S-Putt-ering Cadillac

By Rex HoggardMarch 11, 2011, 5:51 am
WGC-Cadillac ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. – On this the world golf ranking seems to have it right, give or take a decimal point.

Tiger, Phil and a G-Mac high card may have captivated the hearts and minds of the South Florida masses, but combined they couldn’t keep pace with Hunter Mahan, who scorched Big Blue for a 7 under total through 11 holes when Doral after Dark set in and play was called for the day.

A midday storm blew over a scoreboard, camera towers and much of the horde that was awaiting the Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell bout, but when the gale moved through, the entire affair felt less like the 2005 Ford Championship, when Woods and Lefty went toe-to-toe on a historic Sunday, than it did the 2004 Ryder Cup with America’s alpha and omega saying and adding little to the proceedings and a European making every putt.

In short, none of the three top cards did a lot to live up to the billing, although McDowell wowed his tee time mates by one-putting what seemed like his front nine. For the day, which ended on the 15th green in darkness, Mickelson was 2 under while Woods and McDowell came in at 1 under.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods missed six of seven attempts from 10 to 15 feet during Day 1 at Doral. (Getty Images)
By comparison, the day’s other marquee three-ball, world No. 1 Martin Kaymer, No. 2 Lee Westwood and No. 3 Luke Donald were 5, 4 and 5 under through 10 holes, respectively. A victory for the world ranking math by any measure.

“Not our best, but not terrible,” Mickelson said. “We didn’t shoot ourselves out of it.”

Woods didn’t stop to talk after his non-completed round. Had he been inclined he would have talked about the process, patience and putting – all familiar themes. But it is the latter that lingered as Thursday’s sub-text.

The criticism and hyperbole of Woods’ most recent swing makeover has reached a crescendo. It’s an ugly place that has no interest in the middle ground. Yet lost in the Twitter-spat and non-stop analysis and re-analysis is the simple truth that Woods never flushed the golf ball, at least not for a prolonged period of time.

In 2000 and 2006, the benchmark years of a benchmark career, he ranked 54th and 139th in driving accuracy, respectively. Similarly he is 185th in driving accuracy this year. The difference is putting. He was sixth on Tour in putting from 15 to 20 feet in ’06 and second in putting average in ’00, but is currently 98th and 146th, respectively, in those categories this year.

Thursday was a microcosm of that reality. He was wild, like at No. 12, his first driver of the day, when he pulled his tee shot 50 yards off line. Or No. 17 where his tee shot was 30 yards right . . . you get the idea.

But there were also opportunities. Opportunities he used to capitalize on like a Rolex, like at the 16th hole where he drove just short of the green, flopped his second to 8 feet and missed the putt.

All totaled, Woods needed 26 putts, which is statistically sound had he played all 18. He missed six of seven attempts from 10 to 15 feet and made nothing longer than 12 feet (11th hole). From 10 to 15 feet is where Woods won 14 majors and 71 PGA Tour titles, not the middle of the fairway.

For all the hand wringing over mechanics and methods and muscle memory, it was his moxie from 15 feet that defied logic and built a legacy.

So why retool the Mona Lisa? If Woods is to be believed it is part and parcel with the process.

“It's a release, how I release the putter, how I release the short game, how I release irons, drivers, they are all related,” Woods said on Wednesday. “You just can't have one swing and not have another; they are all interrelated. It's just something I've had to change, and you know, it takes time.”

According to Jim McLean, Doral’s resident swing guru who has overseen his share of swing makeovers, Woods is correct. “It’s natural. Part of the process. It’s always a danger when you’re dealing with Tiger, but it’s natural,” McLean said.

Dangerous indeed.

Woods used to win with a 1,000-yard stare and it won’t be the two-way miss that keeps him down now; it will be the 3 to 5 manicured yards that separate him from the cup.

If Thursday’s soggy sequel taught us anything it is that it is not the new swing that should concern us; it is the old putting stroke that needs an A.P.B.
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Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

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Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

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Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

 “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”