The Local Knowlege

British Open

Tiger Woods, in eyes of competitor, "has lost the desire to play"

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Colin Swatton, the longtime instructor and caddie for Jason Day, made a point this week to watch Tiger Woods hit balls on the practice range prior to the Open Championship. He was shaking his head at what he saw.

Bad, huh?

"I swear, he never missed a shot," Swatton said. "I watched him for an hour the first time, and he hit it great. He's still a top-10 iron player in the world."

But in the Official World Golf Ranking, which is never wrong even if it seems regularly inaccurate, Woods isn't among the top 200 on the planet. And that was the player who showed up on Thursday at the Old Course at St. Andrews, one of those venues he used to own when he owned his swing and, consequently, the competition.

The man who spent 683 weeks as world No. 1 struggled again in a major championship, falling grossly behind early, battling gamely, but failing to summon the necessary accoutrement of shots to do better than a 4-over-par 76. The effort was his worst as a pro at St. Andrews, where he won the Open in 2000 and '05, and his second-worst opening round in 19 starts. In addition, it marked his third straight round of 76 or higher in a major.

"There were a lot of unforced errors out there, especially early. It was not an ideal start," said Woods, who bogeyed five of his first 10 holes - and those are the easy holes. Only one other player, 58-year-old Nick Faldo, made as many as four bogeys on the outward nine.

So what is dogging the 14-time major champion at an age, 39, when he still should be a viable contender and who just two years ago won five times to run his PGA Tour victory total to 79?

“It’s tough to see," said Day, who was in Woods's group with Louis Oosthuizen. "The good thing about it is I saw him struggle a little bit before, and he came back and got to No. 1, so I know that he can get back out of this. It’s just depending on how much he wants it.”

A fellow competitor, one who has known the ultra-competitive Woods for years, says that Woods "has lost the desire to play. Except for weeks like this, he isn't all that interested." The Tiger that burned so bright has only emotional embers in the furnace, and that is not enough to prepare properly for and compete at the level he is accustomed to - or that he clearly needs.

It happened to 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus, and at an age not much older than Woods. In 1979, at age 39, the Golden Bear saw a 17-year winning streak on the PGA Tour end, forcing him to recalibrated his swing and rededicate himself. He rebounded to win two more majors in 1980, but then, he admits, he was all but tapped out. He continued to contend at various turns, but he won only three more times, sheerly on talent, with the 1986 Masters his final salvo.

The fire can be rekindled, if it hasn't first expired.

That doesn't appear to have happened to Woods, who said Thursday: "Motivation is never a problem with me. Never a problem."

Well, he does have promises to keep - sponsors and a charitable foundation to serve and support. Majors still to win, if he can muster the will. Miles to go before he sleeps.

Woods still appears to battle out there, still grinds. He doesn't mail it in. He cares enough that when he dumped his approach into the Swilcan Burn on the opening hole, a look of searing pain washed over him as he banged the shaft of his club against the bill of his cap. The bogey, followed by another at the second, sent him on his way to an odyssey eerily similar to his clumsy 80 in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.

"Discouraging, yeah. I was a little … angered a little bit," Woods said, smiling slightly. "… But I hit it really good coming home, and I made some good clutch putts. I just needed to put those balls in position for birdies instead of pars."

With the wind shifting out of the north, the final seven holes played increasingly difficult, but Woods found a way to navigate them in 1 under par.

As confirmation to what Swatton saw in those pre-tournament range sessions, Woods warmed up on Thursday splendidly. Then he chunked his first two shots. Which ignited a memory from his victory in the 2001 Deutche Bank Players Championship of Europe. "I hit the 50-, 100-, 200-, 250- and 300-yards signs, and I started off bogey, double bogey," he said. "That's the way it goes."

Only now when it goes, he can't get it back, the product perhaps of his constant tinkering with a swing that once was so pure and repeatable.

"I think we're all shocked as players how good Tiger Woods is and has been to see him struggling the way he is right now," Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open winner, said after opening with a 72. "I think it speaks volumes about what this game is all about. I'm standing here talking about lacking confidence and belief in what I'm doing [and] you see a guy like that whose career highlight reel would take days to watch. So it's an amazing game. It's a tough old game."

It's a game with a long memory and a short attention span.

Dustin Johnson is only one example of that. Not since Gary Player in 1974 had anyone led after the first round of the U.S. Open and British Open in the same summer. Johnson, a pure pugilist, fired a 7-under 65 at St. Andrews Thursday after a 5-under 65 at Chambers Bay last month that gave him a share of the top with HenrikStenson. In the same two rounds that Johnson accumulated his 130, Woods has needed 156 strokes.

Discouraging? Yeah. It's a tough old game. And it tears your heart out whether or not your heart is in it.


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Courses & Travel

Here's Tiger Woods previewing his first U.S. course design (which definitely has some Augusta in it)

Tiger Woods’ track record as a golfer is unquestioned. Whether the 14-time major winner's course-design skills match up is something we're waiting to see.

Woods has already opened courses in Mexico, and has lined up course endeavors in Dubai and China. Yet Bluejack National, just outside of Houston in Montgomery, Texas, will be his first course to debut in the United States.

“When it’s all said and done, the course is going to be more open,” says Woods in the preview video. “But more than anything, it’s very playable.”

Woods goes on to cite similarities to Augusta National’s sweeping grounds, and it’s evident in the video that the Masters’ playground was a primary influence on Bluejack (And the way Woods has been spraying his driver as of late, this unfenced terrain may be his sanctuary.)

At a cost of over $100 million, Bluejack is set to open in the fall. From the clip, Bluejack does strike as an aesthetically-pleasing venue. Take a look for yourself:


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Tiger Woods

O'Meara on Tiger: 'He doesn't look close to me'

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Former Masters and British Open champion Mark O’Meara, who took Tiger Woods under his wing when he turned pro in 1996 and has played hundreds of rounds of golf with the 14-time major champion, has joined Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and a chorus of others in recommending that the former No. 1 player in the world start from scratch and address the shortcomings in his game on his own.


“It’s so hard to understand and comprehend what has happened to him,” O’Meara said Thursday before withdrawing from the U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club. “From what I saw last week … he says he’s close. He doesn’t look close to me. I think there’s just too much going on in his head.

“Especially when he’s probably the most gifted athlete who has ever played our sport, to have Butch Harmon or Hank Haney or Sean Foley or [current instructor] Chris Como or Mark O’Meara tell him what to do … the time has come for him to just go play golf. Let him take his brain and put it in the washing machine or dishwasher and get all that crap out of his system.”

O’Meara eyes glistened slightly as he spoke in the Del Paso clubhouse following a first-round 69, and it wasn’t solely because of a painful foot injury that has hobbled him since the Senior PGA Championship. After Woods moved into O’Meara’s neighborhood in the exclusive Isleworth community in Orlando, no one was closer to him than O’Meara, who watched while Woods dominated the game and resided atop the world rankings for nearly 700 weeks.

Woods, 39, dropped out of the top 200 in the world after his game cratered at last week’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. With rounds of 80 and 76, Woods posted his worst score and worst finish in a major championship. Two weeks earlier at the Memorial Tournament, an event he’s won five times, Woods posted a third-round 85, his highest score as a pro.

It was not the direction O’Meara expected after Woods finished T-17 at the Masters in his first start following a two-month sabbatical to raise his game to a competitive level.

“I played Monday and Tuesday [practice rounds] with him at Augusta, and I thought he looked better. He had an OK tournament there,” said O’Meara, 58. “But I don’t know what he’s been working on since then. I don’t know. I’m not there.

“Look, golf is not a game of perfection. Golf is a game of consistency. Ian Woosnam’s swing is the same now as it was when he came on the tour,” O’Meara added, pointing to his fellow Masters champion seated next to him. “Yeah, we’re not as young, or as in shape, whatever, but it’s not really going to change that much. [But] when you’re fiddling around and changing this and changing that, all of a sudden you lose your confidence. Lets face it: he’s had an incredible run. His confidence was extremely high. I can’t read his mind, but I can tell you by what I see having been around him is that for him to say he is close or he just didn’t make any putts last week, I don’t buy that. He’s just too great to be doing this.”

With O’Meara moving to Houston and playing the Champions Tour almost exclusively, he and Woods, who lives in Jupiter, Fla., don’t interact regularly anymore. But O’Meara said he would be there for him if he asked, and he has his own ideas on how to get his friend back on track.

“If he were to call me tomorrow and asked for help, I would take him to a fairway bunker and I’d have him hit 5-irons and 7-irons from a level lie. He’d have to stay way more level and he wouldn’t be able to load like he’s doing now. When he’s hitting balls on the range he’s not doing that. He stays level. He gets under the gun and loads up and the golf ball is going here (points right). And then after you hit eight over there to the right you back off and hit one to the left.

“I can only push the envelope so far [in reaching out]. You can’t help somebody unless they ask,” O’Meara added. “I love the kid. I love him and respect him, and he’s made a big difference in my life. I might not have won those majors at 41 without him around. When you play against him, he elevates your game.

“So watching what has happened to his golf game, it’s hard. It’s very hard.”


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Tiger Woods

Tiger's summer schedule will remain the same after disastrous U.S. Open

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. -- A 80-76 train wreck on Thursday and Friday at Chambers Bay has relegated Tiger Woods to another missed cut. It's the latest in a series of poor results strung out over what has been his worst season to date -- in 16 competitive rounds starting at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, he has broken 70 just twice, while posting three rounds of 80 or worse. He managed a single top 20 (at Augusta National), but has otherwise limped along, either missing the cut or blowing up on the weekend. His future has never been more uncertain, and as the weeks go on and his game deteriorates, speculation grows about his place in the current game.


That speculation about his summer, at least, can stop for a while. Following his round, Woods told reporters that his schedule would remain the same despite his poor play at Chambers Bay. He'll still be in the field at the Greenbrier, the British Open and the Quicken Loans National (the tournament that Tiger hosts). It's a schedule that puts him on the course every other week through August, at which point he'll likely be focused on the PGA Championship, since he's far below the threshold for gaining entry to the WGC-Bridgestone and well outside the top 125 on the FedEx Cup points list to get into the season ending playoffs..

In the moments after his 76, Woods looked surprisingly relaxed. If he held on to any frustration from his second straight high round at Chambers, he didn't let it show. In a strange way, it almost looks like the poor results don't bother him in the same manner they would have in his competitive heyday. And while this is probably good for his mental health, you have to wonder if he's become at least a little complacent as his game diminishes.

"On a golf course like this, you get exposed," Woods said. "You have to be precise and dialed in. And obviously I didn't have that. Obviously I need to get a little better for the British Open."

Aside from those bland statements, Woods didn't offer much to reporters who wondered about his future. In certain questions with long-term implications, he would only refer to a generic need for improvement:

"Just continue practicing, continue working on it. And hopefully it will be a little bit better."

It was a half-hearted deflection, and anyone listening -- including Tiger himself -- understood that his problems go far deeper than a mere lack of practice. The greatest player of a generation is reeling, and it looks very much like he's lost all ability to stop the spiral.


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Tiger Woods

This ambitious marshal tried to silence a train for Tiger Woods, didn't succeed

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. -- Marshaling at a U.S. Open is a thankless job. Well, not completely thankless since you get a free lunch, and get to watch free golf. Most of the time you have to pay for the shirt, but it's usually a pretty nice shirt.

But that's not the point. Marshals have to put up with antsy crowds and salty players. And once in a while, they have to deal with uncooperative trains. Like this guy.

We certainly respect the effort.


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Tiger Woods

The King weighs in on Tiger: "I would never bet against him"

SEATTLE - Arnold Palmer says don’t count out Tiger Woods just yet, even with all of his recent struggles with a game he once dominated.

 “I would never bet against him,” Palmer said Monday night during a reception at a downtown restaurant sponsored by Rolex in conjunction with the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in nearby University Place. A Rolex ambassador for nearly 50 years, Palmer was the featured guest as he marked the 55th anniversary of his 1960 U.S. Open victory.
“I’m pretty careful about predictions I make about any individual,” said Palmer, 85, who has seen Woods win eight times at the King’s tournament, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, at Bay Hill Club. “Tiger is a great player and he has been a great player, which he has proven with his performance over the years. Certainly he is capable of making a comeback and playing the kind of game that he has displayed up to this point. Do I think he’ll win another major? I would never bet against him. He is in a position where he’s working very hard, and I would not want to venture that he would never win another major championship.
“Will he win another major? That’s questionable. That’s something that I don't think anybody, not even Tiger, can tell you.”
Woods, 39, won the last of his 14 major championships at the 2008 U.S. Open, but he enters this week’s championship ranked a career-low 195th in the world, and he is coming off a last-place finish at the Memorial Tournament where he stumbled to a third-round 85, the worst score of his career. He is listed at 40-1 odds of capturing this week’s 115th U.S. Open while younger stars like reigning Masters champion Jordan Spieth and world No. 1 Rory McIlroy are among the favorites.
Asked if Spieth had the potential to be the next dominant star in golf, Palmer responded: “I do. Yes. And I think there are a number of young players out there that could be major champions. And that is another factor that plays into the question of Tiger Woods and how he approaches the future in the major championships, and that’s the talent he’s playing against. It could be a factor in his chances in major championships.”


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Tiger Woods

We figured out Tiger's handicap and let's put it this way: he'd still be giving you a lot of strokes

If you heard about Tiger Woods' 85 at the Memorial last week, then you might have also heard snickering about how Woods has fallen to the level of your typical 10-handicapper. 

We probably don't need to tell you that's kind of an exaggeration. A big one, actually. And to prove it, we went to the trouble of figuring out Woods' USGA Handicap Index.

Dean Knuth is the USGA's former Senior Director of Handicapping, and a Golf Digest contributing editor (he also developed the formula for our popular Golf Digest Handicap). In analyzing Woods' 20 most recent scores on tour and adjusting for the difficulty of tour setups -- so not counting the rounds Woods has played for fun -- Knuth was able to arrive at the 14-time major champion's handicap. 

So what is Tiger? According to Knuth, Woods' handicap based on the 10 best scores of his last 20, is a +5.9. That still falls squarely into the category of "pretty damn amazing." But as you might suspect, it isn't nearly as good as Woods at his best. 

"In 2000, Tiger's Handicap never dropped below +10 the entire year," Knuth said.

More telling is Woods' "anti-handicap." That takes into account his 10 worst scores in his last 20 -- so it factors in the 85 last week as well as his 82 at the Waste Management Open in January. There Woods is a mere +0.9, which is still better than scratch, but according to Knuth, well behind those of his peers.

"The anti-handicaps of the top players on tour usually aren't worse than +6," Knuth said.


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Tiger Woods

Tiger's version of coming up big is making another cut

DUBLIN, Ohio - Tiger Woods said it best, which, given his recalcitrant reticence throughout his storied career, is rather significant news itself.
For the second straight event, Woods converted a clutch putt on the 36th hole on Friday to make the cut on the number. This time, it was a 6-footer for par at the difficult par-4 18th at Muirfield Village GC, which allowed him to run his unblemished streak to 15 weekend appearances in the Memorial Tournament.
And now the money quote:

“I just need to put myself in position where those putts are to win tournaments, not make cuts,” a noticeably exhausted Woods said after the workmanlike, scrambling par capped a 2-under-par 70. 

Five-time winner of the Memorial and the career scoring leader at Muirfield Village, Woods bogeyed two of his last three holes, but his par save at the last salvaged a 1-under 143, 11 strokes behind leader David Lingmerth.

In his previous start at the Players, Woods converted a birdie putt of 9 feet to make the cut on the number. He delivered an emotional fist pump after that stroke found the cup. This time, tired and tense after another day of poor driving, he simply picked the ball out of the hole and sighed slightly.
He improved off the tee Friday by finding five fairways, one more than the previous day, but his driving is still a significant liability, and it nearly sent him home early in his fifth start of the year. The poor tee placements limited his scoring opportunities; he hit just eight greens in regulation (17 total for two days). Woods ranks last in both fairways hit and greens hit among those making the cut.
Twenty-four putts bailed him out. He’s taken 51 official whacks with the flatstick through two rounds.
“For some reason, I feel like I’m releasing the club and my sand wedge and my putter, and everything is starting to release the same way. So it’s a familiar feeling,” Woods said with a tired smile. “I’m getting over it and feeling pretty good about it.”
Contrarily, his strokes off the tee might soon give him one. He worked assiduously on his driver Thursday afternoon following a frustrating 73, and he left the range satisfied that progress was made. It was a false hope.
“I was very happy, and had a great warm-up this morning,” he said of his practice sessions. “Basically, I hit my irons good all day. I just didn’t drive it very good. Something I need to work on.
“We’re making progress,” he insisted. “Progress, however slow, is still progress, and I’m creeping up on it. But I need to put a few more pieces together to really, really get going.”
Woods begins his third round at 8:28 a.m. Saturday with Zac Blair. Chances are, more harrowing golf is in order because he’s intent on taking more steps backwards if it means jumping ahead eventually.
“That's the pattern. I can revert back and do what I used to do, no problem, and get it in play. But the problem is then it brings in the old pattern, so what's the point of going forward?” he said. “That's the whole idea of going forward, you've got to be able to do it on the golf course, even if it's bad. Get it out there, feel it, see what it feels like and then we make the adjustments and then we go forward from there.”


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News & Tours

All things considered, Tiger's first-round 73 at Memorial was pretty remarkable

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Tiger Woods plays golf like he still owns the world. He sure uses enough of it.

Struggling to find the generous fairways of Muirfield Village G.C., a course he once dominated, Woods posted what could only be classified as a remarkable one-over 73 Thursday in the opening round of the 40th Memorial.

loop-tiger-woods-memorial-rd-1-300.jpgA five-time winner of Jack Nicklaus' invitational tournament, Woods sprayed shots like he was more intent on marking territory, not shooting a score. Only four times did he find the proper mowing pattern, also known as the fairway, which represented a career-worst performance for a guy who owns a tournament-best 69.95 scoring average. He also tied his career-worst at Muirfield Village by hitting only nine greens in regulation.

That he shot as low as 73, his third score over par in his last four rounds here, was a testament to his resourcefulness and determination.

Related: Tiger is jealous of his 6-year-old's swing

"I just grinded, that's all I did. I didn't have much with my game. ... But I fought hard," said Woods, making just his fifth start of the year. "I fought hard to get it back on a golf course like that ... it was pretty good work."

He also received a bit of good fortune. He hit it out of bounds on the 18th, leading to a double bogey, but on at least four other holes he flirted with either OB or a water hazard and played those four holes -- the 17th, first, fifth and seventh -- in even par. Somehow he made five birdies on the day, with three on the inward front nine to offset his opening 40.

Woods admitted he was frustrated, and his reactionary club slam on 18 after pumping his drive into the housing development right of the fairway, bunkers, cart path and fence, illustrated that perfectly. But he also was somewhat pleased with the overall outcome.

Related: Visiting Chambers Bay, Tiger "did a lot of homework"

"I'm excited about the fact that, one, I stuck with it, I was committed to it, and I turned that round around when it was as bad as it was," he said. "[But I'm] frustrated with the fact that I didn't hit it like I did either yesterday or warming up this morning. And definitely need to go fix that.

"I've gone through phases like this, rounds like this before in the past where, yeah, it's easy to revert back and go ahead and hit some old pattern, but it doesn't do you any good going forward. And I've done it, sometimes it's taken me about a year and then it kicked in and I did pretty good after that. And subsequent years went down the road, I did the same thing. [I've] got to suck it up. If you believe in it, do it. And eventually it will start turning, and when it turns, I've had periods where I've played good for four or five years, where I've won close to 20 tournaments in that stretch."

Not long after finishing his round, Woods, whose last of his 79 PGA Tour wins was 22 months ago, was back on the practice range at Muirfield Village with instructor Chris Como trying to work out the kinks by pounding driver after driver. He was at least 50 yards away from the next closest player on the range. There seemed something proportionally symbolic about that.


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Tiger Woods

Watch Tiger Woods recover from sloppy start with birdie on TPC Sawgrass' 4th hole (Updated)

Tiger Woods' start at the Players wasn't quite disastrous, but it wasn't encouraging, either. In his first round since the Masters, Woods missed his first two fairways badly, bogeyed his first hole, and missed a short birdie putt on the second.

Which is why Woods' birdie on the 4th hole was such a needed reprieve. After finding the fairway off the tee, Woods hit this shot to set up a short putt that brought him back to even par.

The good vibes for Woods continued on the 5th hole, when he hammered his tee shot into the fairway to set up an easy par.

Updated: Well, the good vibes lasted at least a little while. On his tee shot on the 237-yard par-3 8th, Woods hit a miserable tee shot that jutted right and traveled just 179 yards before landing in the water. He ended up making double bogey. Here's his reaction to the shot.


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