Woods revives past memories with 69 at Hoylake

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2014, 2:52 pm

HOYLAKE, England – The comparisons were always going to be misguided, if not wildly unfair.

This was always going to be a different course than the one that hosted the great Dust Open of 2006. It was, observers concluded, a different swing, a different time, a different Tiger than the one who surgically picked the place apart on his way to his third claret jug eight years ago.

Despite that reasoning, those comparisons were sure to come. It is always the burden that when you author a masterpiece fans eagerly await a sequel that is every bit as captivating no matter how outrageous those expectations may be.

When Tiger Woods bogeyed the first hole early on Thursday at Royal Liverpool the social universe reminded anyone with a wireless connection that he also bogeyed his first hole in ’06, when arguably the best ball-striking week of his career delivered a two-stroke victory.

When he bogeyed the second, however, a chorus of concern could be heard across the Dee Estuary; but slowly, methodically, earnestly, Woods plodded his way back to relevance:

A birdie at the par-5 fifth hole from 8 feet to turn at 1 over was followed by a barrage of five birdies in six holes starting at No. 11.

Maybe this could be like ’06.


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Maybe all that talk of getting his “speed” and “explosiveness” back was starting to resonate. Maybe his short week at the Quicken Loans National – where he returned to action following back surgery on March 31 – was little more than a litmus test and not a long-term indication of things to come.

“I’m not going to be the only guy in a 72-hole event to make two bogeys. I just got mine out of the way early,” Woods figured following a 3-under 69 that left him three behind leader Rory McIlroy.

The 143rd Open Championship was always going to be compared to that clinic he put on in ’06 regardless of the reality that he entered the week with just 36 holes under his belt since returning from the DL and is some 11 months removed from his last major start.

But as a glorious morning progressed, his game, and his championship outlook, improved, just like he said it would.

“That's why I’ve been telling you guys it was so important for me to play at Congressional,” Woods said. “The fact that I was able to recover every day, and the fact that I was stronger, more explosive the more days I played. I’m only going to get better from that point.”

When Woods closed his round in increasingly windy conditions, the similarities to his performance in ’06 were eerie.

For the day, Woods hit just one driver, at the par-5 16th hole, the same number he hit for the entire week eight years ago. He found 10 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in regulation, compared to 11 of 14 and 12 of 18 in ’06. He needed 28 putts, one more than he took on Day 1 the last time he played Hoylake.

That he did all this after playing his first two in 2 over par also echoed of ’06, when he rounded his final 71 holes in 19 under par.

“It felt good to be back out there competing again. It wasn't exactly the greatest of starts,” Woods said.

In fact, the only thing that was missing on Day 1 was a yellow golf course cooked by unseasonably hot conditions to bouncy perfection. But it’s still early.

Woods’ rally began at the 11th hole, where he missed the green right from the middle of the fairway with a wedge in his hand and rolled in a 30-footer from the fringe that prompted a fist pump.

He followed with a 10-footer at the 12th hole, an 8-footer at the 13th hole and a punched 7-iron at No. 15 to 15 feet before nearly making eagle at the 16th hole.

He endured the predictable rub of the green that is as much a part of links golf as fescue and aiming poles when his second at the closing hole found the back of a greenside bunker and he could do no better than par.

He even sounded like he did in ’06.

“I played what the golf course allowed me to play,” he said on Thursday.

Eight years ago after his second round he had a similar take, “It all depends what I feel the golf course gives me,” he said.

But perhaps the most encouraging comparison to ’06 was what Woods did after his round. The world No. 7 signed his card, spoke his piece with the press and bolted for the practice tee for an extended session, an option that wasn’t available before he underwent microdiscectomy.

“I need to get everything a little bit better. That's the case all of the time,” he reasoned.

Much has transpired in the years since the game’s oldest championship was played on the Wirral peninsula, but for Woods Thursday at Hoylake felt like old times.

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Simpson overtakes DeChambeau in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:09 pm

A T-12 finish at The Open allowed Webb Simpson to move past Bryson DeChambeau into the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race with just three weeks to go.

Simpson finished the week at 3 under, five shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. Adding another strong result to his win at TPC Sawgrass and T-10 finish at the U.S. Open, he's now edged in front of DeChambeau by less than 41 points. But with players earning one point per $1,000 each of the next two weeks and 1.5 points per $1,000 at the PGA Championship, the race is far from over.

Jordan Spieth's T-9 finish strengthened his position at No. 6, as the top six players are essentially assured of qualifying automatically. Rickie Fowler held onto his spot at No. 7, while Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner both moved onto the bubble following T-2 finishes at Carnoustie. After a T-6 finish, Tiger Woods jumped from 31st to 20th.

Here's a look at the updated American standings, with the top eight after the PGA qualifying automatically and captain Jim Furyk adding four picks in September:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Bubba Watson

6. Jordan Spieth

7. Rickie Fowler

8. Webb Simpson

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9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Xander Schauffele

12. Matt Kuchar

13. Kevin Kisner

14. Tony Finau

15. Brian Harman

On the European side, Molinari was already in position to qualify automatically but is now assured of a spot on Thomas Bjorn's roster this fall. Fellow major champs Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy also solidified their footing with runner-up performances.

Here's a look at how things look for the Europeans, with the top four from each list after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

European Points

1. Francesco Molinari

2. Justin Rose

3. Tyrrell Hatton

4. Tommy Fleetwood

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Thorbjorn Olesen

Russell Knox

Eddie Pepperell

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Alex Noren

3. Rory McIlroy

4. Paul Casey

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Matthew Fitzpatrick

Sergio Garcia

Ian Poulter

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.