Woods has the last word at Sawgrass

By Rex HoggardMay 13, 2013, 1:41 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Sometimes David doesn’t beat Goliath.

With respect to 5-foot-7 Swede David Lingmerth, it wasn’t a fair fight. Not when Tiger Woods, by his own definition, is driving it well, flushing his irons, scrambling when needed, putting with consistency and healthy. By any definition, a five-tool freight train.

Perhaps not since his last top 10 at TPC Sawgrass (2009) has Woods been as prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of the quirky north Florida layout or the pointed barbs from Sergio Garcia.

“I feel like I'm driving it well, hitting it well with my irons, my distance control is good, short game is really solid, and I'm making my share of putts,” Woods said.

Of course, that blunt and chilling assessment came on Friday, when the faux major leaderboard resembled those of the bona fide Grand Slam variety. It wasn’t until Sunday dawned that Woods showed the world the full display of his arsenal.

The world No. 1 began the final round tied with rookie Lingmerth and Sergio Garcia, who solidified his status as Woods’ nemesis with a surreal episode early in Saturday’s second round.

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He began his march to his second Players Championship trophy, and his first this decade, with a 10-footer for birdie at the first. By the time he turned he was a layup clear of the field and cruising.

It was quintessential Tiger – build a lead, play prevent defense on the closing nine and watch contenders fall away. But the 14th hole awaited. Woods played the par-4 14th in 3 over for the week, missed the fairway every day and when he popped up his tee shot into a water hazard late Sunday afternoon the normal game plan just wouldn’t do.

His double bogey at the 14th hole dropped Woods into a tie with Lingmerth, Garcia and Jeff Maggert at 12 under. One by one, however, they dropped away. They always do.

First it was Maggert, the 49-year-old senior-in-waiting, who dropped his tee shot in the watery abyss surrounding the 17th hole, followed by Lingmerth’s bogey at the 14th hole after missing the green with his approach shot.

But it will be Garcia’s pile-up at the island-green penultimate hole that will be remembered.

The Spaniard, who a day earlier sparked a heated give-and-take when he complained that Woods pulled a club on the second hole just as Garcia was hitting his second shot and prompted the crowd to react, missed his tee shot at the 17th and found the water. In a scene reminiscent of the movie “Tin Cup,” Garcia took his next shot from the tee box and again found the hazard.

Rinse, repeat, lose.

Garcia has now won a Players on the 17th hole – having beaten Paul Goydos in a playoff on the hole in 2008 – and now lost the PGA Tour’s flagship event there.

“That hole has been good to me for the most part. Today it wasn’t,” said Garcia, who took a quadruple-bogey 7 on the hole.

Garcia completed what was a challenging week with another tee shot into the drink at the 18th hole for a double bogey to tie for eighth. That’s a full sleeve lost in two holes and a good amount of public support in two days.

On Sunday morning following the completion of the weather-delayed third round, Garcia was asked if he would rather have been paired with Woods – they were tied at 11 under through 54 holes – for the final turn. His answer seemed to sum up the spat.

“I'm not going to lie, he's not my favorite guy to play with,” Garcia told Sky Sports. “He's not the nicest guy on Tour.”

On a week that started with Vijay Singh suing the Tour over his run-in with the circuit’s anti-doping policy, Garcia’s comments simply seemed to feed the contentiousness.

The only thing missing was a much-awaited announcement on anchoring, but that can wait for another day.

For Woods, his 78th Tour victory – in his 300th Tour start – was every bit the statement victory. One top-10 finish in his last decade at TPC Sawgrass had created a wave of second-guessing that seemed to reach a crescendo this week.

“We were on a mission,” Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava said. “He is too good of a player not to play well here.”

How good?

For the week, Woods was first in par-5 scoring (4.25), third in greens in regulation (76 percent), 19th in fairways hit (67 percent) and 38th in strokes gained-putting on his way to a closing 70 for a 13-under total and two-stroke victory over Lingmerth (72), Maggert (70) and Kevin Streelman (67).

Woods pulled away with a birdie at the par-5 16th hole, found the middle of the green at the graveyard that the 17th hole had become and marched up the 18th fairway looking like a new man before a friendly reminder from LaCava jarred him back to reality.

“He said to me, ‘This is what patience will do for you,’” LaCava said following Woods’ approach into the 72nd green. “I wanted him to know there was still work to be done.”

In many ways, Woods’ Players victory had the look of a precursor of what is to come. His game plan on the Stadium Course was to play control golf, miss in the right spots and plod the field into submission.

On Sunday, he hit just one driver and, other than the 14th hole, looked in control at a golf course that hasn’t always had a friendly-confines feel to it. With respect to the so-called “fifth major,” The Players looked strangely like a U.S. Open tuneup. If he can beat the best at TPC Sawgrass with fairway woods, wouldn’t Merion, which will measure in under 7,000 yards, succumb to a similarly measured approach?

“It's a great question,” Woods said when asked if a similar strategy will work next month in Philadelphia. “I've never played Merion. It sounds good in theory. But I don't know. We happened to get a dry, hot week where the ball was traveling. You've got to play the golf course for what it gives you.”

Merion can wait, for the first time in a decade Goliath took the honors at TPC Sawgrass.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

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On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

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"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

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"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.