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Tiger returns to U.S. Open renewed and hopeful

By Rex HoggardJune 12, 2018, 7:28 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Tiger Woods wasn’t born in this slice of American wealth and privilege. Didn’t go to college in the northeast and, if the crowd’s reaction is any measure, he's a fan favorite but not THE fan favorite of the New York masses. That honor would go to the People’s Champion – Phil Mickelson.

But as he’s smiled and joked his way around Shinnecock Hills in the buildup to this week’s championship, everything about this U.S. Open feels like a homecoming for Woods.

Maybe it’s because more so than any other major, Woods has defined his career at the U.S. Open. We’re a decade removed from his last major victory, that historic haymaker at the ’08 U.S. Open – that if we’re being honest, stands as the pinnacle of his competitive achievements.

Or maybe it’s because time and absence has made Tiger and those who hang on every shot nostalgic. He hasn’t played the weekend at his national championship in five years and last teed it up in the U.S. Open in 2015 at Chambers Bay.

Officials may have Tiger-proofed Augusta National and his four PGA Championships (he’s also won four Masters) certainly set a standard, but Tiger and the U.S. Open go together like red and black on major championship Sundays.


U.S. Open: Tee times | Full coverage


Often billed as golf’s toughest test, the U.S. Open paired perfectly with the game’s toughest competitor for the better part of two decades, and it’s worth noting that Shinnecock Hills was the site of Tiger’s first start in the championship in 1995.

He boat-raced the field in 2000 at Pebble Beach, beating runner-up Ernie Els by a cool 15 strokes, and two years later he outlasted Mickelson, in what may be the duo’s most memorable duel, just down the Long Island Expressway at Bethpage Black.

But it’s 2008 and the benchmark Torrey Pines Open that makes this week’s return for Woods something greater than the sum of its parts.

When Woods left La Jolla, Calif., a decade ago his future was uncertain, but no one could have predicted his impending fall from grace, or his current rise back to competitive relevance.

There were injuries, both self-inflicted and otherwise, and setbacks and failed comebacks. Along the way he’s played in 25 majors and still he sits at 14 major championship victories, four shy of the all-time record set by Jack Nicklaus.

“I would think that I have been there on a number of occasions to win a major championship since the '08 U.S. Open, and I haven't done it. And no, I don't like that feeling,” said Woods, who did finish runner-up at the ’09 PGA Championship and third at the ’12 Open Championship. “I've certainly had a nice run where I've won a few. Unfortunately, over the last 10 years, I haven't. But for the first few years of my career, I did well.”

And he’s doing well again.

Normally, Woods’ name among the list of favorites to win a U.S. Open wouldn’t qualify as news, but his dramatically improved play this season makes his status this week as a 20-to-1 favorite notable on many fronts.

He’s not at full stride just yet, as evidenced by his putting two weeks ago at the Memorial, his driving during the West Coast swing or his iron play at the Masters. At each turn during this comeback he’s been sidetracked by a different part of his game, and yet he’s embraced each step with a zeal that had been missing.

“Golf is always frustrating. There's always something that isn't quite right, and that's where we, as players, have to make adjustments,” he said. “Tournaments I've played in this year, there's always something. Hopefully, this is one of those weeks where I put it all together and even it out, and we'll see what happens.”

If the New York crowds seem to have turned this U.S. Open into Woods’ homecoming, his demeanor at Shinnecock Hills has only reinforced the idea that Tiger is back where he belongs – playing a classic American golf course with an unrelenting confidence.

“He’s happy with his game, this is like a second lease on life, he gets to play again,” said Steve Stricker, who played a practice round with Woods on Monday at Shinnecock Hills. “He probably thought at one point he couldn’t come back out here and compete. He feels better about this time around.”

Woods returns to the championship that has defined his career this week with a renewed focus and a clean bill of health. He’s a new man now prepared to renew an old pursuit.

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Garwood (64) leads Dick's Sporting Goods Open

By Associated PressAugust 17, 2018, 9:53 pm

ENDICOTT, N.Y. - Doug Garwood birdied the final three holes for an 8-under 64 and the first-round lead Friday in the Dick's Sporting Goods Open.

The 55-year-old Garwood had nine birdies and a bogey, playing his final nine holes - the front nine at En-Joie Golf Club - in 6-under 31.

''Drove it well, hit the irons well, pitched well, putted well, thought well,'' Garwood said. ''I got to a point I was just making birdies and I kind of lost track of how it was going,'' Garwood said. ''That's always a good thing.''

He won the 2016 SAS Championship for his lone PGA Tour Champions title.


Full-field scores from the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open


"I haven't been playing great this year, but I've been working hard on my game and things I've been working on are paying off,'' Garwood said. ''My golf, I take it a shot at a time, don't think about too far in advance because you really can't control, you know, the 13th hole tomorrow. It's just about the tee shot on No. 1.''

Michael Bradley and Marco Dawson shot 65, Woody Austin and Clark Dennis followed at 66, and Bob Estes and Tom Gillis were at 67.

''It was a good day,'' Bradley said. ''I've traditionally not driven the ball well here and you've got to drive the ball good here to shoot a good score. I drove the ball well and made a few putts, so that was that.''

Kenny Perry, the 3M Championship winner two weeks ago in Minnesota, had a 68. Bernard Langer and Miguel Angel Jimenez each shot 70. Langer won the 2014 tournament. Jimenez is coming off a victory at St. Andrews in the British Senior Open.

Defending champion Scott McCarron had a 72. Kevin Sutherland also had a 72. He shot the only 59 in PGA Tour Champions history in the 2014 event. John Daly, the winner of the PGA Tour's 1992 B.C. Open at En-Joie, opened with a 73.

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Kaymer: Don't deserve Ryder Cup spot even with win

By Randall MellAugust 17, 2018, 9:50 pm

Martin Kaymer is one of the most decorated Europeans of this generation, and one of the most thoughtfully honest as well, as he is demonstrating yet again at this week’s Nordea Masters.

Kaymer, a two-time major championship winner, has helped the Euros win three of the last four Ryder Cups. He won the singles match that clinched Europe’s historic comeback win at Medinah in 2012.

But with his run into contention Friday in Sweden, Kaymer told Sky Sports TV he didn’t believe that even a victory would make him worthy of playing for captain Thomas Bjorn’s Ryder Cup team in Paris next month.

“Do you think I deserve to be on the game after the way I've been playing, and with just one win in Sweden?” he said. “Is that enough? I don't think so.”

Kaymer shot a 3-under 67 at the Nordea Masters, leaving him tied for seventh, five shots off the lead and in position to make a run at his 12th European Tour title. He is hoping to capitalize on the opportunity in a season that has left him unsatisfied. He missed three of his previous four cuts coming to Sweden and has just two top-10 finishes this year.

Kaymer made some thoughtful observations about the nature of golf’s challenges in the same week that LPGA star Lexi Thompson opened up about a personal struggle to build a life about more than golf.

At 33, Kaymer said he feels as if he’s still just beginning to understand the game’s effect on him. Here is what he shared with reporters about that on the eve of the Nordea Masters:

“I'm on the seventh hole, hopefully. You need some time to get to know and place yourself in the world of golf.


Full-field scores from the Nordea Masters


“In the beginning you can't know, you have zero experience. Then you play around the world and measure your game with the best in the world. Then you see good results and in my case underestimate yourself a little.

“All of a sudden you win a major. You play a vital role in Ryder Cups. You win your second major. Then you need to adjust, because it's sometimes overwhelming and not understandable. It cannot only be talent, you need to ask yourself how you actually got here.

“That realization took me a long time. That's why I would say I'm on the seventh hole, maybe seventh green.

“It's just understanding who you are, what you do, what kind of life you live. For example, when you try to have a relationship with anyone -- it doesn't matter what kind of relationship -- people see you not for who you are as a person but as the athlete, what you have, what kind of success you had.

“I never understood that, because I don't want to be treated that way, but I also understood by now that is who I am, because I am that athlete. I am the guy who makes a lot of money.

“I never wanted to be seen that way, because I was raised different, and I wanted to be normal. But you are not normal when you do what I did. It took me a long time to understand, but now I can handle it better.”

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S.H. Park eyes Indy title, LPGA awards after 'best round of year'

By Randall MellAugust 17, 2018, 9:20 pm

Sung Hyun Park’s hot finish Friday gives her more than a chance to win the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

It gives her a chance to keep Ariya Jutanugarn from running away with the LPGA’s most important awards and honors heading into the final third of the season.

Park’s 9-under 63 left her tied for the lead with Lizette Salas (69) at 13 under overall in the rain-suspended second round at Brickyard Crossing Golf Course in Indianapolis.

“My best round of the year,” Park said through a translator.

Jutanugarn, the Rolex world No. 1, put up a 65 and sits four behind the leaders.

Park is No. 4 in the world rankings and feeling good about her weekend chances.

“I’m going to do really well,” she said. “I feel really good about my game.”

Jutanugarn has won an LPGA best three times this season, including the U.S. Women’s Open. She is dominating, statistically. She leads the tour in money winnings ($2,161,185), Rolex Player of the Year points, scoring average (69.44), putts per greens in regulation (1.72) and birdies (327).


Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


Park is looking to equal Jutanugarn’s victory total for the season. Park won the Volunteers of America Texas Classic and also a major this year, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Park could overtake Jutanugarn as Rolex world No. 1 with a victory, depending on what Jutanugarn does this weekend.

Park shared Rolex Player of the Year honors with So Yeon Ryu last season, with Jutanugarn winning the award the year before.

Notably, Jutanugarn is giving her driver a rare appearance this week, putting it in her bag in both the first and second rounds at the friendly confines of Brickyard Crossing.

“I like the way [the holes] set up, because I’m ab le to hit driver a few holes,” Jutanugarn said. “I missed some, but I hit a few pretty good ones, too.”

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Podcast: Welcome our guest - Tiger Tracker

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 17, 2018, 7:47 pm

Host Will Gray calls him “The man, the myth, the legend.”

GCTiger Tracker, aka “TT,” makes his highly anticipated first guest appearance in a Golf Channel podcast, pontificating on everything from Tiger Woods’ run at the PGA Championship at Bellerive to the overall nature of Tiger’s comeback and what breakthroughs may lie ahead.

Tiger Tracker, Golf Channel’s mystery man, continues to rigorously protect his identity as the foremost Twitter tracker of all things Tiger, but he does open up on his intense relationship with his growing legion of followers and his “trigger finger” when it comes to blocking those unworthy of his insight.

“I’m more of a lover than a hater of Tiger Woods, but I’m a tracker,” TT tells Gray. “I call it like I see it.”

Tracker goes deep on what he sees as his role in continuing to document Tiger’s comeback, including a sense of kinship in this journey.

“I had 142,000 followers on the Monday of the Bahamas [late last year], and as we speak now, 296,000, more than double in that short span,” Tracker says. “That shows you what he’s been able to do, what we’ve been able to do together. Let’s be honest about that.”

Listen in below: