Even while clearly struggling, Tiger Woods' scoring average this season is below 70.
Ordinarily Tiger Woods would star as himself this time of year, but in his absence England's Justin Rose has stepped in to do an expert impersonation.
Rose won the AT&T National on Sunday, his second victory in three starts. Only a final-round 75 at the Travelers Championship prevented him from going three for three, and given his quality of play of late he would warrant consideration as the favorite at the British Open next week.
That 75 notwithstanding, Rose's scoring average in those 12 rounds is a Tiger-like 67.4 strokes, few of them excessive putts. The stat of the week: Rose played 274 consecutive holes without a three-putt, a streak that ended on the 10th hole on Sunday. That's 15.2 rounds without the dreaded three-jack, which goes a way in explaining the run that Rose is enjoying.
As for Tiger, it's certifiably a slump by his standards, but is it a cause for alarm, particularly with a British Open at St. Andrews on deck for him?
"I'm really excited," Woods said, despite his having tied for 46th at the AT&T National. "I've driven the ball better this week than I have in a very long time. It's fun to hit the driver that way. I hit driver as many times as I possibly could because it felt so good. I just wanted to keep hitting it. That hasn't been the case lately. So it was nice to get dialed in. [But] I obviously need to get my putter working a little bit better."
WOODS BY THE NUMBERS
Beyond his confidence in the driver, there are statistical hints that he's not far off:
His scoring average is 69.98, which would rank him eighth on the PGA Tour (he hasn't yet played enough rounds to crack the official ranking).
He remains the best long iron player in the game and would rank first on approaches from 175 to 200 yards and 200 to 225 yards and second from outside 200 yards.
Though his putting has been spotty, he's still steady from three to five feet (he'd rank fourth).
But here are his areas of concern:
His percentage of greens in regulation is 64.2, which would rank him 117th.
From less than 125 yards, he would rank 190th.
From outside five feet, his putting has been statistically abysmal (from 20 to 25 feet, for instance, he would rank 181st).
As for the general state of Woods' game, the British Open will be his litmus test. He's won both Opens he's played at St. Andrews, which he considers his favorite course in the world.
Incidentally, Woods hasn't won in six tournaments in 2010, the second worst start of his career. In 1998, he did not win until his ninth event.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES AGAIN
Brits have won five straight weeks internationally -- Rose (the Memorial), Lee Westwood (the St. Jude Classic), Graeme McDowell (the U.S. Open), David Horsey (the BMW International Championship on the European Tour) and Rose (the AT&T National).
Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." is not a patriotic song, though CBS employed it as one in a Fourth of July bit in its Sunday telecast of the AT&T National. It is a common misconception about the song, as a quick internet search will reveal.
This from Rolling Stone magazine: "Not surprisingly, many fans took 'Born in the U.S.A.' as an upbeat patriotic anthem, although the song was actually about the dead ends hit by a Vietnam vet."
KERR, BY A HEAD
It's a fool's errand attempting to handicap a golf tournament that doesn't involve Woods at the top of his game. But here goes: Cristie Kerr will win the U.S. Women's Open this week by a head.
Apparent in her 12-stroke victory in the LPGA Championship is that her mental work with Dr. Joe Parent is paying dividends, allowing her mind, finally, to catch up with her talent.
"What we have worked on was ... turning commitment toward execution rather than any thoughts of outcome," Parent said. "It's not something unique to our work. It's any kind of performance work that I do with anybody. What Cristie was able to do was get out of her own way and let her talent come out. The goal is not to shoot a particular score. It's to maintain a commitment to the quality of the routine and execution on as many shots as possible that day. (The LPGA Championship) was reminiscent of Tiger's win at Pebble Beach (in the 2000 U.S. Open). His goal for himself was to play a bogey-free round on Sunday. For her, it was not to make any mental mistakes."
At the LPGA Championship, she put the practice into use over four days better than anyone with whom he has ever worked, including Vijay Singh, Parent said.
"I would say yes. There was a period when Vijay was doing that, when he won nine tournaments that year (2004), but as far as a single tournament, this pretty much is the best I've seen," said Parent, author of the book "Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game."
Entering the Women's Open, Kerr has this going for her as well: She has finished in the top 10 in four straight major championships and six of the last seven. Moreover, she has won two of her last three starts.
Kerr, now the top-ranked player in women's golf, has been sneaking up on a Hall of Fame career -- she has 14 victories, including two majors -- that has hit full stride and is delivering on the potential she brought to LPGA when she joined it in 1997. She has won tournaments in seven straight seasons, her scoring average is a career low 69.40, and she's only 32.
IT WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN
The LPGA featured a playoff with three Kims (and a Choi). It happened Sunday afternoon at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.
There are 10 Kims on the LPGA roster, one of whom is an American (Christina Kim). Christina was involved in the playoff, along with South Koreans In-Kyung Kim and Song-Hee Kim. Another Korean, Na Yeon Choi, who rounded out the foursome, won with a birdie on the second playoff hole.
THE MECHANIC IS AGING WELL
Miguel Angel Jiminez, 46, won the French Open, his 10th European Tour victory since turning 40, a record for that tour. Jiminez, whose nickname is the Mechanic, has won 17 times overall on the European Tour.
Bo Van Pelt quietly has registered his candidacy for the U.S. Ryder Cup team on points. Van Pelt stands 15th in the standings on the basis of his play since the Arnold Palmer Invitational in late March. In those 11 tournaments, he has finished in the top 25 in seven of them and the top 10 in five of them, narrowly missing a sixth when he bogeyed the last hole Sunday to fall to a T11 in the AT&T National.
Rose's two PGA Tour victories enhance his attractiveness from a captain's perspective, but he still has a climb to make the European team via points. Rose is not a member of the European Tour. His other entry point would be a top four finish on the European team's World Points List. He currently stands sixth.
Ryan Moore played his way into the British Open field with his second-place finish at the AT&T National. The top five there who weren't otherwise qualified gained entry...Rory McIlroy recovered some of his missing form, finishing fourth in the French Open, easily his best performance since winning the Quail Hollow Championship last month...Frenchman Jean Van de Velde, who infamously tossed away the British Open in 1999, resurfaced last week, even turning up on the leader board after opening with a 66 at the French Open. Van de Velde tied for 69th in only his second European Tour start this year.
"Who knows what I'll look like when I'm 60. I'm fat now. When I'm 60, that could be 400 (pounds). I may not be able to make a backswing." -- Mark Calcavecchia
From author ("Cracking the Code") and former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger: "Talked to Pavin about RC. Sent him book Cracking t Code,$24.95. Shipping$7.50,texts$2.00, my advice, 2cents, another U.S. victory, PRICELESS"
PGA Tour: John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. Defending champion Steve Stricker. LPGA: U.S. Women's Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. Defending champion Eun-Hee Ji. European Tour: The Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond Golf Club in Glasgow, Scotland. Defending champion Martin Kaymer.
Phil Mickelson is entered in the Barclays Scottish Open as a prelude to the British Open the following week.
Kerr vs. the South Koreans at the U.S. Women's Open. South Koreans have won the last two -- Eun-Hee Ji in 2009 and Inbee Park in 2008. Kerr was the champion in 2007 and is the top-ranked player in the world.
Last week, I indicated that Jiyai Shin was the LPGA player of the year last year. Lorena Ochoa was the LPGA player of the year.
We won't hear much about the JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am in Ireland today and tomorrow, but it does warrant attention based on the field and the sums of money it raises for charities in the Limerick area.
It has a stronger field than the Barclays Scottish Open later this week -- among those playing are Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington and Justin Rose. Lee Westwood also was scheduled to play, but withdrew to tend to his injured calf muscle.
"That much money and a focus on charity, it's hard to say no," Lucas Glover told Rex Hoggard of the Golf Channel. Harrington earned 240,000 Euros (the equivalent of $300,000) for winning the individual and team competitions, as well as a daily prize, in the last McManus Invitational Pro-Am in 2005 (it's held every five years).
The event raised $36 million for charity in 2005 alone, which renders it more important, if less prominent, than the Scottish Open.