Woods blows opportunity late in Rd. 3 at Muirfield

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2013, 8:43 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – It was just one shot in a week that has seen 212 of them, but Tiger Woods’ poor approach on the 17th hole Saturday carried significant ramifications.  

Psychologically, at least.

Now, he is wondering how, on a day when he hit 12 fairways and 14 greens, he could still shoot over par. (A 1-over 72.)

Now, he is two shots back of Lee Westwood, and Woods – all together now – has never won a major when he wasn’t staked to at least a share of the 54-hole lead.

Now, he is in the penultimate group, not the final pairing, and his fellow playing competitor is Masters winner Adam Scott, whose caddie, Steve Williams, is the man who was on the bag for 13 of Woods’ 14 majors until he was unceremoniously fired.

And it all can be traced back to that mis-hit second shot on Saturday.  

Woods was plodding along, tied for the lead, when he arrived at his ball in the 17th fairway. His tee shot with a 3-wood left him well back of Westwood, but he had 238 yards to carry a set of cross bunkers short of the green. Fly those, and he had a reasonable chance to make a late birdie and create some separation from the rest of the field. Instead of hitting it “flat and flush” into a steady breeze, however, the ball spun high into the air from the upslope and went 225 yards.

Bunkered.

Blast-out.

Bogey.

Two shots behind, just like that.

Ever the optimist, Woods tried to spin it in his post-round session with the media: “I’m pleased where I’m at – I’m only two back,” he said. “There’s only one guy ahead of me.”



And that is true, of course. At 1-under 212, Woods is tied with Hunter Mahan and two shots behind Westwood. But the 3-wood shot was the very moment that Woods talked about earlier this week, when he attempted to explain why he’s 0-for-16 in the majors since summer 2008.

“I think it’s just a shot here and there,” Woods had said. “It’s making a key up-and-down here, or getting a good bounce there, capitalizing on an opportunity here and there.”

This was one of those opportunities – squandered.

After all, Woods was at his tactical best for much of the day. One of his only mistakes Saturday was a nuked 9-iron on the par-3 seventh that went 220 yards, leading to a bogey. Other than that, he found the rough only once (No. 11), and it didn’t cost him. Each hole, he would tee up an iron or fairway wood and send it screaming down the fairway.

Yes, he finally used his driver, on the par-5 fifth, perhaps to dust off the cobwebs or simply to duplicate his one-driver feat from Hoylake in 2006. But even the big stick found the short grass.

Most comparisons this week have been to that Open seven years ago at Royal Liverpool, and not just because Muirfield’s links have become brown and baked-out, too.

During that memorable week – when Woods hit only one driver all week, shot a final-round 67, won by two shots and hoisted his third claret jug – he missed 14 greens and eight fairways all week. This week, he has missed 16 greens and nine fairways through three rounds. In other words, he’s been similarly clinical with his ball-striking, but not quite as sharp.

Whether it will be good enough Sunday to topple Westwood – who is trying, at age 40, to shed the label of “Best Player Yet to Win a Major,” who is trying to prolong what has already been a historic British summer – remains to be seen.

“I’ve got 14 of these things, and I know what it takes to win it,” Woods said. “He’s won tournaments all over the world. He knows how to win golf tournaments. He’s two shots ahead, and we’re going to go out there and both compete and play.”

Those predicting a Westwood collapse might be disappointed. He’s leading the Open in putting (81 putts through three rounds), and as he showed Saturday (70), the former world No. 1 is one of the few players who can stand up to Woods (72) in a head-to-head showdown – and prevail. In their last 13 meetings, Westwood has the upper hand, 8-4-1.

But they aren’t paired together Sunday, and this is Woods’ best 54-hole position at a major since he was Y.E. Yang’d at the ’09 PGA.

Of course, much has changed since then, most dramatically his personal life, but Woods’ success at the majors – especially on the weekend – has taken a hit as well.  

In his last 20 weekend major rounds, he has shot in the 60s only once, and has been under par just three times during that span.  

There was the 74-72 weekend at last year’s PGA and the Sunday 73 at last year’s Open. There was the 75-73 weekend at last year’s U.S. Open, the late fade at the 2011 Masters (where he had the lead on the back nine Sunday) and the Sunday 75 at the 2010 U.S. Open.

How, Woods was asked, did those possible wins turn into frustrating losses?

He boiled down that complicated question to an overly simplistic answer – that each event, it came down to one or two shots, critical shots, shots that can happen early on Thursday or late on Sunday and make all the difference.

The man in the midst of the Grand Slump faced that kind of pivotal moment late Saturday afternoon, when he was tied for the lead, and his ball came up short, in the bunker. Now he is two shots back, in an uncomfortable group with his bitter, former caddie, and needing to come from behind to win a major for the first time in his career.

Woods was right – majors can come down to one shot here and there.

Getty Images

China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.

Getty Images

Putting prepared Park's path back to No. 1

By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 12:13 am

Inbee Park brings more than her unshakably tranquil demeanor back to the top of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week.

She brings more than her Olympic gold medal and seven major championships to the Mediheal Championship on the outskirts of San Francisco.

She brings a jarring combination of gentleness and ruthlessness back to the top of the rankings.

Park may look as if she could play the role of Mother Teresa on some goodwill tour, but that isn’t what her opponents see when she’s wielding her Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet.

She’s like Mother Teresa with Lizzy Borden’s axe.

When Park gets on one of her rolls with the putter, she scares the hell out of the rest of the tour.

At her best, Park is the most intimidating player in women’s golf today.

“Inbee makes more 20- and 30-footers on a regular basis than anyone I know,” seven-time major championship winner Karrie Webb said.

All those long putts Park can hole give her an aura more formidable than any power player in the women’s game.

“A good putter is more intimidating than someone who knocks it out there 280 yards,” Webb said “Even if Inbee misses a green, you know she can hole a putt from anywhere. It puts more pressure on your putter knowing you’re playing with someone who is probably going to make them all.”

Park, by the way, said Webb and Ai Miyazato were huge influences on her putting. She studied them when she was coming up on tour.

Webb, though, believes there’s something internal separating Park. It isn’t just Park’s ability to hole putts that makes her so intimidating. It’s the way she carries herself on the greens.

“She never gets ruffled,” Webb said. “She says she gets nervous, but you never see a change in her. If you’re going toe to toe with her, that’s what is intimidating. Even if you’re rolling in putts on top of her, it doesn’t seem to bother her. She’s definitely a player you have to try not to pay attention to when you’re paired with her, because you can get caught up in that.”


Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship


Park has led the LPGA in putts per greens in regulation five of the last 10 years.

Brad Beecher has been on Park’s bag for more than a decade, back before she won her first major, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. He has witnessed the effect Park can have on players when she starts rolling in one long putt after another.

“You have those times when she’ll hole a couple long putts early, and you just know, it’s going to be one of those days,” Beecher said. “Players look at me like, `Does she ever miss?’ or `How am I going to beat this?’ You see players in awe of it sometimes.”

Park, 29, won in her second start of 2018, after taking seven months off with a back injury. In six starts this year, she has a victory, two ties for second-place and a tie for third. She ended Shanshan Feng’s 23-week run at No. 1 with a tie for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open last weekend.

What ought to disturb fellow tour pros is that Park believes her ball striking has been carrying her this year. She’s still waiting for her putter to heat up. She is frustrated with her flat stick, even though she ranks second in putts per greens in regulation this season.

“Inbee Park is one of the best putters ever,” said LPGA Hall of Famer Sandra Haynie, a 42-time LPGA winner. “She’s dangerous on the greens.”

Haynie said she would rank Park with Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright and Nancy Lopez as the best putters she ever saw.

Hall of Famer Joanne Carner says Park is the best putter she has seen since Lopez.

“I thought Nancy was a great putter,” Carner said. “Inbee is even better.”

Park uses a left-hand low grip, with a mostly shoulder move and quiet hands.

Lopez used a conventional grip, interlocking, with her right index finger down the shaft. She had a more handsy stroke than Park.

Like Lopez, Park prefers a mallet-style putter, and she doesn’t switch putters much. She is currently playing with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter. She won the gold medal with it two years ago. She used an Oddysey White Ice Sabertooth winged mallet when she won three majors in a row in 2013.

Lopez hit the LPGA as a rookie in 1978 with a Ray Cook M1 mallet putter and used it for 20 years. It’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame today.

“I watch Inbee, and I think, `Wow, that’s how I used to putt,’” Lopez said. “You can see she’s not mechanical at all. So many players today are mechanical. They forget if you just look at the hole and stroke it, you’re going to make more putts.”

Notably, Park has never had a putting coach, not really. Her husband and swing coach, Gi Hyeob Nam, will look at her stroke when she asks for help.

“When I’m putting, I’m concentrating on the read and mostly my speed,” Park said. “I don’t think mechanically about my stroke at all, unless I think there’s something wrong with it, and then I’ll have my husband take a look. But, really, I rely on my feel. I don’t think about my stroke when I’m out there playing.”

Hall of Famer Judy Rankin says Park’s remarkably consistent speed is a key to her putting.

“Inbee is definitely a feel putter, and her speed is so consistent, all the time,” Rankin said. “You have to assume she’s a great green reader.”

Beecher says Park’s ability to read greens is a gift. She doesn’t rely on him for that. She reads greens herself.

“I think what impresses me most is Inbee has a natural stroke,” Beecher said. “There’s nothing too technical. It’s more straight through and straight back, but I think the key element of the stroke is that she keeps the putter so close to the ground, all the time, on the takeaway and the follow-through. It helps with the roll and with consistency.”

Park said that’s one of her fundamentals.

“I keep it low, almost like I’m hitting the ground,” Park said. “When I don’t do that, I miss more putts.”

Beecher believes the real reason Park putts so well is that the putter brought her into the game. It’s how she got started, with her father, Gun Gyu Park, putting the club in her hands as a child. She loved putting on her own.

“That’s how she fell in love with the game,” Beecher said. “Getting started that way, it’s played a huge role in her career.”

Getty Images

Teams announced for NCAA DI women's regionals

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 10:50 pm

Seventy-two teams and an additional 24 individuals were announced Wednesday as being selected to compete in the NCAA Division I women's regionals, May 7-9.

Each of the four regional sites will consist of 18 teams and an extra six individual players, whose teams were not selected. The low six teams and low three individuals will advance to the NCAA Championship, May 18-23, hosted by Oklahoma State at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

The four regional sites include Don Veller Seminole Golf Course & Club in Tallahassee, Fla., hosted by Florida State; UT Golf Club in Austin, Texas, hosted by the University of Texas; University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., hosted by the University of Wisconsin; TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif., hosted by Stanford University.

Arkansas, Duke, UCLA and Alabama are the top seeds in their respective regionals. Arizona State, the third seed in the Madison regional, is the women's defending champion. Here's a look at the regional breakdown, along with teams and players:

Austin Regional Madison Regional San Francisco Regional Tallahassee Regional
Arkansas Duke UCLA Alabama
Texas USC Stanford Furman
Michigan State Arizona State South Carolina Arizona
Florida Northwestern Kent State Washington
Auburn Illinois Oklahoma State Wake Forest
Oklahoma Purdue North Carolina Vanderbilt
Houston Iowa State Colorado Florida State
Miami (Fla.) Virginia Louisville Clemson
Baylor Wisconsin N.C. State Georgia
Texas A&M Campbell Mississippi Tennessee
BYU Ohio State Cal UNLV
East Carolina Notre Dame San Diego State Kennesaw State
Texas Tech Old Dominion Pepperdine Denver
Virginia Tech Oregon State Oregon Coastal Carolina
UTSA Idaho Long Beach State Missouri
Georgetown Murray State Grand Canyon Charleston
Houston Baptist North Dakota State Princeton Richmond
Missouri State IUPUI Farleigh Dickinson Albany
       
Brigitte Dunne (SMU) Connie Jaffrey (Kansas State) Alivia Brown (Washington State) Hee Ying Loy (E. Tennessee State)
Xiaolin Tian (Maryland) Pinyada Kuvanun (Toledo) Samantha Hutchinson (Cal-Davis) Claudia De Antonio (LSU)
Greta Bruner (TCU) Pun Chanachai (New Mexico State) Ingrid Gutierrez (New Mexico) Fernanda Lira (Central Arkansas)
Katrina Prendergast (Colorado State) Elsa Moberly (Eastern Kentucky) Abegail Arevalo (San Jose State) Emma Svensson (Central Arkansas)
Ellen Secor (Colorado State) Erin Harper (Indiana) Darian Zachek (New Mexico) Valentina Giraldo (Jacksonville State)
Faith Summers (SMU) Cara Basso (Penn State) Christine Danielsson (Cal-Davis) Kaeli Jones (UCF)
Getty Images

Leach on grizzlies, walk-up music and hating golf

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 10:47 pm

He's one of college football's deepest thinkers, and he has no time to waste on a golf course.

Washington State head football coach Mike Leach created headlines last week when he shared his view that golf is "boring" and should be reserved for those who, unlike him, need practice swearing. The author and coach joined host Will Gray on the latest episode of the Golf Channel podcast to expand on those views - and veer into some unexpected territory.

Leach shared how his father and brother both got bitten by the golf bug as he grew up, but he steered clear in part because the sport boasts an overly thick rule book:

"First of all, the other thing I don't like is it's pretentious. There's a lot of rules. Don't do it this way, don't do it that way. You walked between my ball and the hole. This guy has to go first, then you go after he does. I mean, all these rules, I just don't understand."

Leach also shared his perspective about what fuels the vibrant fashion choices seen on many courses:

"You can tell there's a subtle, internal rebellion going on with golf, and where that subtle, internal rebellion manifests itself is they really liven up the clothes. I mean, they're beaten down by all the little subtle rules, so they really liven up the clothes. Maybe have knickers, maybe they'll have a floppy hat or something like that."

Leach on the advice he would sometimes offer when friends explained their rationale for hitting the links: 

"They say, 'Well I don't go there to golf or go to take it seriously. When I go golf, I just like to have some beers.' And I'm thinking, 'You know there's bars for that? There's bars for that, and at those bars they have, often times, attractive women and music going on?'"

Leach is heading into his seventh season at Washington State, and he also described a unique hazard that can sometimes pop up at the on-campus course in Pullman, Wash.:

"In the spring the grizzlies come out, and the grizzly preserve is right across the street from the golf course. So they’ll be out, you’ll see them running around on the hills inside the preserve there. But there is this visual where, all of a sudden you drive up this hill on your golf cart, and you’re at the tee box and you’re getting ready to hit, and on the hill just opposite of you it’s covered with grizzly bears. And as you’re getting ready to hit your ball, it occurs to you that the grizzly bears are going to beat you to your ball."

Other topics in the wide-ranging discussion included Leach's proposal for a 64-team playoff in NCAA Division I football, his chance encounter with Tiger Woods before a game between the Cougars and Woods' Stanford Cardinal, his preferred walk-up music and plans for "full contact golf."

Listen to the entire podcast below: