Woods suffers another failed weekend in a major

By Ryan LavnerAugust 13, 2012, 12:39 am

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – On the long walk back to the 13th tee, it’s virtually impossible to not steal a glance at the massive white leaderboard to the left. All the contenders were up there in black, bold-faced letters – MCILROY, PETTERSSON, POULTER, SCOTT, ROSE. And on the second-to-last rung, the seventh of eight names, was Tiger Woods.

A red 1: his score Sunday through 12 holes.

A red 3: his score through 66 holes.

Seven shots back at the time, his score was the highest of those still on the board, left there as perhaps a courtesy to inquiring fans. But instead it served to illustrate the obvious: It was another stalled weekend for Woods. 

And another lost year in the majors.

His even-par 72 Sunday in the PGA Championship kept alive one of the most unfathomable streaks of 2012: Not once in eight tries this season did he break par in a weekend round in a major. Woods finished this PGA in a tie for 11th at 2-under 286 – a distant 11 strokes behind winner Rory McIlroy.

In the past, we were compelled to watch Woods because it was a chance to witness history. These days, it seems, we watch because we’re intrigued. We watch because we don’t know which Tiger will show up: the guy who surgically maneuvered his way around the Ocean Course on Friday, or the guy who (on the easiest stretch of the course) made four bogeys in an eight-hole span Saturday to fall off the pace.

Not even Woods himself is quite sure anymore. Asked to explain another weekend slide, Woods offered a curious response: “I was trying to enjoy it – enjoy the process of it. But that’s not how I play. I play full-systems-go, all-out, intense, and that’s how I won 14 of these things.”

Enjoy? The pursuit of a major championship? It’s like the Terminator stopping to pose for pictures with civilians.

Arguably the most cutthroat competitor the game has ever seen – back in the day, Woods epitomized the phrase “step on their necks” – and arguably the most dominant closer in the sport’s history, conceded Sunday that during the third round he was trying to be “a little bit happy out there.”  

On Saturday afternoon, on both the range and the course, Woods was seen chitchatting with fellow playing competitor Vijay Singh – an old and sometimes contentious rival – as if they were former frat brothers at a class reunion. It made no sense, until now.

Wait, no.

It still doesn’t.

Pressed why he would change his approach – intentionally – after being so successful in this position in the past, Woods could only shake his head and say, “I don’t know. It was a bad move on my part.”

When he returns to Augusta National in April, he’ll be 37 years old and winless in his past 14 majors, the longest drought of his professional career. He’ll be 37 with a left knee that’s been operated on four times, with the psychological strain of two decades in the spotlight, with the mounting pressure that maybe, just maybe, time is running out on his pursuit to finally catch Jack Nicklaus.

Woods managed to go 0-for-4 this major season in myriad ways. Not once in four rounds did he break par at Augusta National, for years his personal playground. Two months later, at the U.S. Open, he held a share of the 36-hole lead, then shot 148 on the weekend to tumble down the leaderboard. At the British Open, he once again found himself in contention, but never diverged from his conservative game plan, even when the leaders began to pull away. Eventually, he finished T-3, his best finish in a major in nearly three years.

“The thing is to keep putting myself there,” Woods said. “I’m not going to win them all, and I haven’t won them all. But the key is putting myself there each and every time, and you know, I’ll start getting them again.”

This, however, represented as good a chance as any.

He had a piece of the 36-hole lead. He was only five back at the start of the final round, not an insurmountable deficit in this, the Year of the Meltdown. But the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island – dubbed by one prominent golf magazine as the hardest course in America – severely punishes those who stray off the fairway. So it was that late Sunday afternoon, when Woods needed to pile up birdies, post a low number and pray, two errant shots effectively ended his slim chances to contend.

Twice on the back nine he mingled amongst the red-faced and sweat-soaked spectators. On the par-4 10th, his drive sailed so far left, his ball came to rest on a sandy pathway near a garbage disposal. You could smell the hamburgers. Heck, he was so close to the concession stand, he probably could have grabbed one, too.

Such a scene was thrown into sharp relief with what we witnessed Friday from Woods: a 71 in wind-swept conditions, a ball-striking clinic, a round so spectacular that it prompted young Keegan Bradley to gush that it was one of the best rounds he’s seen. Ever.

Then Saturday came, and much like this year’s U.S. Open, Woods faded fast. (His third-round scoring average in the majors: 72.75.) Whatever the reason – he was uncomfortable with his revamped swing, he misread the Paspalum greens, he was too relaxed at Kiawah – he played the first eight holes in 4 over par, and never again was a factor. That slide prompted one wise guy in the crowd to quip that, these days, Woods takes more weekends off than a stock broker.

Now, we’ve gone more than four years and 14 majors without seeing the most prolific winner of this generation hoist one of golf’s most important trophies. The task only figures to get more arduous now, after weighing such factors as his age (37 in December), his injury history (knee and Achilles issues) and his rapidly rising challengers (impressed by McIlroy, anyone?).

In the past two years, under the guidance of coach Sean Foley, Woods has been refashioned as a punishing ball-striker. That is good enough to put him in contention most weeks – let’s not forget, for his four major flameouts, he’s still won three times this season on the PGA Tour – but even machines occasionally malfunction. A tidy short game has proved just as important.

And it is those instances when Woods “marries the two together,” as he said he did in Friday’s second round, when he is at the height of his powers. Problem is, that marriage is occurring with less frequency now. The streaky putter either slays or saves him.

Perhaps it’s no small coincidence, then, that here through two rounds, when he held a share of the 36-hole lead, he required only 48 swipes with the putter. (Said Woods, “The first couple of days, every putt just seemed easy.”) Over the weekend, he needed 60 putts when apparently his focus was elsewhere, on employing a cheery disposition.

Only on Saturday afternoon, during a weather delay, did Woods realize that his bizarre plan to soak up the moment had backfired.

It’s too bad. By then, his 2012 major season had already been lost.

Getty Images

Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

Getty Images

Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

Getty Images

Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

Getty Images

Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”