Woods: Fine line between major victory and defeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2013, 11:45 am

GULLANE, Scotland – Maybe it’s as simple as an untimely bounce. Maybe the only thing you need to know about Tiger Woods’ major drought is that the line between winning the big one and not is as fine as a sliver of Scottish fescue.

“It’s just a shot here and there. It’s making a key up-and-down here or getting a good bounce here, capitalizing on an opportunity here and there,” Woods explained on Tuesday at Muirfield.

From there the world No. 1 offered this year’s Masters to explain his Grand Slump, which has now reached five years and counting. Somewhere along the way in April at Augusta National – chances are good it was during his Saturday 73 – he didn’t get the kick from karma he needed to maintain his momentum.

“I really played well, and a good shot ended up having a bad break,” said Woods, who tied for fourth at the Masters. “It's a shot here and a shot there. It's not much. It could happen on the first day, it could happen on the last day.”



In fairness to Woods, it’s not as though he’s been a non-story since last winning a major in 2008. His 0-for-16 slide features just two missed cuts (2009 Open Championship and 2011 PGA) and six top-five finishes.

There was the close call at last year’s Open when he finished with a 73 and was four strokes behind champion golfer Ernie Els, and at the ’09 PGA when he was outdueled by Y.E. Yang.

But it’s not Jack Nicklaus’ record of 19 runner-up finishes in majors that Woods had hanging on his wall in the family home in Southern California; it was that haul of 18 victories that has driven him from high chair to the game’s highest stage.

Woods was asked about the “slump” on Tuesday, as he always is when the world gathers for major moments, and if the extended drought is eating at him he is internalizing it well. He was not short, as he can be when asked an unsavory question, nor defensive. He was realistic.

Chances are good it was Muirfield where those uncontrollable variables of championship golf began to manifest themselves in Woods’ psyche.

Woods arrived at Muirfield for the 2002 Open looking to win the third leg of the single season Grand Slam, played his way into a tie for ninth place through two rounds and was within two strokes of the lead when Saturday’s epic storm blew him to a third-round 81 and out of contention.

“The worst I’ve ever played in,” Woods said of that stormy Saturday.

The theory that the week’s best is often decided by the best bounces, however, was put to the test in 2006 when Woods bunted his way (he hit just one driver all week) to a two-stroke victory at a particularly crusty Royal Liverpool.

That Muirfield, which has been groomed by a dry Scottish spring, will play to a similar shade of bouncy yellow this week was not lost on Woods as he begins his quest for his fourth Open victory and 15th major championship title.

“This golf course is playing similar to that. It's quick. And so far I've played a couple of days now, three days, and I've only hit a couple of drivers here,” he said. “Some of the holes, 4-iron was going 280, 3-iron is going a little over 300 yards. So it's quick. That's on this wind. Obviously it could change. Like what we had in ’02, it could come out of the northeast and it could be a totally different golf course.”

Or, it could remain brown and bouncy, which given his penchant for hitting fairway woods in recent years would at least partially explain Woods’ status as a 7-to-1 Open favorite.

He’d likely be an even more commanding bookmaker darling if not for the elbow injury he sustained this year at The Players that prompted him to skip the AT&T National. On Tuesday he said the elbow is fully mended, although he has limited his practice to truncated nine-hole rounds this week.

“It's one of the good things of taking the time off to let it heal and get the treatment and therapy on it,” Woods said. “The main reason was that coming over here the ground is going to be hard. And I'm going to need that elbow to be good.”

The rest, at least for Woods, is up to the bounces, of which there promises to be plenty along the Firth of Forth.

Armchair analysts have vilified everything from Woods’ putting to his driver to explain one of the game’s most mystifying droughts, but for Woods – who is not predisposed to second-guessing – the needle has been stuck on 14 since the ’08 U.S. Open as a result of the rub of the green. Maybe there is more to it than that, but Woods is either unable or unwilling to go any deeper.

On this it’s best to defer to Woods as the singular source, and it seems only apropos that on Thursday Woods sets out in need of a fortunate bounce at one of the game’s most hallowed trampolines.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.


Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.