Woods' answer to putting problem: Hit it closer

By Will GraySeptember 12, 2013, 9:11 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – One of golf’s many maxims reads something like this: If you’re having trouble making putts, just hit the ball closer.

Such was the strategy employed by Tiger Woods on Thursday at the BMW Championship, as the world No. 1 finds himself on the first page of the leaderboard at Conway Farms despite several missed opportunities in his opening round.

Two weeks ago, Woods struggled to a tie for 65th at the Deutsche Bank Championship while ranking near the bottom of the field in putting. After a week off, the 14-time major champion was able to improve his performance on the greens Thursday thanks in large part to more accurate approach shots on a course that he described as “confined” a day earlier.

Among the seven birdies Woods carded en route to his 5-under 66, six resulted from made putts no longer than 7 feet. It wasn’t until the ninth hole, his last of the day, that Woods rolled in a putt of any significant distance, a closing birdie from nearly 23 feet that left him three shots off the pace set by Brandt Snedeker.

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Normally, opening with a 66 on a relatively unfamiliar course would be cause for celebration. For Woods, though, the focus remained on the unrealized potential.

“I’m not exactly real happy,” Woods explained, sounding like anything but a man who sits tied for third. “I certainly wasted a lot of shots out there today.”

The main issue for Woods was that while many of his birdies were from short distance, his most notable misses were from even closer. His lone opening-round bogeys were the product of a pair of putts from inside 3 feet that failed to find their intended targets at Nos. 4 and 6, while a third putt from inside 5 feet for birdie on the eighth hole also failed to drop.

“I played well, I just didn’t get much out of it,” noted Woods, who reached 15 of 18 greens in regulation.

Another issue for Woods was the trio of par-5 holes at Conway Farms, each of which he played in five shots. For a player who entered the week ranked 12th on Tour in par-5 performance, and who has made a career out of capitalizing on a course’s longest offerings, the result was disappointing.

“I played the par-5s stupendously,” he noted, adding just a hint of sarcasm.

Despite what might have been, though, it’s important not to lose sight of what actually was, and the implications of today’s round for the balance of Woods’ weekend in the Windy City.

With each approach shot seemingly more accurate than the last, Woods appeared more like a member at Conway Farms than a player seeing its tree-lined fairways for just the second time. In addition to the slew of short birdie opportunities he converted, Woods also gave himself several other chances from inside 20 feet and even as the wind began to swirl on his inward nine, the world No. 1 appeared to have his iron distances very much under control.

After the round, though, Woods explained that a lack of course knowledge did affect him on the putting surfaces.

“More than anything, I think it’s just reading the greens,” he said. “The familiarity, I just don’t quite have it, and some of the putts are a little bit tricky here and there.”

Make no mistake, Woods’ efforts on the greens did little to combat signs of putting woes, a facet of the game with which he has appeared to struggle for much of the season while setting a world record for “green speed” mentions in various post-round news conferences.

At the same time, though, his iron approaches showed how a player who has seemingly been saddled with “struggles” on the greens could win five times this year while ascending to the top rung of the world-ranking ladder in a fashion that at times has bordered on dominant.

After 18 holes, Woods is right where he wants to be. Well, almost.

Though not leading, the current FedEx No. 2 is tied for third, firmly in contention and within striking distance of Snedeker at the top. Furthermore, an already limited field of 70 players has been thinned out, as just 28 were able to break par Thursday while 14 appeared to play their way out of things by carding scores of 74 or higher.

The ability to focus on missed opportunities after shooting a 66 is one afforded to few players, though Woods is certainly among that elite group. While a brunt of the attention may be paid to his short miscues, it should not detract from the iron play that has put him near the lead after just 18 holes.

It remains to be seen when, if ever, Woods will find his comfort zone on the greens at Conway Farms. One thing is certain, though: if his tee-to-green game remains as solid as it was Thursday, he might be able work his way to the top of the leaderboard – one kick-in birdie at a time.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”

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Kisner not expecting awkward night with Spieth

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:33 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It might get awkward in that star-studded rental house Saturday night.

Two of the three Open co-leaders, Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner, are sharing a house this week near Carnoustie. Though it’ll be late by the time they both get back to the house Saturday night, they’ll have plenty of time to kill Sunday morning, with their tee times not until nearly 3 p.m. local time.

“Everybody is probably going to get treatment and eating and trying to find a bed,” Kisner said. “I’m sure there’ll be some conversations. There always are. Everybody has a few horror stories or good laughs over something that happened out there. That will probably be the end of it.”

One thing they’re almost certain to discuss is the weather.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

After three days of mostly benign conditions, Sunday’s forecast calls for warm temperatures and wind gusts up to 25 mph.

“When you watch any TV, that’s all they talk about – how Sunday’s coming,” Kisner said. “It’s going to be a true test, and we’ll get to see really who’s hitting it the best and playing the best.”

Zach Johnson is also in the house – along with Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker and Jason Dufner – and he rode to the course Saturday with Kisner, with whom he played in the final group, at 4 p.m. It’s unclear whether the co-leaders Sunday will have a similar arrangement.

This is the third year that Spieth and Co. have shared a house at The Open, though Kisner is a new addition to the group.

“It’s the end of the week,” Kisner said. “Everybody’s got a lot of stuff going on. Everybody’s going their separate ways tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we’ll all sit around and laugh on the couch and talk about why that guy’s making so many birdies.”