Woods' 73 could have, should have been better

By Rex HoggardMay 8, 2015, 12:18 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – There were 20 tee shots hit into the loch that surrounds the 17th hole on Thursday, which would be tournament golf’s version of “dog bites man.” Much more newsworthy on Day 1 at The Players was the single tee shot that found the abyss that fronts the par-3 eighth hole.

Man bites dog.

Of the 1,903 tee shots played at No. 8 during The Players since 2003, only 11 had found the water hazard that sits some 35 yards short of the putting surface and is roughly the size of a small pool. That number ballooned on Thursday when Tiger Woods laid sod over his 4-iron tee shot and bounced his effort into the mud and the murk to make it a cool dozen into the drink at No. 8.

That’s a .6 percent average since ’03, but then what else would one expect from a player who has been a “one percenter” his entire career?

“I’ve never seen it [the water hazard],” said Woods of the eighth’s water hazard. “I didn’t know it was there until now. I don’t think my ball actually touched grooves, put it that way.”

Adam Scott, who was paired with Woods on Day 1 at The Players, smiled sheepishly when asked about what could only be considered a once-in-a-lifetime tee shot.

“Occasionally everyone hits a shot they are embarrassed about,” Scott said. “I’m sure he was with that one, but you have to laugh it off.”

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For many the wildly miss-hit attempt will be the lasting image from Woods’ opening day at the 2015 Players, but it’s what happened after his adventure at No. 8 that provided a glimpse into the state of the 125th-ranked player’s game.

As messy as the eighth was, his opening 73 was the sum of many parts.

“It’s probably the highest score I could have shot today,” said Woods, who was tied for 77th place after his third over-par opening effort at TPC Sawgrass in his last six starts. “I didn’t get much out of that round. I hit the ball better than the score indicates.”

Numbers do lie - even the Tour’s ShotLink number crunchers - and there is something to Woods’ claim that things could of, should of, been better.

For starters, he hit 8 of 14 fairways on Thursday which was middle-of-the-pack for the day statistically, but a vast improvement over his tee play at last month’s Masters.

For all the focus on Woods’ short game, which was awful, heading into the year’s first major, it was his driving – he didn’t hit a fairway on Sunday at Augusta National until the 13th hole – that caused him the most trouble.

At the Stadium Course on fairways that resemble hallways compared to those at Augusta National, Woods was much more prolific, particularly with his driver.

By the time he reached the 18th tee Woods had scrambled into red numbers (1 under) thanks to birdies at Nos. 14, 16 and 17, the latter courtesy of a 14-foot chip in after another tee shot narrowly missed a watery fate.

But Woods tried to hit a “low, hard cut 3-wood” that rode the wind into the water and led to a closing double bogey-6 and a grumpy player.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s both,” said Woods when asked if he was encouraged by his swing or discouraged by his score. “I should have shot in the 60s easily today and hopefully tomorrow I can get it done.”

Maybe this was a two-part plan all along.

Drill down and fix a short game that was just south of sorry to start the season and then tinker with the remaining issues afterward. But putting out fires can be distracting and often times counterproductive.

The good news for Woods is that short game that needed so much work appeared, if not fixed, then at least functional. The bad news is the rest of the package is still a work in progress.

Woods was able to narrow a two-way miss earlier in the week into a tee shot that although favored the left side of the fairway on occasion was at least functional, even on a claustrophobic layout like the Stadium Course.

For Woods, Thursday at TPC Sawgrass wasn’t about a shocking 4-iron as much as it was showing signs that things are starting to move in the right direction.

“It’s only one bad swing, one bad shot,” he explained. “I had to fix what I had starting out the round with more importantly. [No.] 8 just, I just happened to make a bad swing, so what, move on. But I had a bad pattern starting out and I rectified that, which was nice.”

Unwilling to let his round be defined by his adventure at the eighth, Woods, as he has done so many times in the past, took the long view – one bad swing, one step closer to competitiveness.

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U.S. Amateur playoff: 24 players for 1 spot in match play

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2018, 1:21 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer and Daniel Hillier were tied at the top after two rounds of the U.S. Amateur, but the more compelling action on Tuesday was further down the leaderboard.

Two dozen players were tied for 64th place after two rounds of stroke play at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. With the top 64 advancing to match play, that means all 24 will compete in a sudden-death playoff Wednesday morning for the last spot in the knockout rounds.

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They'll be divided into six foursomes and start the playoff at 7:30 a.m. on the par-3 17th at Pebble Beach, where Tom Watson chipped in during the 1982 U.S. Open and went on to win.

The survivor of the playoff will face the 19-year-old Hillier in match play. The New Zealander shot a 2-under 70 at Spyglass Hill to share medalist honors with the 18-year-old Hammer at 6 under. Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas who played in the 2015 U.S. Open at age 15, shot 68 at Spyglass Hill.

Stewart Hagestad had the low round of the day, a 5-under 66 at Pebble Beach, to move into a tie for 10th after opening with a 76 at Spyglass Hill. The 27-year-old Hagestad won the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur and earned low amateur honors at the 2017 Masters.

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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.  

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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."