Plan of attack

By Rex HoggardAugust 17, 2011, 5:46 pm

For 13 years it was hard, if not impossible, to question the means to Tiger Woods’ historic ends. His yearly schedule throughout his march to Jack Nicklaus’ major championship benchmark has been as productive as it has been virtually unchanged.

Since 1997, Woods’ first full year on the PGA Tour, he’s played more than 20 events just three times and hasn’t exceeded 17 events in a single calendar since 2006. It adds up to a 16.7-event average (nearly identical, interestingly enough, to Nicklaus’ career average of 16.8 events from 1962-1986). Although Woods’ yearly average was low by Tour standards, considering his career scorecard it’s a reality that has defied debate.

But that was before he signed for a front-nine 42 at May’s Players Championship, before he went on the “DL” for three months, before he finished tied for 37th at the WGC- Bridgestone Invitational and missed the cut at the PGA Championship with rounds of 77-73.

Since 2007 Woods has played a “full” dance card just once (2009) as a result of an assortment of injuries, both physical and personal. That his last major victory was in ’08 and he’s likely bound for his second consecutive season without a Tour title may simply be another symptom of the larger malaise. Or maybe it is the ailment.

“I need to get out there and get the reps in,” Woods said last Wednesday at Atlanta Athletic Club.

It is here where Woods’ actions and his anecdotal comments seem to diverge.

Woods’ tattered left Achilles’ tendon has relegated him to the bench for much of the season, but by all accounts the game’s most mysterious left leg is officially off the shelf and ready for prime time. Yet Woods remains on hiatus in south Florida.

He didn’t qualify for the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs, which means his next possible Tour start would be in Las Vegas in late September. Asked on Friday at the PGA Championship Woods said he “might” play a Fall Series or European Tour event, but stressed that his next “scheduled” start is currently November’s Australian Open, the week before the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

Woods’ retooled action may work in the south Florida lab with swing coach Sean Foley close by, but until it is tested on a Tour Sunday it remains a work in progress. So why not add a Fall Series start? He’s a two-time champion at Disney, is close enough to Sea Island (Ga.) Resort to commute to the McGladrey Classic via “Air Tiger” and, as we all know by now, he knows his way around Vegas.

Better yet, why not play an event on the European Tour?

For the first time in his career he can play the European circuit without having to request a “competing-event release” from the Tour because he’s not qualified for the playoffs, would likely be able to negotiate a healthy appearance fee and Colin Montgomerie recently said he has extended an invitation to Woods to play next week’s Johnnie Walker Championship in Scotland.

“It would be superb if he accepted,” Monty said. “I know he has his children to think about, and all that sort of stuff that goes with family commitments, but wouldn’t it be great if he did say yes to any of our European Tour events? If you don’t ask, you don’t get, so it’s worth a go.”

But this goes beyond “reps” or a perceived rehab start. Woods is on pace to fall outside of the top 50 in the World Golf Ranking by the end of the year, although he could stem that slide at the Australian Open and his own Chevron World Challenge, a silly-season event played in December that doles out ranking points.

At his current rate he could in theory drop outside the top 64, which would keep him out of the 2012 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, likely his second scheduled start next season after Torrey Pines.

Nor is he currently qualified for the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China at the end of October. Woods must crack the top 25 in the World Ranking by Oct. 17, the Monday after the McGladrey event, to qualify for the limited-field tournament which he has played the last two years. Currently, he would be the 14th alternate for the HSBC, just behind Brendan Steele.

Adding a stray event or two to his schedule could also help U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples, who has made it clear Woods will be one of his two captain’s picks, a decision that has everything to do with Woods’ stellar record in the matches (18-11-1) and not his pedestrian play this season.

Woods’ former swing coach Hank Haney recently tweeted a familiar line that seems to apply to the current schedule conundrum. “Golf doesn’t lend itself to instant analysis.” For 13 years that has certainly been the golden rule when it came to all things Woods.

But that reality has changed, and maybe it’s time Woods changed the way he looks at his schedule.

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.

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Woods fires shot into crowd: 'I kept moving them back'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It added up to another even-par round, but Tiger Woods had an eventful Friday at The Open.

His adventure started on the second hole, when he wiped a drive into the right rough. Standing awkwardly on the side of a mound, he prepared for a quick hook but instead fired one into the crowd that was hovering near the rope line.

“I kept moving them back,” he said. “I moved them back about 40 yards. I was trying to play for the grass to wrap the shaft around there and hit it left, and I was just trying to hold the face open as much as I possibly could. It grabbed the shaft and smothered it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I was very, very fortunate that I got far enough down there where I had a full wedge into the green.”

Woods bogeyed the hole, one of four on the day, and carded four birdies in his round of 71 at Carnoustie. When he walked off the course, he was in a tie for 30th, six shots off the clubhouse lead.

It’s the first time in five years – since the 2013 Open – that Woods has opened a major with consecutive rounds of par or better. He went on to tie for sixth that year at Muirfield.