Three for One

first_imgRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Lexi Thompson is the one without scars. Yeah, you can’t see them on Michelle Wie and even the legend, Se Ri Pak, but they have struggled to return to this kind of stage, to a weekend on the leaderboard at a major championship. Sure, their stories are vastly different, but Wie and Pak share a common struggle in giving themselves the chance to win this Kraft Nabisco Championship. There’s still a long way to go, but if Wie or Pak is going to walk away with the Dinah Shore Trophy Sunday at Mission Hills Country Club, they might have to go through the big-hitting, youthful Thompson to get there. With an 8-under-par 64 Friday, Thompson shot up the leaderboard to gain a share of the lead with Pak (70). Thompson left Mission Hills with momentum after posting the best round of the day. At 7-under 137, Thompson and Pak were a shot ahead of Wie (71) after two rounds. Thompson is just 19, but she’s already a three-time LPGA winner. When she won the Navistar Classic at 16, she was the youngest player to win an LPGA event. When she was 12, she played in her first major, becoming the youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. Kraft Nabisco Championship: Articles, photos and videos “This is one of my goals, to win a major this year,” Thompson said. Thompson is full of confidence and youthful ambition. She’s the kind of fearless player that Wie said she used to be when she was young. “You don’t know what failure is,” Wie said after Thursday’s first round. “I’ve had my ups and downs.” Wie, a two-time LPGA winner, knows failure. She has battled through injuries, slumps and burnout but looks poised for what swing coach David Leadbetter calls her “second coming.” She said her swoon is part of who she is today. “You just go out there and you’re grinding and grinding, and you don’t see any improvement,” Wie said. “I think that’s when you get most frustrated, with the least confidence. “I’m just really grateful that I went through that because I know how I overcame that. If I ever get where I’m not confident, I know how to get past it now.” Wie’s swing looks free again. Her ball-striking this year has been impressive. That’s partly due to the fact that she is less technical and analytical. She’s trying to play with the feel she played with as that young phenom. Wie is so committed to that, she quit looking at video of her swing. “It’s always a battle for me because I’m such a perfectionist,” Wie said. “I try to do everything perfectly. I’m really trying not to look at my swing, just really feel it and just try not to be perfect, just kind of hit some shots instead of trying to make a perfect swing. “It was hard. I almost felt like a bit of an addict. I really wanted to look, `Am I doing it right?’ But once I stopped looking at it, I don’t even want to look at my swing anymore. I don’t want to rely on my eyes again.” Wie is playing golf again, instead of just making swings. “When I was young, way younger, I just tried to hit the ball hard, to hit it far,” Wie said. “I definitely think I’m kind of going back towards that.” Wie’s putting, with that unorthodox “tabletop stance,” has been mostly good, but there’s still the occasional short miss between good par saves. She missed a 2 ½-footer for par on Thursday. She missed a 3-footer for birdie on Friday. “I was really proud of myself for making those par saves today,” Wie said. And a little good fortune never hurts. Wie got a lucky break at No. 2, her 11th hole. She hooked her tee shot hard toward the out-of-bounds stakes, but it hit a tree and bounced into the middle of the fairway. She made birdie. “Pretty lucky shot there,” Wie said. Pak, 36, is feeling fortunate to get herself in position to win her sixth major championship, her first Kraft Nabisco. Pak, of course, inspired a nation of South Korean girls with her U.S. Women’s Open and LPGA Championship titles in ‘98. A Hall of Famer, Pak has won 25 titles but just one over the last seven seasons with her last major coming eight years ago. Burned out after her meteoric rise, Pak came to a crossroads. “One moment, all of a sudden, I just hated golf,” Pak said. Pak found herself on driving ranges not wanting to be there, but she said she’s finding balance in her life. “I now understand the game of golf,” Pak said. If she found herself hoisting the Dinah Shore Trophy come Sunday, Pak said she might relish the moment more than she did winning majors in her youth. “Right now, this moment is probably the best I’ve ever had,” Pak said. “I find my game, I find my life. It’s just great to be out here.”last_img

Langer, Bryant share lead at Insperity Invitational

first_imgTHE WOODLANDS, Texas – Bernhard Langer birdied the final six holes for a share of the lead with Bart Bryant on Friday in the Champions Tour’s Insperity Invitational. Langer matched Bryant at 6-under 66 at The Woodlands Country Club. Langer won the 2007 event at Augusta Pines and successfully defended his title in 2008 at The Woodlands. The 56-year-old German won the season-opening event in Hawaii for his 19th Champions Tour title and has 20 straight under-par rounds. The birdie streak tied Dan Forsman’s 2009 tournament record. ”You want to keep going,” Langer said. ”I was sad the day was over. I would’ve liked to try a few more holes to make a few more birdies.” Bryant won the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open last year for his lone victory on the 50-and-over tour. He rebounded from a bogey on the par-5 13th with three straight birdies. ”I felt like it was a real anomaly, but then to hit a really good iron shot and salvage the bogey was pretty big,” he said. ”That kept my spirits up.” Defending champion Esteban Toledo was a stroke back. Last year, he became the first Mexican winner in Champions Tour history, beating Mike Goodes with a par on the third hole of a playoff. ”I just have to get used to the position where I’m at,” Toledo said. ”I’m not scared. I’ve played on the tour against Tiger in front of 50,000 people. Maybe more than that. I’m not afraid to lose. I might lose but I’m not afraid.” Toledo, who moved to The Woodlands after last year’s tournament, said he is still in a whirlwind from that win. ”To be honest with you, I can’t believe I see my pictures on those little badges,” he said. ”It’s funny to me. I’ve never seen anything like that. It kind of got me going.” Woodlands resident Jeff Maggert, Fred Funk and Joe Daley shot 68. Maggert won in Mississippi in March in his first start on the 50-and-over tour. Funk won the 2012 event and the 1992 Houston Open on the course. Fred Couples, the 2010 winner and a former University of Houston player, had a 69. He won in March in Newport Beach, Calif.last_img read more

All Tiger Needs is Love?

first_imgEditor’s Note: Click here for Davis Love’s response. Tiger Woods needs a new swing coach. Shortly after his lost year ended with a missed cut at the PGA Championship, Woods announced that he would no longer be working with Sean Foley. The announcement came as no surprise. After all, Woods hadn’t won a major title since hiring Foley in 2010 and 2014 had been a disaster – even if injuries were a big part of the problem. And so the speculation began – and continues, even though Woods said on Monday that he’s in no hurry to find a replacement. Who will Woods hire next? The rumors that he would try to go back to Butch Harmon, who was his coach during his most dominant days, started instantly. That’s not happening. Harmon works with Phil Mickelson and Woods and Mickelson sharing a teacher would be roughly the equivalent of the Yankees and Red Sox sharing the same manager. Hank Haney? Forget it – did you read the book? Swing coaches worldwide have been mentioned. One list of candidates included the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee – who wouldn’t be a bad choice – and Woods’ ex-wife, Elin Nordegren. There’s one name that appeared on ZERO lists who would be the perfect pick for Woods, even though he’s never been a fulltime swing coach, mostly because it would have involved a massive pay cut. Davis Love III. Before you roll your eyes, give it some thought. Love is the son of the late Davis Love Jr. who was one of golf’s most revered and respected teachers before his tragic death in a private plane crash in 1988. Because of who his father was, Love grew up around great golf teachers – among them Harvey Penick – and has an understanding of the golf swing and how to fix swing flaws that goes beyond most of his peers on Tour. For years, Love has been a go-to guy on the range when players are struggling. Golf is unique in that it is the one sport where competitors will help one another when one of them is struggling. Remember the last time Woods had a hot putter, back in 2013? He credited the improvement to a tip he got from Steve Stricker. Love is a very confident teacher. Years ago, Tom Kite, who was one of Love’s mentors on Tour when he first came out, approached Love on the range in Greensboro and asked Love if he would take a look at his swing. Love agreed – on one condition. “I don’t want to walk out here tomorrow and see you asking someone else for help,” he said. “I’ll tell you what I think but you better listen and you better not be trying something else a couple of days from now.” Kite, as Love explained later, is one of those guys who is constantly seeking swing advice. “If a guy walked up to him on the street and suggested a change, Tom might listen to him.” Kite agreed and the two men went to work. Love doesn’t just know the golf swing, he knows how to teach the golf swing. He’s been doing it in one form or another all his life. There’s more – Woods likes Love, which is a statement that can’t be made about a lot of other players. He also respects him, which is an even shorter list. They’ve known each other since Woods first started playing Tour events as a teenage amateur. It is impossible not to like Love. Woods would listen to him and he would enjoy spending time with him. That’s no small thing. Plus, Love wouldn’t worry about telling Woods the truth about his swing or his game because he doesn’t need the job and won’t be worried about getting fired. The timing is perfect. Love turned 50 in April. He can play on the PGA Tour forever because he has 20 victories, which makes him a member for life. He played 22 times on the PGA Tour this year and his highest finish was a tie for 35th place. Clearly, he could migrate to the Champions Tour whenever he wants and probably beat up 6,500-yard golf courses with slow greens. But he doesn’t really want to do that. Back in June, he stood in the locker room at Congressional Country Club – during the event sponsored by Woods’ foundation – and talked about his future. “I’m going to play here (PGA Tour) for as long as I can,” he said. “I know there will come a time when I have to go over there (Champions Tour) but I hope it isn’t for a while.” Most top players feel that way when they turn 50. They still believe they can find the magic one more time while competing against the best in the world. Reality sets in at some point and off they go to the world of 54-hole, no cut tournaments. Love knows that time will come – but, at the moment, isn’t very fired up about it. (For the record, he’ll make his senior debut this week in Hawaii.) Why not take a hiatus for a couple of years and see if you can fix the greatest player (arguably) in golf history? There will still be plenty of time to be successful on the Champions Tour if and when Love chooses to go there full time. He is already a lock Hall of Famer but this would be a unique addition to his resume. Think of it: Won 20 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1997 PGA Championship; Played on six Ryder Cup teams and captained the 2012 Ryder Cup team; Fixed Tiger Woods. Love can do it. He might even want to do it – if asked. It isn’t as if there’s a no-brainer, this-is-the-guy-for-Tiger swing coach out there. Why not try something out of the box? The last time inside the box worked in a tournament Woods truly cares about was six years, and two swing coaches, ago.last_img read more

Curran co-leads soggy Nelson; Spieth moves up

first_imgIRVING, Texas – Jordan Spieth wasn’t sure what par was at his hometown AT&T Byron Nelson and thinks it actually might have helped him through some frustrating early holes. There’s a reason the Masters champion was uncertain – overnight rain turned one of the signature par 4s at the saturated TPC Four Seasons into a pitch-and-putt par 3 at 105 yards for the second round Friday. Spieth had a birdie 2 along with most players within three shots of second-round leaders Steven Bowditch, Jon Curran and Texan Jimmy Walker. Gary Woodland had a hole-in-one when it was still possible that the easy wedge over a pond would play as a par 4, before tour officials made the switch. ”I was able to fire at more pins, not really worry about anybody else,” said Spieth, who shot 64 – 5 under because par became 69 to put him at 6 under for the tournament. ”Really actually helped because I didn’t know what score I was at when it’s a par 4, 4 par, par 3, don’t really know what it’s at.” Walker, who won the Texas Open not far from home in San Antonio in March, finished with a par at 18 just before play was halted by darkness. He had a 66 to reach 9 under. AT&T Byron Nelson Championship: Articles, videos and photos There were 33 players on the course after the start was delayed three hours. ”I got little kids,” said Walker, a five-time winner who is second to Spieth in FedEx Cup points. ”We didn’t want to have to get up earlier again and go do that.” Bowditch, the first-round leader, shot 68 with seven birdies and six bogeys. Curran matched the day’s low round at 63. All three were at 130 with the two-round par total at 139 instead of 140. Cameron Percy was a shot back after an eagle at the par-5 seventh for a 64. Defending champion Brendon Todd shot 68 and was 1 over for the tournament with the projected cut at 1-under 138. The fairway at the normally 406-yard 14th was deemed unplayable in the landing area after 5 inches of rain fell starting about midnight, pushing the total to about 17 inches in less than three weeks at the Four Seasons course. Texas officials have declared May the wettest month in the state’s history. Muddy footprints marked the area where a dip in the fairway funneled down to a rain-swollen canal off to the right. Standing water covered the ground under some trees, about the same spot where Spieth chipped out in Thursday’s first round and ended up with a bogey. The temporary tee box was on the fairway side of a pond that wraps around the left side of the green. Tour officials believe it was the first such alteration since the 2005 WGC-Match Play Championship, when flooding at La Costa in Carlsbad, California, temporarily turned a 467-yard par 4 into a 162-yard par 3. ”It was really tricky,” said the 21-year-old Spieth, who birdied his final three holes at Nos. 7-9. ”We get up there and it’s 105 yards, but it’s off a steep upslope and really muddy. I don’t think we’ll see that, if ever, again, something like that.” Curran, a 28-year-old rookie looking for his first PGA Tour win, shot 29 starting on the back nine, with the same boost as others on the 300-yard head start at 14. He had bogeys on the first and sixth holes to prevent a serious run at a 59 – with an asterisk of course. Percy, a fellow Australian with Bowditch, played the 14th while going 5 under through his first 10 holes. He shared fourth with Dallas resident Ryan Palmer (66). ”I quite enjoy it. I love that tee shot,” said Percy, who turned 41 this month and has never won on the PGA Tour. ”Happy to get out there and drop it at 105 yards. I got up and down, so that was nice.” Nick Watney had a bogey-free 65 and was in a group at 7 under that included 48-year-old Jerry Kelly, who also shot 29 while starting on the back nine. Yes, he had a 2 on 14. ”I would have counted those as 1-under par 4,” said Kelly, who had the last of his three tour wins in 2009. ”That’s all I got to say.” There’s another strong chance of overnight storms into Saturday, but the forecast improves considerably later in the day and into Sunday. Workers spent about six hours getting the course ready starting around 4 a.m. Friday and might have to do it again. ”They’ve probably not really enjoyed each night for the last month or two months,” said Spieth, who finished 16th in his first pro tournament as a 16-year-old amateur at the Nelson five years ago. ”But hats off to them and hopefully they can catch a break now.” And the players can know what par is.last_img read more

Spieth stresses focus as ever-changing scrutiny swirls

first_imgLAKE FOREST, Ill. – Tiger Woods has come to understand how it works. Now Jordan Spieth is learning all about the modern, 24/7, hyper-social sports media culture. After all, talk shows need something to discuss for all of those hours … and websites need something to put on all of these blank pages … and social-media managers need something to type with 140 characters or less. And so earlier this month, when Spieth missed consecutive cuts for the first time in his brilliant career, he scrolled through his Twitter and Instagram feed, past the posts about his beloved Longhorns and Cowboys, and stumbled upon a few pictures of himself. There was a theme: He was annoyed, frustrated, tired. “It’s actually amazing the amount of pictures photographers must take to get these crazy reactions that randomly you don’t think anybody is around that you’re giving and they capture it,” he said. Here he smiled. “It’s not the most flattering of pictures that happen when you’re not playing well.” And after one of the best major seasons ever, no, Spieth has not played well during this playoff run. Poor opening rounds on tough golf courses have left him with too much work to make up, and as a result he has missed two cuts in a row for the first time as a pro.  On his personal panic meter, the early exits at the Barclays and Deutsche Bank rate pretty low. He took some time off, attended a few football games, and after a little work says he feels “very confident about where I’m at right this second.” Can’t blame him, because even after his recent struggles, the two-time major winner is still guaranteed to be among the top five players in the FedEx Cup standings next week at East Lake, giving him a clear shot at the $10 million bonus. BMW Championship: Articles, photos and videos And besides, Spieth joked that there’s no way his oh-fer can continue here outside Chicago – there is no cut with only a 70-man field. “I’m happy to be checking into my hotel, and when they ask what day I’m checking out, I can say, ‘I’m checking out on Sunday,’” he said.   But Spieth’s social-media experience offered a glimpse into a professional athlete’s mindset in these rapidly changing times. The question that prompted all of this was whether he was aware of the “What’s Wrong with Jordan Spieth?!” chatter that has been so prevalent on TV, websites and social media over the past week and a half. “I’m not aware of the specifics of what Joe sitting on his couch in Montana thinks about my golf game,” he said Tuesday, “but it’s interesting how it’s a what-can-you-do-for-me-now? kind of thing when the spotlight is on. I’m that way with sports teams, so why can’t people be that way with me?” Now this is where it really gets good, when he brings in the rest of the Tour’s new world order, with Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler. “Everyone has their opinions, and the hardest thing for me to do is to not react to that and just to say, you know what, two weeks ago, everyone said, ‘You’re the best there is. You’re awesome, man.’ Not a bad thing said. And then Jason wins, and it’s ‘Jason is the best in the world, man. He’s awesome.’ “And then Rickie wins. Rickie wasn’t even what you guys were talking about. You guys were talking about me, Rory and Jason. Rickie wins, and all of a sudden people are coming out of their igloos and they’re saying, ‘Man, that’s my guy. He’s the best in the world.’ It’s just, what can you do for me now?” He’s right, of course. In this hot-take, pageview- and ratings-driven world, there’s little room for perspective and thoughtful analysis. Patience? Puh-leeze.  McIlroy made his own observations about the ever-changing narratives during his eight-week break because of injury. Last year, he was alone at the top. Then, during the summer, it was Rory and Jordan. And now? Well, it’s a three- or four-pronged attack, depending on whether you want to lump in the majorless Fowler with the newly formed Big 3.  “We live in such a world that everything is so reactionary and everything happens so quickly,” McIlroy said at the PGA. “Eras last about six months these days instead of 20 years. With social media and everything having to be instant, it’s the world that we live in.” Indeed, Spieth, McIlroy and the rest of the Tour’s new stars are simply getting a taste of what Woods has dealt with his entire career. Even the most scrutinized golfer of all time recently weighed in on the sport’s shifting dynamics: “We didn’t have a Tiger Tracker where everything is tweeted about every shot I hit and where it’s placed. Trust me, I hit some shots and I went through some rounds where it was really bad, but nothing was reported. So things are scrutinized a little bit differently than when I sent through some certain parts of my career, but that is the day and age we live in.” It’d be reasonable to expect a letdown from Spieth after he became only the third player in history to record top-4 finishes in all four majors, but he swears he’s not dealing with a major hangover. He was asked the same questions after the Masters, The Players and the U.S. Open. Each time, he responded. “There wasn’t a letdown this year,” he said. “I just had two bad weeks.” So, no, his world wasn’t crashing down, and no, the situation wasn’t nearly as bad as his Twitter mentions and Instagram posts would lead you to believe.   Spieth realizes now that there is only way to stay “relevant” these days: continue to play great golf. “You just need to keep your head down, stay focused,” he said, “and try and be the guy that people are talking about next week.”last_img read more

Spieth: ‘Bit too soon’ to judge any new era

first_imgSHANGHAI – Jordan Spieth wore a black tunic with red trim around the collar to take part in a Chinese drum ceremony late Tuesday afternoon just as the Shanghai skyline began to glow with lights behind him and three other top players. This was the traditional photo opportunity to kick off the HSBC Champions. One observer noted that Spieth had not dressed like that since graduation, which for him was only four years ago – from high school. The landscape in golf is changing quicker than the rapid beat of those Chinese drums. One year ago, Spieth wasn’t even in the top 10 in the world and had only one win as a pro. Since then, the 22-year-old Texan has won seven times around the world, including the Masters and the U.S. Open, along with a Tour Championship that capped a record $22 million year. He is looked upon as the future of American golf. At least for now. Also on the stage with Spieth was 26-year-old Rickie Fowler, who is coming off a big year of his own. Fowler won three times, the biggest at The Players Championship where he delivered perhaps the greatest finish of the season when he made three birdies on the island-green 17th to win a tension-filled playoff. Jason Day couldn’t make it to China. The 27-year-old Australian is home awaiting the birth of his second child. And the drum beat had to go on without 26-year-old Rory McIlroy, who was coping with a stomach ailment. Not to be overlooked are the three winners of the new PGA Tour season – Emiliano Grillo (23), Smylie Kaufman (23) and Justin Thomas (22). That explains why PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem sounded at ease when asked Monday about golf moving along without Tiger Woods. [[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_original”,”fid”:”1263916″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”701″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”width”:”1442″}}]] Click here for photos from the WGC-HSBC Champions ”We are headed for a long period of parity with a lot of stars being developed,” Finchem said at the HSBC Golf Business Forum. ”And in today’s world, you can become a star in a hurry. It’s a great thing. The professional game is in exceptionally good shape. But I think the next 10 years are the most exciting we’ll ever see to this point.” It sure seems that way. The top three players – Day, Spieth and McIlroy – are all in their 20s and hail from three continents. Players in their 20s won three majors for the second straight year. That had occurred only twice in the previous four decades, and one of those years was 2000 when a 24-year-old Woods won three majors. Woods had another back procedure last week – that’s three in the last 20 months – for another clear sign that his time is about up, if it isn’t already. But leave it to Spieth, with his wise head on such young shoulders, to preach patience and perspective. A new era in golf? ”I think it’s a bit soon,” Spieth said. ”For Rory, it’s different because it’s been consistent for years now. Jason and I, we’ve played solid golf the last few years. In order to create an era, you almost need a decade of years like this. Sure, we have the potential to do it. But this was the first year of it. But unless we keep our heads down … unless we’re aware of it, and it drives us, and we get the right breaks, there’s a lot of factors. So maybe it’s a big premature to say that. ”But,” he added, ”I believe there was a step needed in the right direction, and it took place this year. If we can ride with that, it will be significant.” Spieth looks at this as a new year, and the World Golf Championship that starts Thursday at Sheshan International is his first event of a new PGA Tour season. McIlroy, still catching up from the two months he missed this summer from an ankle injury, is wrapping up another Race to Dubai title the rest of the month. The beauty of having a cast of stars so young, as Fowler noted, is that they can battle each other for the next 10 or 15 years. Then again, maybe the conversation might include a different list – or a longer list – of players at this time next year. That seems improbable now, but consider where golf was a year ago. McIlroy was No. 1 and the only debate was which player was best suited to challenge him. McIlroy now is No. 3, and the list is growing. ”The top five in the world ranking, we’ve seen now in the last two years how much that changed,” Spieth said. At the end of 2013, the top five included Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson. Spieth suspects things will stay in motion. ”I believe we’ll all battle it out,” he said. ”But to battle it out on highest stages and to stay up in the ranking and all that … it can happen. But it’s going to take more than just this year.”last_img read more

Scott critical of Olympics format; still not a priority

first_imgMELBOURNE, Australia – Adam Scott reiterated on Wednesday that he’s no certainty to play at the Rio Olympics next year if he qualifies, and also was critical of organizers for not including a team event. Scott, who begins play in the Australian Masters on Thursday at Huntingdale, is in line for Olympic selection alongside Jason Day in Australia’s men’s team when golf returns to the Olympics next August for the first time since 1904. ”I’ve been pretty open and outspoken that it’s not really a priority of my scheduling next year which is based around the majors, and if the Olympics fits in then it does,” Scott said Wednesday. ”There is a gap in the schedule there … some time off looks quite good, actually.” Scott said he would have liked Olympic chiefs to ”be a little more creative than a little 72-hole stroke-play event.” ”I’m not really sure how just having another golf tournament is going to enhance the game or grow the game more than any other tournament anywhere just because it’s the Olympics,” Scott said. ”Certainly with the field criteria, it doesn’t necessarily get the strongest field in the game, either. ”Some kind of team event, even a mixed team event with the guys and the girls … I think that could have generated some real electricity,” he added. ”That’s nothing to take away from the Olympics, but I’m just not sure that they have got it quite dialed in with the format and might have missed an opportunity there to do something pretty special for golf.” IOC officials have said it’s possible a team event could be added to the golf program for 2020 in Tokyo. Scott won the Australian Masters at nearby Kingston Heath in 2012 and at Royal Melbourne in 2013, but he’s lost in playoffs twice at Huntingdale – in 2002 and 2003. The tournament was played at Huntingdale from its inception in 1979 to 2008, but first shifted to other courses in 2009, when Tiger Woods won at Kingston Heath. ”Personally I’ve had a couple of close calls here in the past and it’s fun to be back here with the challenge of trying to go one better,” Scott said. Last week, Ernie Els, the other promoted drawcard at Huntingdale, pulled out of the tournament to spend more time with his family. Australian amateur Ben Eccles, who won last week’s New South Wales Open title, turned pro Wednesday and is also competing at Huntingdale. The Masters is the start of the so-called Australian Triple Crown. The Australian Open, with defending champion Jordan Spieth and Scott in the field, is being played next week at The Australian in Sydney, followed by the Australian PGA at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast from Dec. 3-6.last_img read more

Wood, Fitzpatrick highlight Lawrie Rd. 1 wins

first_imgNORTH BERWICK, Scotland – English golfers Chris Wood and Matt Fitzpatrick secured easy first-round wins at the Paul Lawrie Match Play on Thursday as they look for a victory to cement a place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team for the first time. Wood recovered from losing the first hole to Brett Rumford and won 4 and 3, while Fitzpatrick got out to a 6-up lead after nine holes before closing out a 4-and-3 win over Thomas Bjorn. Wood is the top-seeded player at Archerfield in Scotland and, like Fitzpatrick, currently occupies a spot in the European team for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine next month. Tournament host Paul Lawrie advanced to the last 32 by beating Lucas Bjerregaard 4 and 2. Renato Paratore of Italy was the biggest winner in the first round, beating Stephen Gallacher 7 and 6. Gallacher, who played in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, was making his return to the European Tour after recovering from a career-threatening wrist injury. Haydn Porteous of South Africa, Roope Kakko of Finland, English players Oliver Fisherand Matt Southgate, and Spanish players Eduardo de la Riva and Alejandro Canizares all required extra holes to win their matches in the last 64. In a change to the schedule, the European Tour said the Round of 32 and the Round of 16 will both take place on Friday because of severe winds being forecast for Sunday.last_img read more

22 years later it’s, ‘Hello, again’

first_imgNORTON, Mass. – “I guess, hello, world.” It was a sheepishly delivered line that changed golf. Within days, Nike Golf turned the remark, be it spontaneous or otherwise, into a marketing franchise and within 24 hours Tiger Woods set out on a historic journey at the Greater Milwaukee Open. “The last few years seemed like it took centuries. I was struggling a bit. But just looking back on it, I remember so many shots from my early start in Milwaukee. I remember all that,” Woods said on Thursday at the Dell Technologies Championship when asked to reflect on that start 22 years ago. “That it’s been 22 years since then, it has gone by more fast than I would have imagined.” The 1996 GMO wasn’t where the world learned that Tiger was special – an incomparable amateur resume had already checked those boxes – but it was where the prodigy turned pro. The fans that descended on Brown Deer Park in late-August to catch a glimpse of the can’t-miss kid may not have known what was in store, but John “Jumbo” Elliott had a pretty good idea what to expect. “I had played with [Woods] at Riviera when he was 16 years old,” explained Elliott, who was deep into his third full season on the PGA Tour in ’96 when the computer spit out the grouping of a lifetime. “It was funny I was playing with [Robert] Gamez in a practice round, and told him that I’d played with [Justin] Leonard in his first [round as a professional] and [Charles] Howell in his first. I said, ‘I’m probably going to get paired with Tiger.’” Photo gallery: Tiger Woods’ pro debut at the ’96 GMO Dell Technologies Championship: Articles, photos and videos Elliott knew what to expect for his first two days with the heir apparent – huge crowds, mayhem and an impressive new brand of golf; but as his 1:36 p.m. tee time approached he was surprised by the lack of buzz. “After he did the ‘Hello, world,’ moment the night before, we were on the range hitting balls, I was like, ‘This is odd, no one is here.’ I went to the first tee, they were five to 10 [people] deep,” Elliott said. “It was a U.S. Open crowd on a Saturday or Sunday.” But if the crowds were predictable – and they were given the hype of Tiger’s pro debut – the quality of play was not. After all, Woods would not be the first transcendent athlete to fall short of expectations, but as the round unfolded Tiger turned out to be exactly what the experts thought he was. Tiger birdied Nos. 3 and 4 and added an eagle at the par-5 sixth hole to move to 4 under par. What Elliott most vividly remembers was his game off the tee, with Woods hitting five of his first six fairways … with a driver, no less. That kind of proficiency off the tee hasn’t exactly become Tiger’s calling card now that he’s two decades removed from that groundbreaking moment. By comparison, he found just 9 of 14 fairways each of the first three days last week at The Northern Trust, where he tied for 40th. “When I played with him he would aim that driver right center and hit a trap draw right down the middle,” said Elliott, who recalled Tiger roping his opening drive 337 yards down the middle of the first fairway. “If he would just do what he used to do. I don’t know why he still doesn’t do that?” Woods is more of a high cut guy now, although given his stats he’s no less impressive in the power department. But Elliott’s point is valid. That first edition of Tiger, the one before injuries robbed him of countless seasons, was as good as advertised in every aspect of the game. Tiger would go on to shoot 67, beating Elliott by a stroke, and finish the week tied for 60th. The next month he’d win his first Tour event, the Las Vegas Invitational, on his way to a two-victory season and his first start at the Tour Championship. It was, by any measure, an impressive start even by the unrealistically high expectations the golf world had placed on the then-20 year old’s narrow shoulders. Elliott’s path wouldn’t cross with Tiger’s again for eight years, after he’d won eight of his 14 majors “In 2004 I’d been on the Web.com Tour and made it to the U.S. Open. I was on the range and I went up to Tiger and said, ‘If I would have fallen asleep in 2000 and woke up in 2004 and you’d have won all these majors I wouldn’t have believed it,’” Elliott recalled. “He said, ‘me, too.’” In a unique way Tiger is now in a similar position. For the first time since 2013 he’s been able to play a full season on Tour and he continues to inch closer to another seminal moment in his career following near-miss victories at The Open and PGA Championship. “I told my buddies at the Dye Preserve [Golf Club] in the winter, I’ve always said he will win if he’s healthy. It may take some time but if he stays healthy he could win three or four more majors,” said Elliott, who caddies at the Dye Preserve when he’s not chasing his dream of playing the PGA Tour Champions. As Tiger continues to check off competitive boxes, the blueprint looks vaguely familiar to Elliott. He recognizes this most recent comeback and a path that’s starting to feel like a “Hello, again” moment.last_img read more

New Rory faces same old test: Win the Masters

first_imgAUGUSTA, Ga. – Around these parts, comfort is often fleeting. Past Masters champions can use this place to mark the passage of time, conjuring confidence with each memorable trip around Amen Corner. But for other players, the ones not invited to Tuesday’s Champions Dinner, any sense of stability is usually served in small doses.  Augusta National makes you work for every stroke gained, and they can all be taken away in the blink of an eye. No one in this week’s field knows this better than Rory McIlroy, who has never looked more lost than when he explored the eastern frontier of the 10th hole during the final round in 2011. Comfort was non-existent last year as soon as he shoved a 3-foot eagle putt on the second hole Sunday, sparking four hours of confounding mediocrity. So this time as he returns to these hallowed grounds, with the final leg of the career grand slam more within reach than it’s ever been, McIlroy is switching gears. Call him Rory the Renaissance Man. McIlroy’s start to the 2019 season has been nothing short of ideal. Seven top-10s in seven starts, perpetually in contention before breaking through with a win at TPC Sawgrass. Every form-related box has been checked by the man currently leading the PGA Tour in total strokes gained. The Hope Diamond may contain more flaws than his game, as currently constituted. It’s gotten the attention of bookmakers, who have listed him as a consensus favorite this week, as well as his peers. Asked who he’d wager on to win this week if not himself, Jon Rahm didn’t hesitate. “Rory is playing unbelievable golf. I mean, he’s playing the best golf he’s played in a long time,” Rahm said. “This is who I see right now playing the best, and somebody who fits really good to this golf course.” Of course, green jackets aren’t handed out for pre-tournament plaudits. It’s been 14 years since the player favored to win here actually pulled it off, and McIlroy’s pursuit brings with it the extra scope of the slam. No player in history has made the Masters his fourth and final leg, and no player to successfully complete the superfecta has needed more than three cracks to do so. 83rd Masters Tournament: Tee times | Full coverage They are all facts with which McIlroy is well aware as he makes attempt No. 5 this week, having contended in each of the previous four but fallen short every time. In recent months, he has pulled out all the stops, making holistic improvements off the course with the hopes of both improving his on-course results and detaching his self-worth from them. He “dabbled” in meditation beginning last year, even logging a 20-minute session before his victory last month at TPC Sawgrass. He’s taken up juggling, still stuck at keeping no more than three balls in the air at a time. And when asked to list his favorite book he read in the last year he quickly rattled off four titles, all geared toward self-improvement. “It’s searching until you find what resonates with you,” McIlroy said. “I found what I feel is the best path forward for me, and I’ve committed to it.” While his scores are still dictated by birdies and bogeys, McIlroy has begun to focus more on what he calls the Ps: among them perspective, persistence and poise. All of them might just unlock the Masters riddle for the Ulsterman, who remains in search of that elusive green jacket as he nears his 30th birthday. He has openly spoken about the toll some of his close calls have taken, and he doesn’t shy away from the burden that comes with chasing the one tournament that has managed to elude him. “It’s definitely taken me time to come to terms with the things I’ve needed to deal with inside my own head,” McIlroy said last month at Bay Hill. “I think sometimes I’m too much of a fan of the game, because I know exactly who has won the grand slam, and I know exactly the people I would be putting myself alongside.” Even though he’s in the midst of his best golf in nearly five years, McIlroy’s is an unenviable position. With external expectations at an all-time high, he knows all too well that a single missed putt or errant drive could lead to 12 more months of facing the same barrage of azalea-laden questions. It’s a delicate balance between believing your game is strong enough to win a major and coping with the potential that someone else might walk away with the trophy in a given week. Phil Mickelson had to wait until age 34 to win his first major, facing a similar line of questions to the one that currently follows McIlroy around each spring. When, how and why not now? “That’s always a challenge when you put so much emphasis on winning a particular event, but it’s also the chance to bring out your best,” Mickelson said. “You just need those little breaks, little putts here or there to go in, little things to happen that push you into the winner’s circle and that’s probably all that he’s waiting for this week. You can’t force it. It just has to happen.” Whether it happens this week – McIlroy finally translating years of near-misses into a new wardrobe addition – remains to be seen. But one thing that’s certain is that the man who strides to the first tee Thursday morning will be a far cry from the one who got lost in the woods eight years ago. Outside of the name on the caddie bib, he might not bear a striking resemblance to last year’s version, either. This is a newer, calmer, more confident McIlroy, one who is spending as much time honing his craft during the day as dog-earing pages digging into guided meditation techniques at night. That shift in strategy has paid off in a big way thus far, and it’s also afforded him what could prove to be an elixir once the pressure starts to mount over the weekend: a pervading sense of peace and, yes, maybe even a little comfort. “I keep saying this, I would dearly love to win this tournament one day,” McIlroy said. “If it doesn’t happen this week, that’s totally fine. I’ll come back next year and have another crack at it. But I’m happy with where everything is, body, mind, game.”last_img read more