Time may again be on Tiger's side

By Rex HoggardJune 26, 2012, 7:40 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – Consider this a runaway winner for the double-take Tuesday award. No, not the NCAA’s languid march to a BCS playoff format, the real stunner came just after lunch when Tiger Woods revealed that he has tinkered with a long putter.

“I tried it and my stroke is infinitely worse,” he admitted during a 25-minute Q&A with media types at Congressional Country Club.

Given how this week’s host with the most putted at the U.S. Open one can only imagine how bad things were with a non-standard length putter, but the revelation does give a snapshot of Woods’ psyche.

Tiger Woods' AT&T National news conference

For the man who plays one of the softest golf balls on the PGA Tour – because touch, not distance, is crucial – and who has historically been averse to impromptu equipment changes to experiment with a long putter (which is rumored to be on the endangered species list among the game’s rule makers), suggests that he is not blind to the elephant in the room.

Had he managed even an average putting round on Saturday at The Olympic Club, Sunday’s outcome could have played out much differently. Instead, Woods struggled to a 34-putt 75 and began the final turn five strokes back and in need of a Sunday rally that never materialized.

For the record, Woods is now 0-for-12 at the Grand Slam table since the 2008 U.S. Open, the longest major drought of his career and a reason for many to begin a familiar drumbeat.

When Woods warmed up for his third round at Olympic Club, Sean Foley was not around, leading some in the media to speculate that the former alpha male was putting some distance between himself and his swing coach. That Saturday 75 in San Francisco only exaggerated the speculation.

But those who attempt to read Tiger tealeaves appear to be mired in the wrong debate. Those who wish to split hairs digesting the statistics are adrift in ambiguity. These are the facts: Woods is ninth in greens in regulation, second in total driving and ball-striking and ninth in the all-around ranking, near career best averages in all three categories.

“I mean, he's fourth in total driving,” Hunter Mahan said earlier this season. “Whoever thought Tiger Woods would be fourth in total driving? Someone needs to check hell because it might have frozen over.”

Those who dissect Woods’ performance from or to particular distances have been blinded by minutia. This is about putting, not proximity or some other arcane measurement. Similarly, it seems the road that Woods and Foley embarked on wasn’t about building a better swing so much as it was forging a future on a knee with precious little shelf life.

Of all the criticism leveled at Hank Haney it seems the only trust the former swing coach violated was the “do no harm” clause. Competitively Woods’ record with Haney is beyond reproach, but Haney’s attempts to alleviate or mitigate the damage to Woods’ leading knee during that explosive golf swing now appear to have been unsuccessful.

Since 2007, Woods has played more than 12 events in a single season just once and this week’s AT&T National marks the first time he has returned to Congressional since winning the event in 2009, missing the 2011 U.S. Open in the nation’s capital and the AT&T stop with injury.

By comparison, this week’s AT&T National will be his 11th worldwide start this season and if he can avoid another trip to the MRI machine he will finish 2012 with upwards of 20 Tour starts, the most since 2005.

Lost amid the clutter of endless analysis is the two-fold reality that had Woods not changed directions with his swing the debate about whether or not he will ever reach Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championship may have already been decided by scar tissue and the surgeon’s scalpel. That he’s statistically as sound now as he’s been in years only fuels the reality that he made the right choice.

“I didn't want to play the way I did because it hurt, and it hurt a lot,” Woods said. “Was I good at it? Yeah, I was good at it, but I couldn't go down that road, and there's no way I could have had longevity in the game if I would have done that.

Four knee surgeries later, here we are. I finally have a swing that it doesn't hurt, and I am still generating power, but it doesn't hurt anymore.”

On Tuesday at Congressional, Woods suggested that although his short game has suffered in recent months, the byproduct of increased attention on his full swing much like he encountered when he first began working with Haney and Butch Harmon, he said he now has the time to fix it.

Time, you see, may finally be on his side.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 9:20 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.