Now ... Just do it

By Rex HoggardOctober 5, 2011, 8:18 pm

Maybe Rocco Mediate was right. Maybe the only way to accurately track the ebb and flow of Tiger Woods’ career is via the numbers.

“You look at statistics and go ‘Wait a second. This guy was the best. He was pretty much in the top 10 of every single category we had. But he's not anymore.’ That tells me a story. Why is that happening? Why does he keep breaking?” the Tour’s funnyman-turned-Tiger-antagonist said Tuesday.

There is 14, the Grand Slam haul Woods has been stalled on for more than three years, and 77, his opening round at the PGA Championship. There is 66, his best competitive rounds of the year (Masters and WGC-Cadillac Championship), and 62, his best casual round of the calendar which he posted last week at his south Florida home club.

And, of course, there is 51, his spot in the World Golf Ranking, although it should be noted that he’s closer to No. 1 Luke Donald (7.965 points) than No. 2 Phil Mickelson was to then-No. 1 Woods on Sept. 27, 2009 (8.211).

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Perhaps even more telling is 21, the official number of Tour starts since his last “Big League” victory, the longest such drought of his storied career, and 10, his Grand Slam starts since his last major “W,” which equals the longest schneid of his career.

Or maybe, if the sights and sounds from Wednesday’s tune-up for this week’s Open are any indication, the most important number is 61 percent, the total number of tee shots that found short grass last year at CordeValle.

There are a lot of reasons for Woods to play this week – not the least of which was U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples’ not-so-subtle urging and persistent rumors that Woods may sign an endorsement deal with the electronics giant – but the fact that CordeValle ranked 31st on Tour last year out of 50 courses in driving accuracy is the best reason to date to be optimistic the former alpha male is finally trending in the desired direction.

“It’s always easy to come back from a layoff when you know what to do. I’ve done that before,” Woods said. “But I’m implementing a new golf swing and in order to do that you have to get the reps in and I haven’t gotten the reps in. I have to hit thousands of balls to do that where it feels natural. I’ve done that now.”

His swing coach Sean Foley echoed that optimism earlier in the day when he talked with Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” crew, pointing out his man has reached something closer to critical mass in the weeks since those dark days at Atlanta Athletic Club.

“We had to be more technical in the past because he couldn’t get the rep count. In order to not let the thing flatten out underneath him he had to be thinking of a lot of things. That’s not what you want to be doing,” Foley said. “At the end of the day that’s what we had because there were so many starts and stops the last year and how much he could practice. But since the PGA Championship he’s been fully cleared with his health.”

By many social media accounts, Woods’ game during Wednesday’s pro-am was as erratic as we’ve come to expect. One observer tweeted that Woods hit just eight fairways and 12 greens in regulation during his warm-up.

But pro-am rounds and warm-and-fuzzy 62s back home in south Florida really won’t mean much when Woods steps between the ropes on Thursday. Foley has become the ultimate “person of interest” when it comes to Woods, and while the thoughtful Canadian doesn’t need a defense team it is worth noting that Woods has played just 11 events on the new guy’s watch.

“I don’t think you’d be that impressed with the changes I’d made with Hunter (Mahan) and (Justin Rose) after 11 events,” Foley said. “Given the right amount of time, which no one wants to hear, we’re going to do just great.”

According to Foley the plan this week, and likely beyond, is simple, with a focus on “imagining the clubface is square for the whole golf swing” and smoothing out his transition and rhythm.

It isn’t Foley on the clock this week in California. That honor belongs to Woods. This week’s stop is not an altruistic cameo for the sake of the Tour’s Fall Series, or a make-good for a potential sponsor, so much as it is a rehab start on a rebuilt left leg and swing.

Woods is quick to point out he’s been here before. He’s dealt with injury and a new action, to say nothing of the public scrutiny that comes with both, but never at the same time, or with the same level of urgency.

“You can do whatever you want on the range, but playing thoughts are a little bit different,” Woods said. “That’s one of the reasons why I’ve been playing so much. I’ve started to turn the corner. I was starting to shoot some really good rounds (at the Medalist). That was fun to post a 62. It was a pretty easy round.”

On Wednesday Woods spoke of “playing feel” and “playing instincts,” missing elements to the larger picture for some time, and if his regimen at the Medalist the last few weeks is any indication the previously mysterious should start becoming mundane.

But now he’s officially on the clock, which should be easy enough considering he announced his first major U.S.-market post-November 2009 endorsement deal on Wednesday with Rolex, on a golf course he’s never played with a caddie, however experienced, who is learning the new boss on the fly.

“The major overhauls are done. I’ve done all the work. Now it’s just fine tuning. That’s day to day and shot to shot. That’s part of the challenge,” said Woods, who told his doctors in the weeks leading up to this year’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational he needed 10-plus rounds to “turn this around.”

Which leaves just one number that really counts – eight. That’s how many competitive rounds, at best, Woods will have before he tees off at November’s Presidents Cup. Woods, Couples and the rest of the U.S. team are hoping that’s enough.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

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After Further Review: American success stories

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray

On the resurgence of American women  ...

American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.




Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”