Woods puts on a show in tying career-best 61

By Will GrayAugust 2, 2013, 11:43 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Under gray skies and with a light rain falling, Tiger Woods stood over a 26-foot par putt from the fringe behind the 18th green Friday at Firestone Country Club.

Had you spent the day merely watching the man, though – not the scorecard – you might not have known if that final putt was for a 61 or a 73.

While completing a bogey-free round that tied his own course record on the South Course, equaled his lowest competitive round on the PGA Tour and seemingly put this year’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on ice, Woods at times looked like a man playing a Tuesday practice round.

“Most of the day I was just plodding along and trying to put my ball in the right spot,” explained Woods, whose 9-under 61 matched the score that he shot on this course in the second round en route to victory in 2000.

For the 14-time major champion, Friday’s record-tying round was about control – not only the control that he displayed with iron approaches, but also the command he had over his on-course emotions. Woods spent the front nine burying putt after putt, taking just one stroke on each of the first seven greens he encountered, but did so without so much as a hand raise.

“Tiger, cheer up buddy,” said one fan in the gallery lining the 11th hole, minutes before a seemingly placid Woods sank yet another birdie to move to 7 under on the day. “You’re winning.”

It was not until a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th found the hole, gently breaking back over a slight ridge before cresting over the edge of the cup, that Woods finally relented, offering a triumphant stride and fist pump. After the round, he shed light on the clinical approach that he implemented Friday, one that recalls memories of the many multiple-shot triumphs he’s accrued over his historic career.

“I just kept thinking, you know, whatever lead I had, let’s just keep increasing this lead,” noted Woods, who now holds a 36-hole advantage of more than four shots for the 11th time in his PGA Tour career. “I think it’s at seven now, I believe. So not too bad after two days.”

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Articles, videos and photos

Video: Highlights of the 59 that almost was

Beginning his day with an eagle on the par-5 second hole sandwiched between birdies on Nos. 1 and 3, it was clear from the start that Woods was likely in position for a low number Friday in Akron. For the second consecutive round, he remained dialed-in with his approach shots, affording himself an eye-popping eight birdie opportunities of 14 feet or less. He converted six of those chances.

“I hit a lot of good iron shots today,” said Woods, in likely the day’s biggest understatement.

Still, the difference between a “typical” good round and Friday’s round that brought golf’s magic number of 59 into play down the stretch was Woods’ performance on the greens. The seven-time WGC-Bridgestone champion took just 22 total putts in the second round, with his missed putt on the par-3 15th the first of 28 attempts from less than 10 feet that failed to find the hole all week. Through 36 holes, his putting performance is a far cry from that of a player who at times appeared perplexed by the surfaces at Muirfield in his most recent competitive start.

“I’m really pleased obviously with the way I’m putting, really making some nice putts from 15 feet on in,” said Woods, who is currently second behind Luke Donald this week in putting average. “It’s just a matter of getting the speed, and I’m starting the ball on my spots. My speed has been really good the last two days.”

While the round will likely be remembered for the many birdie putts that dropped Friday afternoon, Woods admitted after the round that his afternoon took a clear turn for the better on the par-4 sixth hole. Stymied behind a tree after an errant drive, the world’s top-ranked player was forced to chip out sideways into the intermediate rough. From there, though, his approach from 188 yards found the middle of the green, and his subsequent 23-foot par putt found the hole.

“I always think that it’s probably more important to make those par putts than it is making birdies. Keeping cards clean with no dropped shots is always the key,” explained Woods, who also made an eight-foot putt to save par on the 14th hole. “I get more excited when I make key par putts than even birdies. They’re momentum builders.”

Equipped with a seven-shot lead heading into the weekend, Woods now appears in command of all facets of his game – not a foreign notion for him along the fairways of Firestone. Though short misses for birdie at both the 15th and 17th holes derailed his chances to shoot a 59, he quickly dismissed any notion that he would be leaving the course Friday night with any modicum of regret.

“Am I disappointed? Absolutely not, nope,” added Woods, who is now just the second player with four sub-62 rounds on the PGA Tour since 1983. “Sixty-one is pretty good. I’m not bummed.”

While he remained largely stoic throughout Friday’s record-tying round, Woods could not help but raise his putter in triumph after holing his final putt on the home hole, salvaging par when just minutes earlier a closing double bogey appeared realistic. It proved a fitting end to an afternoon where he quite literally made nearly everything he faced, taking a large step toward what would be his eighth career title at Firestone.

“For me, when I get excited, I get excited,” explained a smiling Woods in the media center after the round. “It was nice to end the day like that and not drop a shot, and then to post the number I posted, it felt good. And I think that’s what that emotion was.”

As he walked off the final green Friday amid echoing cheers from the surrounding galleries, two truths were evident: for the past four hours, Woods was in total control of his golf game, and if history is any indication, the rest of the world-class field in Akron is in a ton of trouble as a result.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.

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S.Y. Kim leads Kang, A. Jutanugarn in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:24 am

SHANGHAI  -- Sei Young Kim led the LPGA Shanghai by one stroke at the halfway point after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday.

Kim made six birdies, including four straight from the sixth hole, to move to a 10-under 134 total. Her only setback was a bogey on the par-4 15th.

Kim struggled in the first half of the year, but is finishing it strong. She won her seventh career title in July at the Thornberry Creek Classic, was tied for fourth at the Women's British Open, and last month was runner-up at the Evian Championship.

''I made huge big par putts on 10, 11, 12,'' Kim said on Friday. ''I'm very happy with today's play.''

Danielle Kang (68) and overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn (69) were one shot back.

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''I like attention. I like being in the final group. I like having crowds,'' Kang said. ''It's fun. You work hard to be in the final groups and work hard to be in the hunt and be the leader and chasing the leaders. That's why we play.''

She led into the last round at the Hana Bank Championship last week and finished tied for third.

Brittany Altomare had six birdies in a bogey-free round of 66, and was tied for fourth with Bronte Law (68) and Brittany Lincicome (68).

Angel Lin eagled the par-5 17th and finished with the day's lowest score of 65, which also included six birdies and a lone bogey.