Woods' 54-hole domination has disappeared

By Rex HoggardFebruary 8, 2012, 7:27 pm

For two years and counting the golf world has dissected the anatomy of a slump ad nauseam, swing types questioning the form and function of a new action, sports psychologist citing a loss of confidence and gym rats lamenting a body that has spent more time in an MRI machine than the Boston Celtics backcourt.

Still others pointed to distractions large and small, while more than one PGA Tour frat brother attributed Tiger Woods’ extended victory schneid to a balky putter that no longer rolled in clutch 5-footers with ease.

This much is certain: whatever the virus, the primary symptom has become increasingly clear over the last 24 months. The man who used to own Sundays has now become something of a spectator in red.

Complete coverage: Tiger Woods | AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

On this history is clear. Prior to the 2009 PGA Championship Woods was a perfect 14-for-14 with at least a share of the 54-hole lead in a major championship, and he is currently 55-for-64 with a three-lap advantage in worldwide starts in his career.

“Being a front runner, everyone's kind of chasing you,” Woods said on Tuesday at Pebble Beach where he will make his 2012 Tour debut. “You're in a position where if you do make a few mistakes, it's all right because obviously you have shots to play with.

“Throughout my career, I've shot some pretty good rounds when I've had the lead.  Not too often I've gone over par on the final round when I've had the lead.”

Call it the Mariano Rivera complex, a cold-blooded closer who relishes the role of front-runner and a line-of-sight view of the checkered flag. Yet through two winless seasons, that signature Sunday move has been largely AWOL.

The generic litmus test for Woods’ Sunday stranglehold is final-round scoring average. He’s ranked outside the top 10 on Tour in this category just five times since 1997 – and even those anomalies dovetail with the well-documented ebb and flow of swing changes in 1999, 2004 and 2010 – and averaged higher than 70 on only five occasions.

More detailed evidence of Woods’ final-round fortunes can be found in a contrived statistic called top-5 final round performance which the Tour began recording in 2001 and measures the percent of time a player’s finishing position improved or remained unchanged when entering the final lap inside the top 5.

This statistic, in a Billy Beane “Moneyball” sort of way, slices through the speculation and misplaced generalities of other measurements like putts per round and fairways hit and offers a glimpse into how dominant Woods was when he was able to nose ahead of the crowd.

In Woods’ eight complete seasons since 2001 he was perfect in “top 5 performance” four times, including ’07 when he was 10-for-10 on Sunday. And on the four occasions when he wasn’t batting 1.000, his performance was marred by no more than a single Sunday slip.

In short, red shirts were not his only Sunday tradition. By contrast, the post-2009 world has been anything but predictable.

Since the ’09 BMW Championship, his last Tour victory, Woods’ Sunday scoring has jumped to 71.40 and 69.67 in 2010 and ’11, respectively. Similarly, on the eight occasions he has started the final round within seven strokes of the lead since the ’09 BMW his final-round average is 70.28.

His Sunday spoils came into particular focus earlier this month when he entered the final turn tied with someone named Robert Rock at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Woods signed for a 72 and a tie for third, Rock was two strokes better and took his second European Tour title.

Still, Woods considered his Abu Dhabi finish a triumph of progress considering his recent Sunday struggles.

“I’m excited that my bad ballstriking day was on Sunday and it wasn’t that bad,” he told Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio on Tuesday. “That’s where I had been in the past where I would hit these foul balls and have to go find them. I didn’t hit a foul ball all week. My start lines are so much tighter.”

Part of Woods’ optimism is rooted in his victory at December’s Chevron World Challenge, where he began the final round a shot behind Zach Johnson, one-putted the final two greens and hoisted his first individual trophy, unofficial or otherwise, in 24 months.

Chevron Sunday was quintessential Woods – cool, clinical and the best sign to date that what was once old could be new.

“Personally, I've always been excited about being in that position (54-hole lead),” Woods said. “I know I've played well to get there, so just trying to do the same things I did to get there, and hopefully it will be enough.”

Whatever piece of the puzzle the pundits say has been missing for two years, it stands to reason that 54-hole aura and the Sunday showcases that defined him for over a decade will now determine how his career proceeds.

Watch first- and second-round coverage of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Thursday and Friday on Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET.

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of {Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.

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Watch: Na punctuates caddie tiff with hole-out

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 24, 2018, 11:10 pm

Microphones captured a fascinating and testy exchange between Kevin Na and his caddie, Kenny Harms, on Na's final hole of the first round of the Fort Worth Invitational on Thursday.

Na was in the right rough, 185 yards from the ninth green, which was guarded by water. He vacillated between a hybrid and an iron, but with either club he would have to hit "a 40-yard cut," as Harms termed it.

"Over the green's dead," Harms warned.

"It's not gonna go over the green, Kenny," Na replied.

Na finally settled on an iron and said to Harms, "As long as you're OK with this club."

"I'm not," Harms replied. "I'm not OK with either one of them."

"I'm going with this," Na ended the discussion.

He missed the green with his approach shot, but avoided the water. After taking a free drop away from the grandstand, he had 92 feet 3 inches to the cup and of course, holed the pitch shot for a birdie-3, a 62 and a one-shot lead at the end of the first round.