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Woods Wins By the Numbers

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By Michael Williams

GolfWRX Staff Writer

Tiger Woods led the field in a slew of statistical categories a the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill all week, but the only numbers that mattered were 70 (his 2-under par Sunday score), 5 (his margin of victory over runner-up Graeme McDowell) and 924 (the number days since his last Tour victory). Woods posted the largest margin of victory on tour since Rory McIlroy’s 8-stroke victory in the 2011 U.S. Open.

The win was the 72nd on the PGA Tour of Woods’ illustrious career, one less than Jack Nicklaus. It was his first Tour win since September 2009, and signals at least a temporary return to the form that made him the world’s top ranked player for nearly a decade. Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 and 2 ranked player in the world, respectively, were not in the field. The victory was also his first official win with swing coach Sean Foley, as well as with caddie Joe LaCava.

Carrying a slim one-shot lead over McDowell into the final round, Woods played with both precision and flair on a course that had the look and feel of a U.S. Open. Scores ballooned as the hard-baked greens and swirling winds tested the players’ skills and their patience.

McDowell, who was looking forward to playing with Woods in the final group on Sunday, suffered an early setback with a double-bogey on the first hole. He got one back with the first of several long birdie putts on the third hole, a 45-foot bomb that closed the gap to two strokes behind Woods. But he was never able to mount a serious challenge to Woods, missing several key birdie and par putts that would have cut the lead and put pressure on Woods, finishing with a 2-over par 74.

As McDowell struggled, Woods put on a ball-striking clinic on a course where he had tasted victory six previous times. Using his re-discovered “stinger” off of the tee, Woods split fairways time after time, and then went pinseeking with impunity. Woods hit a towering 3-iron from 267 yards over the water on the par-5 sixth, and before he could attempt his eagle putt from just outside 15 feet, McDowell made his from 50 feet.

Woods was in total control of all aspects of his game, the final two holes of the front nine showed it. Woods hit an 8-iron from 182 yards that cleared the bank by a few yards and rolled within 4 feet for birdie on No. 8. And on the next hole, McDowell missed a 4-foot par putt to fall four shots behind and essentially was out of the tournament given the level at which Woods was playing.

“I think he really just kind of nailed home his comeback,” McDowell said. “Great to have a front-row seat watching maybe the greatest of all time doing what he does best — winning golf tournaments.”

Woods, who has shown flashes of brilliance in the 2012 season but had battled an uncharacteristically inconsistent putter, called the victory a culmination of months of hard work that produced a feeling of “pure joy.” Also making a return was Woods’ smile, who grinned broadly as he strode up the 18th fairway to the cheers of an adoring Bay Hill crowd. After holing out, he tipped his cap to the fans and hugged his caddie.

“I’ve gotten better, and that’s the main thing,” Woods said. “I’ve been close for a number of tournaments now. And it was just a matter of staying the course and staying patient, keeping working on fine-tuning what we’re doing. And here we are.”

Ernie Els failed in his bid to get into the Masters at Bay Hill. The three-time major champion started the final round three shots behind, but twice missed par putts inside 3 feet and shot 75. He would have needed a two-way tie for second to crack the top 50 in the world. Instead, he tied for fourth and moved up only four spots to No. 58. He will have to win the Houston Open next week to avoid missing the Masters for the first time since 1993.

Woods did not show any signs of the injured Achilles tendon that forced him to withdraw from his last Tour event. It turned out to be a mild strain, and Sunday was the eighth straight day that Woods played golf — starting with a practice round last Sunday at Augusta. Woods will skip next week’s Shell Houston Open as prepares his bid for his fifth Master victory, and to repeat his achievement of 2001 and 2002when he won the Masters after winning Bay Hill.

“It’s by far the injuries,” Woods said when asked about the most difficult part of his comeback, “because you can’t practice. I haven’t been able to put in the time. Can’t make a swing change and make all of the adaptations we need to make unless I can practice. I had not been able to do that. So being on the sideline most of last year was tough.”

Woods, 36, now takes his new swing and a revitalized putter to the course that has defined him as a player since he burst on the scene with a record setting victory in 1997. He is driving the ball straighter than he ever has, and he has greater distance on his irons. Combined with his institutional knowledge of the treacherous greens at Augusta, Woods performance immediately made the prohibitive favorite in the golf world to pick up another green jacket his year, which would put him at 15 major victories.

He’s going to be a force at Augusta,” said Ian Poulter, who shot 74 and finished third.

Michael Williams is the contributing editor of Newschannel8 Capital Golf Weekly and Bunkershot.com, as well as a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.

You can follow Michael on twitter — @Michaelontv

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. westoreshop

    Mar 28, 2012 at 3:41 am

    westoreshop Staff Writer

  2. westoreshop

    Mar 28, 2012 at 3:41 am

    Staff Writer

  3. klesta

    Mar 26, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    It’s nearly impossible to find educated people on this subject, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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Tour News

5 things we learned on Sunday of the 2018 U.S. Open

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Opportunity knocked for so many golfers, yet it was the 2017 champion who seized the moment when it was his. Brooks Koepka fired his second sub-par round of the week on Sunday to separate from playing partner Dustin Johnson, and enter the pantheon of multiple major champions. He became the 7th player to defend his title, joining old-school legends like Willie Anderson and John McDermott, mid-century icons like Ralph Guldahl and Ben Hogan, and the last man to accomplish the feat, Curtis Strange. With that introduction, let’s move to the main event, the 5 things we learned on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills.

5) The USGA gave golf a chance

True to its word, the USGA pulled out all the stops in the wee hours of Sunday morn. The course set-up team ensured that enough water was distributed to putting surfaces, that worthy shots would not be punished. Hole locations were assessed and confirmed, also ensuring that multiple opportunities for success were available. As a result, 15 golfers turned in scores under par of 70, highlighted by Tommy Fleetwood’s 7-under stunner. Although many fans, writers and players were quick to assault the organizers for losing control of the course, the USGA reminded us that it always had control of the conditions at Shinny, and that its only mistake was to soar too close to the sun.

4) Captain America ran out of gas

If Patrick Reed had been able to sign his card on the 9th tee, when he stood 5-under on the day and 1-over for the tournament, he would be in a playoff with the eventual champion as I type. Unfortunate for this year’s Masters champion was that 10 holes remained. Reed promptly bogeyed the 9th, added 3 more bogeys on the inward half, and summoned just one birdie toward the end. His fourth-place finish was his best in a U.S. Open, but knowing that victory was in the cards will sting for a while.

3) DJ and Finau gave it a run

Where to begin? How about this: DJ had four bogeys on Sunday. He totaled that many on Thursday-Friday combined. He had birdies, too, but couldn’t find the game that possessed him over the opening 36 holes. Oddly enough, this type of experience won’t be a setback for the 2016 champion. After all, he came back from a career-killer in 2015, when he 3-whacked his way out of a playoff with Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay. As for Milton Pouhau Finau, aka Tony, the Utah native had never before been in the final group on any day of a major professional championship. He acquitted himself well, standing even on the day and 3-over for T2 at the 18th tee. Knowing that he needed eagle for a playoff might have taken the final winds from his sails, and he limped home with double bogey and solo third. Looking ahead to the final August playing of the PGA Championship, Bellerive near St. Louis might just be his type of course.

2) Tom Terrific nearly made his own U.S. Open history

I’ll write this cautiously, as I’m certain I would have intimated in the 1980s and 90s that Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood would have been major champions by now. Tommy Fleetwood ought to win one of these things soon. His record-tying 63 was a short putt away from a record-breaking 62. Eight birdies against a single bogey was the stuff of legend, and if only he had trusted that final putt a bit higher on the break … that’s not fair. Fleetwood right now is the fellow to watch at Carnoustie next month. Bet a few quid or bob or whatever on the Southport native, as he should contend for the title.

1) Brooks cooks up a winning broth

It’s easy to look back and see all the great shots that the defending champion hit over the four days of the 2018 U.S. Open, shots that would win him his second consecutive trophy. Remember that 60-feet bomb to save par on Saturday? Shades of Costantino Rocca. How about the approach shots to within mere feet that earned him 5 birdies on Sunday, including a competition-killer on 16? Koepka was the guy we thought Dustin Johnson would be. Perhaps it was the time off for wrist rehabilitation early this season that gave him the burning desire to win. Out for nearly 4 months, Koepka had plenty of time to ponder what he achieved last June in Wisconsin, and what might lay ahead for him. The begged question is, does the most recent, two-time major winner have the game to acquire more of the game’s cherished trophies?

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills

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GolfWRX is live from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (par 70; 7,440 yards) in Southhampton, New York. The U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock for the first time since 2004 when Retief Goosen won (he failed to qualify for the 2018 event).

Related

Phil Mickelson, who has two top-5 finishes at Shinnecock Hills, will seek to fill out his career Grand Slam with a win this week. Also, it’s Tiger Woods’ 10-year anniversary of winning the legendary 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — that was his most recent major championship victory.

Also in the field are headliners Dustin Johnson (now ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings), Justin Thomas (No. 2), Justin Rose (No. 3), Jon Rahm (No. 4) and Jordan Spieth (No. 5).

Brooks Koepka (No. 9) is the defending champion; he won last year by four shots for his first and only major so far in his career.

Check out our photos from Shinnecock Hills below!

Wednesday’s Galleries

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Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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Spotted at Shinnecock: #RVLife, superb staff bags, stellar stampings

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We’re on the famed grounds of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club for the second major of the year. With the U.S. Open returned to such a visually and historically rich venue, it may be a bit tough to focus on equipment.

Nevertheless, we spotted some cool stuff, Tuesday, as the players move ever closer to the second major of th eyear.

Let’s get to the photos.

#RVLife propronent, Jason Day’s putter cover is incredible.

Michael Greller displays an essential caddie skill…

Face of Tiger’s wedge. Do these look like standard TaylorMade MG grooves to you?

Greatest side panel on a bag ever?

Who isn’t happy to see “Woods” on USGA tournament signage?

Shintaro Ban’s unique dot stamping is, well, money.

A look at the Bridgestone U.S. Open staff bag and headcovers.

Kenny Perry: Still gaming R7 irons.

Scott Gregory with some solid wedge stamping.

What is this lead taped and war torn beauty?

All our photos from Tuesday

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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