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Woods Finds Magic Wins Memorial

“I knew I could do this,” Woods said after collecting his 67th career victory with a score of 12-under 276. “It’s just a matter of give me a little bit of time. I just came off a pretty extended break, and I was close to winning, but the game wasn’t quite there when I really needed it on Sunday. I rectified that.” This may be the understatement of all time. “I just came off a pretty extended break”… oh and yes not only did he take a bunch of time off, but also added a family member, have a knee reconstructed, not swing a club for months. Nothing that screams “BIG DEAL”. Grain of salt and all that stiff upper lip pablum. Follow that up with three words: I rectified that. Simple statement. On the surface it would appear impossible to hide the number of hours of work the man had to put into his game to get to a level of play mere mortals have difficulty even dreaming of attaining. i don’t think he spent a lot of time watching Spongebob with the kids. Changing to a new driver with more loft, 10.5* is what I have been told, was certainly not an off the cuff decision made on the spur of the moment. I wonder how many balls he had to hit to get the results he put up during this tournament? More than twelve I bet.

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“I knew I could do this,” Woods said after collecting his 67th career victory with a score of 12-under 276. “It’s just a matter of give me a little bit of time. I just came off a pretty extended break, and I was close to winning, but the game wasn’t quite there when I really needed it on Sunday. I rectified that.”  This may be the understatement of all time.  "I just came off a pretty extended break"… oh and yes not only did he take a bunch of time off, but also added a family member, have a knee reconstructed, not swing a club for months.  Nothing that screams "BIG DEAL".  Grain of salt and all that stiff upper lip pablum.  Follow that up with three words: I rectified that.  Simple statement.  On the surface it would appear impossible to hide the number of hours of work the man had to put into his game to get to a level of play mere mortals have difficulty even dreaming of attaining.  i don’t think he spent a lot of time watching Spongebob with the kids.  Changing to a new driver with more loft, 10.5* is what I have been told, was certainly not an off the cuff decision made on the spur of the moment.  I wonder how many balls he had to hit to get the results he put up during this tournament?  More than twelve I bet. 

Sunday Mr. Woods hit 14 of 14 fairways (what say you to that oh legions of doubters who thought he should dump his Nike driver?) and 18 in a row going  back to Saturday’s round.  When Jack Nicklaus says "you found your swing", and "it may be his best driving tournament" in years the golf world listens.  As well it should. 

Mr. Woods began the day 4 shots off the lead held by Mark Wilson and Matt Bettencourt, two names most doubted would still be there at the end.  Give both players credit, Mr. Wilson finished tied for third and Mr. Bettancourt tied for fifth, admirable showings in a big time event from players not familiar with the spotlight.  Their finishes while expected, were not the collapse that other, larger names, experienced on the back nine after Mr. Woods got into contention.  Davis Love was at 10 under par after the 16th hole, needed a pair of birdies to tie the lead.  Bogey, triple bogey leads one to wonder how dry the mouth was and how hard the throat closed when things mattered.  Then there was Geoff Ogilvy whose 63 on Saturday launched him right up the leaderboard.  He was nine under par and very much in the middle of everything when he began the toughest hole on the course, the short par 4 14th.  Eight shots later (5 of them putts) Mr. Ogilvy was done.  Jonathan Byrd hit a wedge into the hole on the par 5 seventh hole for an eagle and a two shot lead, then doubled the 14th and missed a four foot birdie on the 17th hole which would have left him within one shot of the lead.  The only player to not fall back was Jim Furyk, whose final round 69 left him a stroke short of Mr. Woods. But what a stroke.

 

Four birdies on the front nine moved Mr. Woods from four back to three back of then leader Jonathan Byrd when he got to the par 5 eleventh hole.  Hit a driver 329yds, then a 5 wood 253yds through the green into the deep stuff behind the green.  “I didn’t see the lie but it had to be terrible,” said playing partner Michael Letzig, awed by Woods’ play and the circus surrounding him. “He had some wild, one-handed follow-through. I saw that out of the corner of my eye and then I saw how the ball was tracking. I just told my brother (Darren, his caddie) who was standing there, ‘Oh, my god!’ It was nuts.”  Nuts indeed as the ball rolled into the hole for an eagle three.  Follow that up with three birdies on the final four holes.  Solid indicators that the Tiger Woods of lore is back and ready to marvel the world with his play. 

On the 18th hole, with the lead, 186 yds from the hole, 7 iron in hand, Mr. Woods hit a high shot that, when it finally landed after what seemed like a commercial break, was 14 inches from the hole.  Tap in.  Welcome to the one stroke Mr. Furyk could not make up.  And the victory in front of the man who’s major tournament record he is chasing.  Fitting stuff. 

In two weeks the show moves to New York and Bethpage Black.  I have a suggestion for the rest of the field, work on your mental game.  Try and forget the guy who wears the red shirt on Sunday, play your own game.  Do I sound like a head doctor?  Maybe.  Anyhow, here’s a realist statement:  Good luck with all that.

 

 

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2 Comments

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  1. Mark Lipton

    Jun 13, 2009 at 7:03 am

    I’d like to know more about the driver set up. Higher lofted head, with a low, mid or high launching shaft? Did he change the static weight or the swing weight? How did it affect distance? Inquiring minds would like to know!

  2. 8thehardway

    Jun 10, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Tiger’s the Marlboro Man of golf, a flinty-eyed Clint Eastwood playing ‘The man with no name,’ in the golfing adaptation of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” starring Rory and a “Tiger Who?” hat as the Bad, and the collapsing games of front runners as the Ugly.

    My viewing time is limited so I just listen for the broadcast booth to play “The Ecstasy of Gold” soundtrack as Tiger starts his final run; that’s my cue to grab some popcorn and watch those classic closeups of the terrified eyes and sweating brows of the current leaders and their caddies.

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News

5 things we learned on Saturday at The Open Championship

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On Saturday, the Royal and Ancient announced that tee times would be moved up on Sunday, in anticipation of, well, British Open golf weather. Cue head scratch and chin stroke. At least the organizers didn’t opt for split tees or some other, silly-American addition to the game. On Saturday, we again watched the ebb and flow of Royal Portrush. The “strike early and hold on late” mantra that has characterized this tournament.

On Saturday, we marveled at one man’s near-mastery of this wondrous, Harry Colt design, whose absence from the Open Championship rota must never be repeated. To limit ourselves to five things learned is lamentable, but it is both burden and duty. Accordingly, here are the 5 things that we learned from Saturday’s 3rd round of the Open Championship.

1. European golf fans are marvelous, while American ones have much to learn

“Ole, ole ole ole” is the most supportive thing you can hear on a golf course. Not bah-bah-black sheep, err, booey, not mashed potatoes. Today, the “ole” was replaced with “Lowry,” in tribute to the Irish champion. There is community in European events, and much as they want their golfer to win, they support everyone who plays proper golf. There will be no appeal here to the wags who insist on cementing their unfortunate place in history as burdensome; instead, we tip our cap to the great golfing fans of Northern Ireland, who carry all who compete on the wings of appreciation.

2. Shane Lowry is happy to dream a dream

Don’t wake him just yet, thank you very much. Another 24 hours of this hypnagogic state will suit him well. The Irishman had 8 birdies on Saturday, for 63 and 197. He has 19 birdies and a mere 3 bogeys on the week. He sits at 16 shots below par, 4 clear of his nearest pursuer. No, it’s not over. It has barely begun. Royal Portush has shown that it will cede a low score to great golf, so a 62 is not out of the realm of the possible.

In truth, perhaps a dozen golfers have a chance, but you would be challenged to find a better selection of challengers. Justin Rose, Danny Willett, Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood are four Englishmen who would love to lift the Claret jug in triumph on Sunday. Brooks Koepka, J.B. Holmes and Rickie Fowler represent the American contingent who hope to spirit the trophy away to a distant shore. And lest we forget, the young Spaniard, Jon Rahm, continues to take steps toward the highest echelon of championship golf. Above them all sits Lowry, current occupant of the Iron Throne. He has lost a final-round lead in a major event before. Sunday will give him a chance to demonstrate all that he has learned in the interim.

3. Brooks Koepka blueprints major championship golf

Speaking of Koepka, he’s still here. He birdied 17 and 18, just as viewers and fans were convinced that this tournament had left his domain. Only the envious and the haters (cousins to the envious) find fault with his golf game. They attempt to marginalize his skill set, focusing in desperation on his power, calling him one dimensional. In truth, we haven’t yet seen his best. He has reached -9 with a B+/A- effort at best. If the cylinders that fired for Lowry on Saturday, find their way to Koepka’s engine on Sunday, he will claim the title. It’s not possible to say that confidently nor currently about any other golfer than him.

 

4. Tommy Fleetwood will have his major opportunity on Sunday

The Englishman did what he needed to do on Saturday, to secure the coveted pairing with Lowry in round 4. Fleetwood made 5 birdies on the day, and didn’t threaten to make worse than par. The only difference between his round and that of the leader, was his concluding run of 6 pars. Reverse hole 15-17, and Fleetwood sits at -15, while Lowry resides at -13. Fleetwood has been accurate as a laser this week, and he will need to repeat that performance from both tee and fairway, to give himself a chance at victory.

5. What will the weather bring?

Wind, for one thing. For three days, competitors have dictated the shape of their shots. On Sunday, that right will not be theirs. Winds from the left, from the right, from every possible angle, will demand that golfers play shots low, under and through the gusts, to reach their targets. Rain, for another thing. The moisture will thicken the rough, allowing balls to drop deep into the native grasses. It will cause shots to squirt sideways, perhaps down a ravine, perhaps worse. If what is predicted, comes to pass, we’re in for an entirely-new tournament over the final 18 holes.

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5 things we learned Friday at The Open Championship

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36 holes have come and gone, unexpected early departures happened for Jason Day, Tiger Woods, and all the amateurs, while unexpected extensions were granted to Paul Waring, Matt Wallace, and Innchoon Hwang. Royal Portrush was kinder in the morning than the afternoon, for the second consecutive day. What does that mean? It means that whoever has the lead today will be pressed to hold on through Saturday, then rinse and repeat for Sunday. In other words, more drama than a Snap.

Have a quick glance at what we deemed to be the five most important things we learned on Friday at #TheOpenChampionship.

1. What a difference a day makes! Wipeout Guy tosses 65 on Friday

Justin Harding is a good stick, for a tumbler. He won in Qatar this year on the European Tour, so let’s not define him by one swing of the golf club (even though we are going to show it below.) Harding uncovered 6 birdies and 1 eagle around Royal Portrush Friday morning, jumping from Even Par to, well, minus-six, with the first 65 of the week. He might win a skin for that 7th-hole eagle, if the fellows are playing for skins today. If not, He’s certainly positioned for an afternoon tee time on Saturday. Harding tied for 12th at the Masters in April, and made the cut at Bethpage in the PGA; his major-championship experience grows even more this weekend.

2. Meet The Woods

No, not the one with stripes. He’s down the road, after missing the cut. It’s early on Friday, but Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood may very well peg it together on Saturday afternoon. The English pair posted identical rounds of 68-67 over 2 days, to reach 7-below par. They find themselves tied for 3rd, behind JB Holmes and Shane Lowry. Prepare yourselves for announcers to dance around Lee having won no majors over his career, and Tommy looking to match his Ryder Cup bro, Francesco Molinari, with an Open Championship of his own. So predictable! What’s not predictable, is how the two will play on day three of the Portrush Summer Invitational.

3. Rory is the story of the 2019 Open Championship

Yes, there will be a winner on Sunday. Indeed, there will also be runners-up and various degrees of elation and disappointment. No one will come close to doing what Rory McIlroy did over the first 36 holes … and he didn’t even make the cut! David Duval spoke as much for Rory as for himself on Thursday, when he unequivocally mandated that a professional golfer signs the scorecard. Rory’s opening 8 was just a bit less gory than his closing 7. He missed a 12-inch putt on Thursday. On Friday, facing the worse of the weather draws, he tied the low round of the tournament with 65, 14 strokes better than his day-one offering. When the final flag stick was replaced in the 18th hole, he had missed the cut by those 12 inches. Odds are long that he would have challenged for the title over the weekend. McIlroy would have needed another low round to get to -5 or so, and would have needed everyone to back up substantially. In the end, he wore his home colors proudly, he never gave up, and he gave us something to cheer for, and to learn from.

4. J.B. Holmes and Shane Lowry might be cousins, in a parallel universe

Our co-leaders each sport a beard, a barrel chest, and an ability to hit the long ball when it matters. Both appear unflappable thus far, and both have exhibited an ability to go on a tear. The only thing we have yet to see from either is, the guts to come back from a rotten break or a really bad hole. If neither one faces that ultimatum, they might be in a playoff come Sunday afternoon. Lowry had a chance to separate from the pack by 3-4 strokes. He reached -10 with his 6th birdie of the day, on number 10, but that would be the final, sub-par hole of the day for him. The Irishman bogeyed 2 holes coming in, dropping back to -8 with Holmes. As neither has a major title on the resume, neither has demonstrated the capacity for success on the oldest stage. Should be an interesting pairing on Saturday afternoon.

5. So many lurkers!

Justin Rose…2 strokes back. Jordan Spieth, Dylan Frittelli and Brooks Koepka…3 shots behind. Four in arrears are Finau, Rahm, Kuchar and Reed. Many majors, much potential, and a lot of power in those 8 names. Yes, we’ll miss the guys who aren’t in contention (Bubba Watson, Francesco Molinari, Graeme McDowell) and the aforementioned ones whose watch ended early. As anticipated a venue as Royal Portrush has been, so too, will the outcome be this weekend. Get your rest, get up early, put on coffee, get some doughnuts, and enjoy breakfast the next two days!

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Equipment

Tiger Woods opts for lead tape on his Newport 2 rather than a heavier putter: Here’s why it makes sense

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After days of speculation about which putter Tiger Woods might end up with an attempt to tame the greens at Royal Portrush, we now officially know he settled on his old faithful GSS Scotty Cameron but with a twist—some added lead tape.

The whole reason the speculation was in high gear early in the week was because of Tiger was spotted with a new custom Scotty that had the Studio Select weights in the sole to increase head weight to help with slow greens, something Tiger has talked about in the past—especially when it comes to the greens at The Open Championship.

We can even look back a few years ago when Tiger finally put a Nike putter in play, the original Method (those were nice putters) and talked about both the increased head weight and the grooves on the face to help get the ball rolling on slower greens.

The decision to stick with the old faithful with added lead tape goes beyond just a comfort level, even if the two putters look the same at address, it’s about feel and MOI around the axis.

Let me explain. Sure the putter heads weight the same, but depending on where the mass is located it will change the MOI. The putter with the Select weights vs. lead tape in the middle will have a higher MOI because there is more weight on the perimeter of the head—it’s like a blade vs. cavity back iron. Sure, two 7-irons can weigh the same but the performance will vary significantly.

For a player with such deft feel like Tiger Woods, any change like that can could cause doubt. Tweaking an already great putting stroke and on the eve of the last major of the year is not really something you want to do, which is why it isn’t surprising he stuck with his legendary Newport 2.

Lead tape in the middle allows Tiger to increase the head weight with very little change to the natural rate of rotation for hit putter and hopefully manage the slower Portrush greens better.

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