When you watch Tiger Woods, you might think he plays the hero shot, the TV shot, every time he steps up. After all, who has come through with more spectacular moments in the clutch than Tiger? Well, that doesn’t mean he takes on every daring shot he sees—in fact, probably far fewer than you’d think.
During the filming of a recent range session with Golf Digest and GOLFTV, Tiger talked about some of the tee shots he hit during his record-tying 82nd PGA Tour win, at the Zozo Championship in Japan. Consider his driving strategy on one particular par 4 with a lake down the left side: “I was starting it over the water and slicing it,” Tiger says.
Now, you may think that sounds risky, but the key piece of information here is that Tiger was “slicing it.” For the real shotmakers, playing a shot to curve away from trouble is the safest bet. In this case, it’d be much harder to miss left with a slice swing than with a draw swing, which can easily produce a hook. The point is, Tiger was aiming at the water, but the curve could only go right. No way was he missing left.
Tiger also touches on another factor in shot selection: commitment. In the clip, he tells Rob McNamara, his longtime friend and practice partner, that he had “3- or 4-iron” into the green after those slice drives. (Tiger doesn’t hit a lot of 3-irons into par 4s.) “I was so far behind the guys,” Tiger says. Why does this matter? Because to knowingly give up that much distance, Tiger must have been super committed to that shot. Not once—four days in a row.
One more interesting detail from Tiger. At the end of the clip, he explains his mind-set looking down that fairway: “Just keep it out of the water, make par, and move on.” Imagine that, Tiger Woods wanted to stay out of the lake and get away with a par. Good to remember the next time you’re thinking about that high draw, uphill, into the wind, from 220. Ask yourself: If he were you, what would Tiger do?
To watch the full 17-minute session with Tiger, from wedge to driver, check out “Undercover Lessons: Tiger Woods.” Or join Golf Digest Schools, a video-on-demand program that includes another 12-part series from Tiger, plus lessons by Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Jon Rahm and the best teachers in golf. We’re also offering a 14-day free trial to Golf Digest Schools in which you can enjoy 70-plus video programs of nearly 400 individual lessons.
This is the latest installment of our Masters Rewatch series, in which we watch and recap the last 23 final rounds of the Masters while we’re working from home due to the coronavirus. What better way to get your Masters fix while in quarantine than by firing up YouTube and remembering all the stuff you might have missed from past Sundays at Augusta National?
I need a cigarette. I don’t smoke.
Rewatching Masters of yesteryear has been a pre-Augusta palliative well before the club put the final-round broadcasts online in 2018, as my father and I have a library of tournament tapes stretching into the ’80s. But there are two Masters final rounds I have not rewatched: 1994 and 2011. Why? On the former, I was a BIG Tom Lehman guy at the time; I have since found it in my heart to forgive José María Olazábal. On the latter, well, like ice cream on pancakes, it was simply too much.
Eight—eight!—different players held the lead on Sunday, including a five-way tie at one point on the back nine. Tiger Woods was on the precipice of mounting the greatest charge in Masters history. Of the top-seven finishers, only Luke Donald has not won a major, and he’s a former No. 1 in the world. With a closing six-under-par 66, eventual champion Charl Schwartzel submitted a tour-de-force performance with a chip-in birdie, a hole-out eagle and lights-out finish. And I submit history will view Rory McIlroy’s 10th-hole adventures as impactful as the the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Revisiting 2011 for our ongoing series proved my theory true. There have been more emotionally weighted tournaments, those that brandished snapshot moments with popular champs that live on in montages, yet few Masters can match 2011 in pure adrenaline, plot twists and utter exhaustion. It’s like watching “Tiger King,” only one is not left with a profound sadness for humanity afterwards.
We tried scribbling down play-by-play, but it reads like a manifesto of a madman. (Example: “We don’t talk about K.J. Choi enough.”) Which is why this Masters Rewatch is not so much a running diary as it is a list of takeaways and observations. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find a light.
1.) Watching Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer hit their Honorary Starter tee shots, I wondered, “How old would Jack have to be for me to beat him?” According to GHIN, Nicklaus—who turned 80 this January—has a 6.3 handicap at his Bear’s Club. I’m a scratch, and I say with the utmost conviction Jack would whip my behind, straight up. So I spent the next 20 minutes researching how age affects the golf swing, and mapped out if I put family and work obligations to the side and really honed in on my game . . . the answer is never.
2.) The Low Am? 19-year-old Hideki Matsuyama, who dressed in a yellow-belt, yellow-sunglasses ensemble that is part Ian Poulter, part Guy Fieri.
Yes, even as a teenager, Matsuyama was patenting the “dejected mannerism as the approach rattles the flag” pose. Matsuyama had an interesting Sunday—six bogeys, four birdies—but was the only Am to make the weekend.
3.) Nick Faldo was shining like Vegas on fight night at the prospect of 21-year-old Rory wearing the green jacket. “My goodness, it could unfold everything!” Faldo exclaimed at the telecast’s opening. As my colleague Coleman Bentley is prone to say, it’s the hope that hurts the most.
4.) I was not being hyperbolic above. Perhaps no Masters encapsulates the Sunday blitzkrieg mythos like 2011. The top six finishers boasted a 67.33 scoring average in their final round. Oddly enough, the final pairing of the day—McIlroy and Angel Cabrera—was on the only group to go sideways.
One of those players to go on a run was . . .
5.) Tiger. Beginning his day seven shots back of McIlroy, Woods made four birdies and a bogey on his first seven holes. Things didn’t get rocking until the seventh with a tight approach to six feet, with Woods cleaning up the remaining work with a stroke and fist pump. Then from 278 yards out on 8, Woods rocketed a 3-wood up the right side, grabbing the slope of the green, funneling towards the hole as it fuels the patrons with glee. With only eight feet for eagle, Tiger does not tease. The ball drops. So do passionate expletives from Tiger. Big Cat is officially on the prowl on Masters Sunday.
We—fans, media, even players—are guilty of only holding victories up as seminal moments for the greats, viewing anything else as a disappointment. Perhaps even Woods views this tournament in this vein. He bogeyed 12 and parred 13 (the easiest hole on the course). The dagger was twirling his approach on the 15th, minutes after Rory fell apart, the ball coming to rest a few feet from the pin. That shot took those roars from Tiger at 8 and amplified them to “aircraft at takeoff” status . . . only he misses the eagle putt. Which was fitting, for it was his putter that ultimately betrayed him; he led the field in three-putts and ranked 32nd in putts for the week.
But it’s that window captured above, those few moments when a legend stirs up the echoes in the Georgia pines where anything seems possible, that resonates more than any silver or crystal possibly could.
6.) Let’s get to Rory. We tend to focus on his triple at the 10th for doing the lad in. The spiral started long before he stepped foot on the hole dubbed Camellia.
McIlroy bogeyed the first. He had to scramble to make par at the second (the third-easiest hole on the week) after his drive found a bunker and his approach hit the lip. A bogey at five was seemingly forgiven with a birdie at the seventh, but another par at the par-5 eighth signaled something was off.
As for the 10th . . . what I forgot was the lack of confusion from the snap-hooked drive. McIlroy can be heard asking if there’s out of bounds to the left, yet the announcing crew carries on as if it’s merely a pulled drive.
It’s a good five minutes before the broadcast shows McIlroy in the cabins, with Faldo unable to hide his astonishment. “My goodness . . . that can be no more than 150 yards off the tee,” Sir Nick said. Just as staggering is that McIlroy was able to play his shot from there, managing to get it back within the hole’s confines. But his third with a wood was also a wild hook, coming to rest by the score board situated 40 yards away from the green. His fourth loudly catches a tree as a patron screamed, “OH MY GOD.” The fifth found the green, but his sixth didn’t find the cup.
The thing is, McIlroy was still very much in the tournament after the triple, just two back of the lead with plenty of scoring holes ahead. But he would follow with a bogey on 11 and a four-putt double on 12, the triple deflating the poor guy’s confidence something fierce. He would finish with an eight-over 80, a round that clearly sent his career into a tailspin. And by tailspin, we mean winning the U.S. Open by eight shots two months later.
7.) OK, we mentioned it above, but seriously: We don’t talk enough about K.J. Choi. He had three top-eights at this event, had TWO nicknames (“Tank” and “Hawkeye,” both of which are outstanding) and a cameo in “Seven Days in Utopia” where he plays unflappable golfer “T.K. Oh” in the climax of the movie, set at the Valero Texas Open. Of the film, Roger Ebert wrote “I would rather eat a golf ball than see this movie again.”
Choi briefly held the lead after McIlroy’s triple, but poor putting led to bogeys at the 12th, 17th and 18th holes, dropping him into a tie for eighth.
8.) Also finishing T-8: Bo Van Pelt. The Notorious BVP made a run at the Masters record the following year with a final-round 64 featuring four birdies and two eagles, one of which was an ace at the 16th. Yet the T-8 in 2011 was Van Pelt’s only top-10 major finish in his career.
9.) Adam Scott, who had just one top-15 in his previous nine Masters starts, rolls in a bomb for birdie at the 11th to move into contention. “The switch to the long putter is paying off . . . will be interesting to see where that takes him,” Ian Baker-Finch says, foreshadowing the rise and fall of Adam Scott in one sentence.
Another Aussie, Jason Day, was mostly absent on the broadcast until reaching the 13th in two, his birdie putting him among the contenders. Day would make four birdies on the back, including on the 17th and 18th, to finish T-2. What’s odd in the rewatch is it appears Day’s wife thinks he’s won the Masters after a birdie on the final hole, despite Schwartzel remaining one up and in the fairway right behind Day and Scott. To be fair, a lot was happening.
10.) Speaking of fair, we probably did Charl Schwartzel wrong. Only waited 1,530 words to discuss the guy who won.
That Schwartzel hasn’t done much in the States since his Masters triumph, with one PGA Tour win and four top 10s in 32 majors appearances since 2011, hasn’t delivered the legacy his performance properly deserves. But Schwartzel was stone-cold with his putter, ranking second in the week in putting (three hole-outs didn’t hurt) and needed just four putts on the final four holes, punctuated by an 18-footer on the final hole to win by two. Moreover, he did it in the face of a leaderboard crowded with some of the game’s biggest stars and on the 50th anniversary of Gary Player’s first Masters win. That is getting it done.
The R&A is expected to cancel the 2020 Open Championship, multiple sources tell Golf Digest. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak about the cancellation publicly.
The decision, which could be announced as early as Thursday, comes after the All England Club canceled the Wimbledon tennis tournament (scheduled for June 29) on Wednesday. Sources told Golf Digest last week the R&A was awaiting the decision on Wimbledon before proceeding.
The Open was set to be contested starting July 16 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club, which would have hosted its 15th Open and first since 2011. The last time the Open wasn’t played was in 1945 because of World War II.
Part of the reason the championship is being canceled rather than postponed like the Masters and PGA Championship has to do with insurance, a source says. Similar to Wimbledon, the R&A has a policy that shields against a global pandemic, and a source indicated the Open would have to cancel by a certain date in order to collect on its insurance premium.
“The R&A is the most [insured] of all the tournaments,” a source said. “They have complete cancellation insurance. I just don’t see any golf [being played] before August.”
Is is not expected the R&A would return to Royal St. George’s in 2021 and instead would stick to its rota schedule. The Old Course at St. Andrews is slated to host the Open in 2021, with Royal Liverpool on the docket for 2022 and Royal Troon in 2023.
Earlier on Wednesday, the USGA and R&A formally announced that the 41st Curtis Cup, set to be held at Conwy Golf Club in Wales, will be pushed back to summer of 2021. The R&A also pushed back the British Amateur and British Women’s Amateur from June to August.
Golf, given its occasionally vile disposition, can bring out the worst in us, but its redemption is how often it brings out the best in us. It is the most benevolent of games, and charity is the winner, as the old PGA Tour slogan says.
But more than that, it also teaches values, as some American Junior Golf Association members are demonstrating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Forty-six AJGA members have been working on projects to support COVID-19 efforts and have raised more than $10,000, Tim Jackman, communications director for the AJGA, reported last week. Meet four of them:
Savannah Hylton, 17, and Jonathan Griz, 16, are from Hilton Head, S.C., and they have been assembling care packages that also include notes of thanks and delivering them to those medical personnel working in hospitals and nursing homes and first responders.
Yu Wen Lu and Eddie Zhang are from Shanghai, China, and via the AJGA’s Leadership Links program they have been raising money for Direct Relief, “a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies,” its website says.
Hylton, who has committed to playing college golf at Furman, was watching her church service online and the question arose about the impact one would want to have during this crisis.
“Jonathan and I had gotten together and we ran [the idea] by my mom,” Hylton said. “She loved the idea and it’s been awesome ever since, just being able to give back.”
Each bag contains about eight items, including snacks and food in small bags and a drink, as well as the thank-you note. They are paying for them from funds originally earmarked for spring golf tournaments that have been canceled. The two have assembled upwards of 150 bags.
“We just talked about it and wanted to give back to our community, and with the coronavirus, doctors and nurses are working so hard,” said Griz, who has committed to playing college golf at Alabama.
The Leadership Links is the AJGA’s charitable arm that encourages its junior golfers to get involved in impacting their communities and provides them with guidance in doing so.
“Starting this donation was actually really easy with the Leadership Links,” Lu said via email. “It also gained a lot of traction within my school because a lot of my friends had resonated with the cause I was trying to support.
“I started this donation because I wanted to help out in a crisis like this. There is a supply shock as a lot of factories are being shut down as mandated by the government. The best way I can help would be to directly donate money and supplies. I hope to provide immediate help to those in need and publicize it among more members of my community to inspire more people to get onboard with similar efforts.”
Her goal was to raise $1,000, but by publicizing the effort via social media, she’s raised more than $3,000.
Zhang, meanwhile, was in the U.S. when the coronavirus outbreak began in China.
“I was really lucky, as I came to the states during Chinese New Year break,” he wrote in an email. “But witnessing the exponential growth of the coronavirus cases really concerned me. Most of my friends had notified me how they felt secluded and lonely, and I expressed sympathy towards them.
“As a student in Shanghai, I felt [compelled] to at least help out the situation in China. . . . Raising money was not too difficult, as most of my friends had all first-handedly experienced the outbreak, and were willing to donate. My dad also helped spread my fundraiser link to his friends and close ones. Since many could empathize with the purpose and goal of my fundraiser, I did not have a lot of trouble raising money.”
After a few weeks of disappointing news, college golfers finally are catching a break. On Monday, the NCAA Division I Council voted to approve an extra year of eligibility for all spring-sport athletes after previously canceling the remainder of spring competitions due to COVID-19 concerns.
As part of the decision, schools will be responsible for the financial costs associated with keeping on the student-athletes. Schools will have the option to provide equal or less aid to seniors who decide to return for the 2020-’21 season and had otherwise exhausted their eligibility, with the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund available for schools to help finance the scholarships.
“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” said University of Pennsylvania athletic director M. Grace Calhoun, who chairs D-I council. “The Board of Governors encouraged conferences and schools to take action in the best interest of student-athletes and their communities, and now schools have the opportunity to do that.”
How the vote might impact the decision of some of college golf’s top-ranked seniors is unclear. U.S. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree and runner-up John Augenstein, seniors at Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt, respectively, have both indicated it is unlikely they would return to their schools. Each had expected to play as amateurs at the Masters and turn professional after the NCAA Championship in May. However, with pro tours on hold due to the coronavirus (and uncertainty over what happens when play resumes), turning pro in the summer and hoping to play on sponsor’s exemptions might be a more challenging prospect than previously expected for college golfers.
“It’s come up in conversations about going back, but that would probably be the last option,” Augenstein recently told Global Golf Post. “That may happen only if it’s the worst-case scenario. Just like when you get done with high school, you want to move on. That’s kind of how I feel.”
However, making a return to school more attractive for some top players is an unusual carrot. The 2021 Walker Cup is set for next May at Seminole Golf Club in Florida. Given the unusually early date, and the potential difficultly of getting starts on the PGA Tour or Korn Ferry Tour, some players might go back to school to play for their schools another year and perhaps earn a spot on the U.S. team before then turning pro after the 2021 NCAA Championship.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit a giant pause button on fans being able to watch golf on TV, and in some cases, even kept people off courses. But while we hunker down and hope for a speedy return to normalcy, we can also use this time as an opportunity to learn more about the game we love. Here’s our latest installment of “Did you know?”
“Triple Crown” is a term usually reserved for horse racing and baseball, but Ben Hogan brought it to golf during one of the great seasons in any sport’s history. And it could have been even better if not for some bizarre scheduling. Let’s explain.
Many people think Tiger Woods came the closest to pulling off the modern calendar Grand Slam (Bobby Jones pulled off the ancient one as an amateur) in golf when he won four consecutive majors, beginning with the 2000 U.S. Open and ending with the 2001 Masters. But while Woods has argued it should count since he held golf’s four biggest titles at the same time, it was actually Hogan who missed pulling off the feat by a narrower margin in 1953. That’s because he didn’t even play in the year’s fourth major. Yep, true story.
And it wasn’t because Hogan had anything against Birmingham Country Club. Although . . . Alabama in July? Who made this schedule? Instead, it was because Ben couldn’t be there because the two events overlapped. We’re not kidding. OK, seriously, who made this schedule?!
After caving into peer pressure that he should play in at least one British Open in his legendary career, Hogan traveled to Scotland where he had to first make it through a qualifier contested over the final two days of the ongoing PGA. We’re not sure what’s more ridiculous: that these tournaments weren’t spaced apart or that BEN HOGAN, fresh off winning the Masters and U.S. Open, had to play in a qualifier. Regardless, Hogan wound up winning the claret jug, but had to settle for a Triple Crown instead of going for the calendar Grand Slam. Bummer.
On the bright side, he still got a ticker-tape parade in New York City for his accomplishment.
Even Tiger never got that!
And to be fair to whomever was responsible for that ridiculous scheduling snafu, it’s unlikely Hogan would have played in the PGA Championship even if it had been held a different week. You see, following his devastating car accident in 1949, Hogan never played nearly a full schedule again. That included his decision to skip the PGA for the entire 1950s decade due to it being a particularly grueling week of six potential matches (he played in the event three times after it switched to stroke play in 1958), four of which were 36 holes. The poor PGA Championship. Even back then it was a distant fourth in the major rankings.
Actually, Hogan’s wife, Valerie, was worried about Ben, who was also battling a fever in Scotland, completing the 36-hole final day at Carnoustie in chilly weather. And after wiping out the field by four shots, the golf legend was pretty wiped himself.
“I’m happy, but so very, very tired,” Hogan said after winning the hefty sum of £500 (Did that even cover transportation?!) for his effort.
So it would have been tough for him to muster the strength to win another major that season, especially had the PGA been played after the Open like it was for many years. But it’s also tough seeing how Hogan would have lost considering he won all five official PGA Tour events he entered in 1953. Dude was dominant.
Anyway, Ben Hogan won all three majors he entered in 1953, and some guy named Walter Burkemo won the only big one Ben skipped. You’re welcome, Walter.