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Tiger allows journalists to finally write THAT story

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We’ve been writing it in our minds for over 10 years, you know. Since the glory at Torrey, in June of 2008. No one imagined that 10 years and 10 months would pass before Tiger Woods would move from 14 to 15 major titles. We’ve been writing it since April of 2005, when Phil Mickelson draped the green jacket on Woods’ shoulders, 14 years ago. Despite the best efforts of Xander Schauffele, Francesco Molinari, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, we finally get to write our story, his story.

Tiger Woods won the 2019 Masters tournament, in the 83rd telling of the golfing rite of spring. He won quietly, with a bogey at the last, accompanied by the reigning Open champion, Francesco Molinari, and Woods’ 2018 Ryder Cup teammate, Tony Finau. Molinari led most of the final day, until a pair of double bogeys did him in. Finau was also in contention, until the tiniest of flowers tore his heart. To the credit of both, they rebounded from disaster to finish in a tie for fifth, at 11 under.

Ahead of Woods, magic was taking place on a day threatened by the weather gods. Dustin Johnson, for whom Masters success has been long predicted, reached the clubhouse at 12-under par, on the strength of a Sunday 68. Johnson birdied four of his final six holes, in a Greg Norman-esque charge. Like Norman, he came agonizingly close to victory. Tied with Johnson were Schauffele, who overcame a mid-round case of bogey indigestion with five birdies in seven holes. Schauffele could not find the necessary birdie over the final four holes, to reach 13 under and put even more pressure on Woods. Also at a dozen under par was Brooks Koepka. The double defender at the U.S. Open joined Molinari and Finau in Rae’s 12th-hole, double-bogey lagoon, but rebounded immediately with eagle at the 13th, to pick up the chase. Koepka had another birdie at the 15th but, like the X Man, the crucial number would remain an excruciating step away.

And what of Woods? He and Molinari played a game of cat and mouse from the first tee into Amen Corner. Molinari opened with eight pars, plus one bogey, and one birdie. Meanwhile, Woods had three of each to also remain at even on the day. No blood as the reckoning arrived. It appeared that Woods flinched first, as his drive at 11 dropped into the right-side trees. There was a gap, though, and that was all that Tiger required. As on Saturday at the 14th, as so many times before, he threaded the needle and found the putting surface. Disaster averted, Golden Bell on deck.

The Fates selected the 12th, as they had so many times in the past, to encourage an outcome at Augusta. Both Finau and Molinari inexplicably found the water. Neither one fanned the blade open; they simply underclubbed, or misjudged the wind, or caught the ball a groove too high. Woods watched each one rinse, then aimed at the left edge of the bunker, toward center green and safety. His par to their doubles ensured that the game was truly afoot. Woods would birdie 13 and 15, reaching 13-under par. Molinari did rebound with birdies at 13 and 17, but another double bogey, at the 15th, would assure that victory at Augusta was at least a year off for him.

Far ahead, both Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas found the precise slope point at 16, allowing their tee balls to find the cup in one for an ace. How’s that for a skins game? Not even an ace gets you any cash! Woods came to 16 in need of his A game, and he found it. Not quite the ace, but close enough. He tapped in for two and a two-stroke lead, heading toward the closing holes.

Perhaps it was Saint Earl watching over his son from above. First, it was Fowler, missing a short birdie putt at 16. Next came Cantlay, making bogeys after eagle at 15 gave him the lead. Later, it was Koepka, missing from 11 feet at the last, to reach Tiger’s winning score of 13 under. And also, Dustin Johnson, hitting a silly driver at 18 into a fairway bunker. He did well to get it on the green, but his 20-something feet putt came up short of -13 as well. The chances were there, but the competition failed to cross the threshold. Woods was partially blocked by trees on his approach, and wisely chose to lay back of the green. His pitch reached 10 feet, and two putts later, his and our wait were over. 22 years after father and son hugged to celebrate Tiger’s first major championship, another father and his son hugged to celebrate the 15th.

The wheel turns, the ball rolls on.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Tika

    Apr 16, 2019 at 12:17 am

    He absolutely striped his irons, dont think he misses one on back….pure ballstriking under pressure….say this or that but at end of day he was one better than field…just like any other tourney….

  2. Eric C OBrien

    Apr 15, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Best account I have read – explains why Tiger was short at 18 – I got distracted and was confused by that – Koepka had missed birdie putt so Tiger knew he only needed a 5 after being blocked by trees right !

  3. Me2

    Apr 15, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    You notice how when his girl tried to kiss him on the mouth he turned his face away and just gave her a hug? Poor girl. Why wouldn’t he give her a nice long smooch for the cameras? We all know what’s going on there, don’t we

    • Not Me2

      Apr 15, 2019 at 3:14 pm

      What is the matter with you? You win clown comment of the day award.

      • gff

        Apr 16, 2019 at 2:18 am

        He’s only writing down what he observed, just like this article.

    • Pelling

      Apr 15, 2019 at 5:35 pm

      I think he was chewing gum.

  4. S

    Apr 15, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Do you think the result would have been the same had the tee times been normal, 2somes, in the afternoon? The eternal question

    • norom detector

      Apr 15, 2019 at 3:19 pm

      And would you have said that if Johnson or Molinari or another player won? I doubt it.

      Now go fluff your lie before the rest of your foursome catches up to you.

      • Idiot Detector

        Apr 15, 2019 at 6:40 pm

        That’s why it’s a hypothetical question for eternity

  5. Bobbyg

    Apr 14, 2019 at 11:47 pm

    It’s still amazing that Tiger is even playing golf after his surgeriess. Miracle comeback.

  6. Jamie

    Apr 14, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    First off, his story is not “our” story. Second, Earl was not a saint in the least. Today’s nonstop slurpfest by CBS re-confirms that golf commentary is dead.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 14, 2019 at 8:59 pm

      Sure it is, lad. His story is our story.

      So he was a saint in the most?

      What do you want from your golf coverage, steamy exposees? Hard-hitting, investigative journalism that uncovers the scandal behind the ANGC sub air drainage system?

      The easy way to write this piece, in my estimation, would have been to focus on the victor’s flaws and why we should not care if he ever won/wins again. That’s a chop piece, better left to the checkout rags.

  7. Just Believe It

    Apr 14, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    When are you fanboys gonna wake up? Dude is done! lololololol

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5 things we learned on Friday at the U.S. Open

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Although there were no Hale Irwin nor Geoff Ogilvy sightings on course (well, there was a virtual one of the later, thanks to Mike Tirico and air pods), the Winged Foot West Course that showed off on Friday was identical to the one that ruined psyches in 1974 and 2006. Say what you will about traditional U.S. Open set-ups—they are bad with a capital “B” for the game, because they convince members that thick rough, uber-fast greens, and tucked hole locations are something for everyday play.

Three golfers broke par on day two, and they were a combined 4 under. 62 golfers survived the cut at 6 over, placing all survivors within 10 strokes of the leader. This day was less a celebration and more a reckoning. We learned way more than five things on this day, but we’ll hold our tongue and keep it to the standard quintet. Make way, then, for the five things we learned on Friday at the U.S. Open.

1. Par wins the U.S. Open

After a few years of enjoyable national championships, the USGA saw fit to make its field suffer like none in recent years. Even the 2015 shoot out at Chambers Bay offered recovery options. Winged Foot, like so many golden-age courses in the northeast, depends on rough that tickles your armpits as a defense. The greens are super-cool in their circumferences, which bear no similarity to any shape you saw in geometry. They possess rolls, splines, and acclivities galore, to compel anyone outside of ten feet to scrutinize every angle of the remaining expanse. This is the witches’ brew that the tournament committee whipped up for the occasion of preserving par in 2020. Seconds, anyone?

2. Patrick Reed is your leader

Each time that Reed recovered from an impossible situation, I almost leapt from my chair to cheer. Each time that he ripped a driver into an unhittable fairway, an iron into a guarded green, I nearly exploded with a guttural yawp. Then I remembered, he’s not Captain America anymore. He’s more Annakin Skywalker, and he has some ‘splaining to do.

If you don’t think as I do (and I’ll confess that I inhabit a yurt of madness) you applauded the Texan as he found a way to shoot par—while the other first-round leaders went four, five, even six strokes over par. Through two rounds, Reed looks as good as any other. Fact is, he has the major title that many of his challengers lack, and that will prove valuable as the weekend beckons.

3. Bryson’s time is now

No one has prepared for this event as Bryson has. #BigBangTheory has tweaked both body and equipment. The result through two rounds is the second spot, one behind Reed. Punctuated by a silly eagle at his 36th hole, where Bryson tamed the par-5 9th with driver, 9-iron, DeChambeau’s 68 was low round of day two. Toss out all his victories at this point. Saturday’s duel with Reed will be the great test of the single-length shafts, the bionic putting set-up, and the formulae and hypotheses swirling in his subconscious. On his side is this fact: only golfer to shoot under par both rounds. If string theory shoots 140 over the weekend, I predict that he wins.

4. Trending…Surviving…Surprising

Hideki dropped two shots, and Bubba dropped three. They are the other two lads to break par in round the second. Korn Ferry Tour regular Stephan Jaeger went from 71 to 70. He would be the ultimate surprise winner, amiright? Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, and Matthew Wolfe—all were given the opportunity to blow up to an 80, but each found a deep, gritty gear and remained inside the top ten after two. Remember point #1? That grit defines this year’s U.S. Open.  Brendon Todd and Jason Kokrak are two golfers no one would have picked to be in the mix at this point, but they are precisely the type of golfer that appears at this point in each U.S. Open. The negative for them is, they don’t necessarily know what to do next, and their kind usually doesn’t hang around. The positive for them is, they’ve found something that works and they have nothing to lose.

5. Joaquin might steal the show

Jack Lemmon once said of John Daly that he had the guts of a burglar. There is the slightest chance that Joaquin Niemann might possess that attribute as well. The delegate from the world’s thinnest country continues to play himself into contention. He has a PGA Tour win to his credit, on a course not dissimilar to Winged Foot West. Will the heat of major Saturday be too much? Methinks it won’t be, and that Niemann will still be in the top 10, with an outside chance of winning on Sunday.

Five Things is still hot on Xander Schauffele to win…and mourns the passing of a doughty supreme court justice.

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Equipment

WRX Insider: Rafa Cabrera Bello swapped out his whole bag in less than 24 hours during U.S. Open Week

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I have been covering the PGA Tour heavily for almost two years and obsessed with it for 25. I have never heard of anything like this, and at 2 under going into the weekend with rounds of 68 and 70, Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello may have the craziest equipment story of the year.

It’s not uncommon for a player to make a wedge change, metal wood tweak amongst a couple of other things on any tournament week—but a full bag fitting and immediately putting it all in play—on the week of a major? Unheard of in my travels.

Let’s just start with what Cabrera Bello showed up to Winged Foot with.

Driver: Titleist TS3 (8.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting) *9.5 pictured from earlier in the year
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Yellow 75 6.5

3-wood: Titleist 915F (15 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Project X 10A2 100 7.0

5-wood: Titleist 915F (18 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Project X 10A2 100 7.0

Irons: Titleist 718MB (3-PW)
Shaft: Project XLZ 7.0 130

Wedges: Vokey SM7 Tour Chrome (48-10F, 54-08M, 60-04L)
Shaft: Project XLZ 7.0 130

Putter: Scotty Cameron Tour Rat GSS Newport 2

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

I had to get the inside scoop, so I chatted with Titleist Tour Rep J.J Van Wezenbeeck to find out how this crazy scenario came to be. This is nuts—especially before a major.

Here’s what he had to say

“Rafa has always liked a lower ‘European’ ball flight and very stable shafts and through the years we have used statistics to move his ball flight up slightly but he likes all his club heads to match and with stable feeling shafts – see 7.0 LZ and 10A2 fairway wood shafts. 

“During TS launch Rafa realized his driver needed to come up and moved from 8.5 to 9.5 which increased lauch conditions substantially. 

“During the 620/T100 iron launch we discovered his long irons could be better and moved to U500.

“The last few weeks Rafa has struggled and with his swing coach on site this week he realized he needed to go farther. The first look was testing LZ 6.5 in his irons. He had better directional control and increased spin slightly which was needed. 

“He was so excited about the feel and results that he said “Let’s go! Show me woods!”

“He loved the look of the new driver and after some shaft testing saw Project X Hzurdus RDX Blue 60 increase ball speed, launch and carry. The RDX Black 80 in both fairways gave him the same feel through the set. 

“This was all done Monday afternoon to Tuesday morning.” 

The new setup is as follows

Driver: Titleist TSi3 (9.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS RDX Blue 60 TX

3-wood: Titleist TS3 (15 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS RDX Black 80 TX

5-wood: Titleist TS3 (18 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS RDX Black 80 TX

Irons: Titleist U500 (3,4) Titleist 620MB (5-9)
Shafts: Project X LZ 6.5

Wedges: Vokey SM8 (48-10F, 54-08M, 60-04L)
Shafts: Project X LZ 6.5

Putter: Scotty Cameron Tour Rat Newport 2

Ball: Titleist ProV1X

He’s in contention and will perhaps be in the final group with Bryson come tomorrow afternoon. As a total gearhead, this story warms my heart and soul like very few do. I’m quietly praying he gets it done this weekend. That would be one hell of a story.

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Morning 9: USO round 1 update | Peacock fiasco | JT, Reed, Rory, Tiger, and more

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1. At the top: JT (-5), Reed, (-4)
David Shefter for the USGA…“This venue that has dished out more over-par winning U.S. Open scores than any other in the post-World War II era (3) offered some leniency on Thursday in the opening round of the championship’s 120th rendition.”
  • “Perfect weather conditions coupled with receptive greens led to some of the world’s best players turning the tables on this challenging layout.”
  • “Led by Justin Thomas’ 5-under 65 – the lowest round ever recorded in a U.S. Open contested at Winged Foot – 21 players posted sub-70 scores on the 7,416-yard, par-70 West Course designed by A.W. Tillinghast. Thomas, the 2017 PGA champion, has plenty of company at the top of the leader board. Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, carded a 66 that included a hole-in-one. He is joined at that number by a pair of NCAA champions, Thomas Pieters (2012) and Matthew Wolff (2019).”
  • “Rory McIlroy, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, is among a group two strokes back, along with Louis Oosthuizen and 47-year-old Lee Westwood.”
2. Rory starts strong
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…“The most technical reason Rory McIlroy could give for why his opening rounds in major championships haven’t been his best in recent years was also the simplest: golf.”
  • “Maybe putting myself under a little too much pressure to get off to a good start,” McIlroy said. “The first round of a major you’re always anxious to play well, and maybe I’ve overthought it at times. I just went out today and just took what was given to me a little more relaxed and played really nicely.”
  • “That “relaxed” approach lifted him to a first-round 67 at Winged Foot, McIlroy’s lowest opening round at the U.S. Open since 2011, the U.S. Open that McIlroy won. It was also the lowest opening round for the Northern Irishman in any major since the 2014 PGA Championship, which he also won. In those 20 starts, he had a 72.35 scoring average.”
3. The great Peacock switch
Golfweek’s Todd Kelly…“NBC has a new app, maybe you’ve heard of it, or even Googled it. It’s called Peacock.”
  • “If you’re trying to watch the U.S. Open Thursday afternoon and you can’t find it, you probably feel like flipping someone the bird.”
  • “The 120th U.S. Open was on Golf Channel for six and a half hours earlier in the day and then on good old, over-the-air, free NBC for three hours but the final two hours of live golf have switched over to Peacock.”
  • “Problem is, Peacock doesn’t quite have Netflix-level penetration across the U.S. and many sports fans are probably still scrambling as this story was being typed, looking for that app..”
4. Opportunities squandered and a 73 for Tiger
Mark Cannizzaro at the NY Post…“Tiger Woods had his chances. Then he blew them.”
  • “Woods, 44, was on the cusp of vaulting himself into contention in Thursday’s U.S. Open first round at Winged Foot with a string of three birdies from Nos. 9 through 11 to get to 1-under par.”
  • “Then it all went wrong for him. In the end, Woods was victimized by too many unforced errors and tumbled down the leaderboard with a 3-over 73. He is in a tie for 71st place, eight shots out of the lead held by Justin Thomas, one of his playing partners.”
  • “After the round, Woods, who finished with a sloppy double bogey on the 18th hole, referenced his poor finish no fewer than six times, obviously agitated by it.”
5. DJ struggles
Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…“On a day of record-low scoring at Winged Foot, Dustin Johnson could only manage a 3-over 73.”
  • “The world No. 1 made only two birdies in softer, easier conditions Thursday to sit eight shots off the lead of Justin Thomas, whose 5-under 65 was the lowest score in six U.S. Opens held here.”
  • “I didn’t play great, didn’t make any putts,” Johnson said. “Obviously tomorrow, if I shoot a few under, I’ll get back in the golf tournament.”
6. …Phil too
AP report…”He found a grand total of two fairways over a 5-hour slog through the thick grass, sand and greens that he couldn’t figure out. He three-putted twice over the final four holes — including once from inside of 9 feet — and finished at 9-over 79. That tied his worst opening round in any major in his career.”
 
7. …and Spieth
Here’s the first helping of an excellent piece from Cameron Morfit at PGATour.com on Jordan Spieth’s opening round…”Jordan Spieth sounded exhausted. Frustrated. Cooked.”
  • “His 3-over 73 was far from the worst round at the 120th U.S. Open at Winged Foot, but it might have been the most eventful. He got his ball stuck in a tree (second hole, double-bogey), made three straight birdies (holes 4-6), hit just three fairways (Phil Mickelson style), and putted well (Jordan Spieth style).”
  • “At least there, on the greens, the 27-year-old still looks like the 2015 FedExCup champion.”
  • “There’s a lot that’s off,” he said. “I’m not really sure. If I knew, I’d fix it. So I’m kind of just – kind of working through it and looking forward to having a little more time off to figure it out.
  • “I mean, yeah, I’m late behind it,” he added. “The second I try to get back out in front of, it’s hooking.”
8. Kinder gentler Winged Foot
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…“Few sports cling to the past like golf and Winged Foot’s history is a brutish tale. In ’74, there were eight rounds under par … for the week. In ’06 when Ogilvy won – and, yes, Phil Mickelson lost – there were a dozen under-par rounds for the week and just one on Thursday, when the scoring average ballooned to a soul-crushing 75.98. By comparison, Thursday’s average of 72.42 looked like a typo.”
  • “There were two holes-in-one on Thursday, both at the par-3 seventh; Louis Oosthuizen holed out for eagle at the par-4 second hole from 148 yards; Rory Sabbatini had seven birdies on his card. And there were several more long shots and long putts that found the bottom of the cup in Round 1.”
  • “In the preamble to this week’s championship many players warned of the approaching storm that is the West Course, but some were comfortable acknowledging soft greens and perfect scoring conditions.”
  • “I did a radio show yesterday and told them I think guys will shoot 3 and 4 under … I could see somebody being 4 or 5 under through two rounds,” Brendon Todd, who carded a 68, said before offering an ominous warning, “then a little harder on the weekend.”

Full piece.

9. Davis Thompson and the all-Georgia threesome 
More good stuff from Cameron Morfit of PGATour.com reporting from the Winged Foot.
  • “The phone was in the bag. He put it there before the round, and by golly, it was going to stay there. Instead of snapping a photo, caddie Todd Thompson looked at the leaderboard and burned it into his memory.
  • “Davis Thompson, his 21-year-old son, was at 4-under-par and leading the 120th U.S. Open.”
  • “It was cool to see his name up there,” said Todd, who in his day job is the tournament director for The RSM Classic, the PGA TOUR’s regular stop in St. Simons Island, Georgia.”
  • “Cool? Well, OK, that’s an understatement, but then Todd and his son are understated guys.”
  • “Thompson bogeyed three of the last six holes for a 1-under 69 at Winged Foot, just four back of early leader Justin Thomas, while playing partners Harris English and Brendon Todd each shot 68. The all-Georgia group were the only threesome to all shoot under par in the morning wave.”

 

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