earlier this week, and Henrik Stenson cited the lack of a do-or-die atmosphere as his reason for skipping the event.

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Watch: Kuchar makes ace at WGC-Dell Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 9:09 pm

In his bid to advance to the weekend at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Matt Kuchar aced the par-3 seventh hole Friday at Austin Country Club.

With an 8-iron from 181 yards, Kuchar landed his ball short of the flag and watched it roll and roll ... and drop.

The hole-in-one moved Kuchar 3 Up in match against Ross Fisher. 

The last hole-in-one at the Match Play came in Sunday's consolation match last year, when Hideto Tanihara aced the same hole before later losing to Bill Haas.