Woods' flaws on full display in 82 at Phoenix Open

By Will GrayJanuary 30, 2015, 9:50 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – This wasn’t how the experiment was supposed to go.

Here stood Tiger Woods, walking aimlessly through a desert left of the 14th fairway at TPC Scottsdale. Circling. Searching.

“Did anyone see where it went?” he asked.

Woods was looking for an errant drive, one that he ultimately found nestled in a bush. Thirteen holes later, a similar question was on the lips of media and fans alike after he carded the highest round of his professional career.

Who is this guy, and what has he done with Tiger Woods?

It was only two days ago, after all, that Woods was upbeat and full of promise. Cracking jokes, speaking of reformed habits and optimistic about finally embarking on a season equipped with a clean bill of health. This added tournament stop would offer much-needed reps and it would serve as a welcome return to an event most thought he had abandoned, the site of one of his most memorable moments.

The swing was good, he said, and the chipping woes of December had been beaten into submission in the offseason by hard work and repetition under new coach Chris Como.

Then he stepped to the tee under the spotlight of competition, and it all became a mirage.

Woods has experienced a variety of on-course low points in recent years, but this was uncharted territory. An outward 44 matched the score he put up at Muirfield Village two years ago, and the 11-over 82 was one more swipe than he took amid abysmal weather conditions at the 2002 Open Championship.

The main culprit Friday was the same one as Thursday, and the same as at last month’s Hero World Challenge. Woods, once blessed with a world-class short game, no longer can chip.

The stat line was woeful, but the visuals were even worse. Faced with a 35-foot pitch from behind the fourth green, Woods hit it 47 yards over the green. A 31-yard chip on No. 14 traveled only 19 yards. He stood 48 feet from the hole on No. 15, and two strikes later he was still 25 feet from the target.

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First a blade, then a chunk. Duffs followed by skulls. Woods covered the entire spectrum of poor short-game shots, improbably transformed into a 12-handicap once he stepped within 50 yards of the green.

His response after the round, as it often has in recent years, went back to mechanics.

“Well, it’s the pattern,” Woods said. “I was much deeper overall swing-wise. My attacking was much deeper with Sean (Foley). Now I’m very shallow, so that in turn affects the chipping. I’m not bottoming out in the same spot. It’s a different spot.”

Patterns and spots and bottoming out are wonderful subjects to discuss during practice rounds or offseason workouts, but they don’t help execute a shot when it counts. Faced with that task time after time this week, Woods simply appeared lost.

“It was painful to watch,” said Jordan Spieth, who played the first two rounds with Woods, “because you know his short game was once as good as anybody’s will ever be.”

Therein lies the sad truth to Woods’ current struggle: the fall not only came quickly, but from such unprecedented heights. Woods relied on his short game as an asset for years, and in turn it has now deserted him in the coldest and most brutal fashion imaginable.

Woods – Tiger Woods, for goodness sake! – has the yips.

After some prodding, Woods finally ceded that some of his troubles could be rooted in the mental side of his game, even if he quickly returned to familiar keywords during the explanation.

“It is mental to an extent because the physical pattern is different,” he said. “So obviously when the physical pattern is different, the trust is not quite there. I’m not bottoming out in the same spot. Yeah, to an extent, yes it is (mental), but I need to physically get the club in a better spot.”

The 17th hole served as a microcosm for Woods’ short-game woes, as he and Spieth were in nearly identical positions in the fairway short of the green at the short par 4. Woods stood by as Spieth confidently pulled out a wedge and spun his pitch to within 3 feet of the hole. Tap-in birdie.

Seemingly wracked with indecision, Woods hesitated before drawing a mid-iron. His bump-and-run attempt barely got airborne, and the shot stopped short of the putting surface. It led to a bogey.

The trust, the self-belief that propelled him to such amazing heights has evaporated to the point that Woods does not have the confidence to even attempt a shot that most pros consider routine. It was the fourth of six pitches, chips or bunker shots Friday that he failed to simply get on the green.

Admittedly in need of tournament rounds, Woods exits Phoenix with two fewer reps than he expected as the litany of questions surrounding his game only grows.

Now he heads to San Diego, where the search for answers will continue.

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Watch: Hahn slam-dunks ace on 11th hole

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:20 pm

There are aces, and there are slam-dunk aces. No question which one this one by James Hahn on the 154-yard 11th hole was.

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Els' nephew Rebula wins Amateur Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:05 pm

Ernie Els is one proud uncle.

His nephew, Jovan Rebula, won the Amateur Championship on Saturday at Royal Aberdeen to become the first South African to capture the title since Bobby Cole in 1966.

Rebula, a junior at Auburn, will join his famous uncle in Carnoustie next month for The Open. He also will get invites to the 2019 Masters and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

Rebula defeated Ireland's Robin Dawson, 3 and 2, in the 36-hole final.

"It’s unreal," Rebula said. "It’s really something that is hard to describe. I feel like many have been in this position before but it’s an unreal feeling. It hasn’t sunk in quite yet but hopefully tomorrow morning I can wake up and I will feel a little different."

Rebula received plenty of texts from Els throughout the week, and the encouragement paid off. Rebula opened a 1-up lead after 18 holes, and he extended his advantage by winning the 26th and 27th holes. He was 5 up with six to play before finally closing out Dawson on the 16th hole with an up-and-down from the bunker.

"It’s been a long week and especially today," Rebula said. "I should have finished maybe a couple of holes earlier, but it’s been awesome. A very tiring week. I’m standing here right now and there’s so much adrenaline pumping through me."

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Squirrel gets Rory's round off to a rocky start

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 6:42 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy’s third round at the Travelers Championship got off to a peculiar start before he even hit a shot.

McIlroy had just been introduced on the first tee at TPC River Highlands and was ready to unload on his opening drive of the day when a squirrel ran across the tee box a few feet in front of him.

McIlroy stopped his swing and laughed it off, but the squirrel continued to linger for several seconds, criss-crossing from one side of the packed tee box to the other. And while this was no black cat, the pump-fake to start his round didn’t exactly help the Ulsterman.

McIlroy ultimately blocked his drive into the right rough after enduring his brief rodent delay en route to an opening bogey, and amid soft conditions at TPC River Highlands he played his first five holes in 2 over. McIlroy started the day at 7 under, three shots behind leader Brian Harman.

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Kaymer in six-way tie for BMW International lead

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 5:29 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - Danish golfer Lucas Bjerregaard shot a 5-under 67 to equal the week's lowest round for a six-way share of the lead after the third round of the BMW International Open on Saturday.

Bjerregaard had eight birdies, a double bogey and a bogey to finish on 5-under 211 - jumping 23 places and joining local favorites Martin Kaymer and Maximilian Kieffer, England's Chris Paisley and Aaron Rai, and Australia's Scott Hend at the top of the leaderboard.

Bjerregaard was fortunate to play before the wind picked up again later in the afternoon.

Full-field scores from the BMW International Open

Kaymer, the 2008 champion, delighted the home supporters with two birdies in his last three holes for a 71.

Finland's Mikko Korhonen and Chile's Nico Geyger were one shot off the lead after rounds of 69 and 73, respectively.

Defending champion Andres Romero equaled the week's best round (67) to be among a large group two shots off the lead going into Sunday, including three-time European Tour winner Andy Sullivan.

Romero is bidding to be the first player to retain the title.