The Trouble with Tiger
This is an article from the May 17, 1999 issue
When Tiger Woods won the 1997 Byron Nelson Classic, his fifth
victory in his first 15 starts as a pro, he irked some of his
peers by saying, rightfully, that he had won with his "C game."
Woods ranked 14th in total driving that week, was 14th in sand
saves and 20th in greens hit in regulation. How did he win? He
ranked first in putts per greens in regulation (1.549) and in
putts per round (26).
Lately, however, Woods's putting has been just plain rank. He
averaged 1.805 putts per green last season (147th best on Tour).
He hit bottom when he took 130 putts at the season-ending Tour
Championship, during which he also lost his lead in the race for
the Vardon Trophy, which goes to the player with the lowest
scoring average for the year, to David Duval. This year Woods is
ranked 102nd in putts per green (1.795) and 162nd in putts per
round (29.69). He has won only three times in his last 43
starts, fallen to No. 2 in the World Ranking and looks more like
just another good young player than a transcendent talent
destined to break all of Jack Nicklaus's records.
Not everyone believes Woods's problem is solely his putting.
"Ben Hogan said, 'If you want to improve your putting, hit the
ball closer to the hole,'" says Johnny Miller. Similarly, Brad
Faxon points out that if you hit a lot of greens in regulation
(Woods ranks fifth, at 69.7%) but leave yourself too many long
birdie chances, your putting rank will suffer because you can
only two-putt from 50 feet so many times.
While those points are valid, Woods, who will end a three-week
break by playing in this week's Nelson, misses too many three-
to 10-footers to give his putting the benefit of the doubt, and
it's impossible to ignore the mounting pile of evidence pointing
to his flatstick. Says short-game savant Dave Pelz, "He does
seem to be very inconsistent. He gets on a roll and makes
everything, then he doesn't make anything." When Woods won the
Buick Invitational in February, for example, he took only 24
putts in the third round and needed just 109 overall (the fewest
in the field). In the seven other four-round tournaments in
which he has played in '99, he would have won five had he putted
as well as the winner. At the Players Championship, his margin
of victory would have been 13 strokes.
Woods knows that he's missing opportunities. He says he's
seeking consistency and playing with the long haul in mind, but
Duval's ascent has added a sense of urgency, and statistics show
that Woods's putting is consistent only in its mediocrity. The
number of times he has had between 116 and 120 putts in a
tournament--not an impressive total for a Tour pro--has grown
each year since '96. Woods averaged 1.691 putts per green and
28.22 per round in his eight Tour victories, but he's pushing
1.8 and 30 this season. Unless those numbers change, Nicklaus
can rest easy.
BLACK AND WHITE AND RED ALL OVER
The incongruity of the National Minority College Championship
hit a new level last week at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie,
Fla., when the event was won by a team of five Caucasians, while
a squad from Texas-Pan American, where the students are 88%
Hispanic, wasn't allowed to compete as a team because the school
isn't historically African-American.
The top teams in the tournament traditionally have been led by
white players. This year Bethune-Cookman, which beat Jackson
State by 28 strokes and Tennessee State by 40, fielded two
players from England, two from Canada and one from Australia,
all five of them white. Combined, Jackson State and Tennessee
State had one African-American.
Four out of five of Pan American's players are Hispanic, and one
of the four, senior Manuel Inman, won the individual independent
title with a tournament-record 12-under-par 204. If the Broncs
had been allowed to compete as a team, they would have finished
second, seven shots behind Bethune-Cookman. "It was kind of a
screw job," says Pan American coach John Garcia, who was told
two days before the event that the Broncs were ineligible.
"It's unfortunate the team from Texas was unable to compete,"
says Craig Bowen, executive director of the National Minority
College Golf Scholarship Fund, "but it's going to force us to
look at our definition of a minority. We're trying to be
inclusive." --Craig Dolch
What do these players have in common?
They share the single-round record at the Byron Nelson Classic.
Els's 61 was at Cottonwood Valley in '95; Mayfair's and Rymer's
came at the TPC at Las Colinas in '93 and '96, respectively.
Should rules officials investigate alleged infractions reported
by TV viewers and spectators?
--Based on 840 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Who will win the $1.5 million match between David
Duval and Tiger Woods on Aug. 2? To vote, go to
Who says only the big hitters kill the par-5s? Here are the top
five players in driving distance on the Senior tour and how they
rank in par-5 birdies, and the top five on the par-5s and where
they stand in driving distance.
DRIVING DISTANCE PAR-5 RANK
1. John Jacobs 284.3 Yds. 4th
2. Gil Morgan 273.5 Yds. 18th
3. Bob Duval 272.4 Yds. 26th
4. Jay Sigel 271.0 Yds. 29th
5. Jim Albus 270.1 Yds. 20th
PAR-5 BIRDIES DRIVING RANK
1. Larry Nelson 46.3% 10th
2. D. Lundstrom 44.4% 16th
3. Bruce Fleisher 43.3% 40th
4. John Jacobs 40.9% 1st
5. Isao Aoki 40.2% 17th
Dink Farmer, Ukiah, Calif.
Farmer, 45, the owner of a Porsche 356 restoration business,
made holes in one on a par-3 and a par-4 while shooting a
four-over 76 at Hidden Valley Lake Golf and Country Club in
Middletown. Farmer used his seven-iron to ace the 143-yard 4th
hole and his driver to make a 1 on the downhill, 389-yard 15th.
John David McNeill, Southern Pines, N.C.
John David, 16, shot a nine-under 62 to win the Optimist Junior
World qualifier at Southern Pines Elks Lodge and Golf Course, in
the process breaking Sam Snead's course record by a shot.
McNeill had nine birdies, two bogeys and an eagle. The longest
putt he made for birdie or eagle was from 10 feet.
Jamie Broce, Indianapolis
Broce, a senior at Ball State, won his third straight tournament
and fourth of the season, at the Cobra Collegiate at Windmill
Lakes G.C. in Ravenna, Ohio. A finance major with a 3.74 GPA,
Broce is the Cardinals' alltime scoring leader for a career
(73.64) and a season (71.48, 1998-99).