Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Jun 15 2015, Page 25

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - June 15, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE C5 U NIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — New to golf broadcasting, Fox Sports also gets its first crack at Tiger Woods. And the two primary voices at the U. S. Open, including Greg Norman, don’t have high expectations for him at Chambers Bay. That’s not alarming. Woods now has gone seven years since he won a major. Due to injuries and yet another change in coaches, he has gone 18 months without finishing in the top 10 anywhere in the world. And he’s coming off an 85- 74 weekend at the Memorial, the highest 36- hole score of his career. “ It’s a massive effort, mentally and physically, for him to get himself out of this hole he’s in,” Norman said on a conference call. “ The more he shoots 85, or extraordinary high numbers, the harder it is for him to get out of that hole.” Norman will be in the booth with lead announcer Joe Buck, who said Woods has been “ front and centre” for as long as Buck has been watching golf. That hasn’t been the case the past two years except for being curious about a comeback. Woods missed the first two majors in 2014 because of back surgery, and he took a two- month break before this year’s Masters to fix his short game. When the USGA announced in August 2013 it had awarded Fox a 12- year contract to televise the U. S. Open, Woods was coming off his fifth victory of the year, that included a 61 at the Bridgestone Invitational. He was No. 1 in the world. He was the betting favourite at majors. Golf has not lacked for a group of rising stars. Rory McIlroy is No. 1 in the world and already has four majors. Jordan Spieth is a Masters champion at age 21. Rickie Fowler recently picked up an important win at The Players Championship. Woods still moves the needle. The question is how much. “ Trust me, we’re a network trying to get viewers,” Buck said. “ They’ll get Tiger when it’s appropriate. But there’s no way you can go in expecting him to play great, just because history doesn’t tell you that he will.” Woods was among several players who took an early scouting trip to Chambers Bay, a course unlike any other for the U. S. Open with its sprawling fairways shaped through manmade dunes and framed by rugged bunker complexes. Built on a former sand- and- gravel pit that was mined for more than a century, it is not a links golf course. It just looks like one on TV. Woods does not lack for imagination, and perhaps this brand of golf might help. “ With the way the golf course is set up, obviously he has the ability to have it click in at some point, though we’ve been waiting for that,” Buck said. “ But he also has the ability to blow up. With so much importance being placed on the short game, considering how the season started for Tiger, I don’t see how you can go into this with any expectation of having him being among the leaders coming down the stretch on Sunday. That would be crazy. Could it happen? Sure.” Norman can relate to Woods in one respect. His work ethic was legendary. And that’s one reason he believes Woods still has a long way to go, if he ever gets there. “ He’s gone through major swing changes in the past,” Norman said. “ But those swing changes... his body was a lot younger. When you do make a change, you have to hit a lot of golf balls. You have to get the old swing thought out and the new swing thought in. And that’s just a lot of repetition and hitting, hitting and hitting. “ Your body doesn’t recover quickly, or as well, like it used to when you were in your 20s and 30s,” he said. “ He’s got that mountain to climb.” For all the innovation and technological gadgets Fox plans to introduce, the biggest change for television viewers will be sound. For the past 20 years, the voice of the U. S. Open was Johnny Miller. Now it’s Norman, a two- time British Open champion and the only player to lose all four majors in a playoff. Norman was an influential voice as a player. Still to be determined is how that translates to the booth. He’s not Johnny Miller and won’t try to be. “ I was always a big fan of Johnny. He was very forthright in his thoughts and opinions,” Norman said. “ When you’re in that seat, you’ve got to give your opinion. It can’t be sugarcoated. “ When they do something wrong, it’s got to be pointed out.” — The Associated Press winnipegfreepress. com SPORTS WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, MONDAY, JUNE 15, 2015 C 5 Fox Sports giving Tiger little chance New analysts Norman, Buck to make debuts at U. S. Open DARRON CUMMINGS / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Nobody is taking Tiger Woods too seriously as he enters the U. S. Open following some of the worst play in his life. By Doug Ferguson SO much is brand new about America’s oldest golf championship. Not to worry. The U. S. Open hasn’t lost its reputation as the toughest test in golf. And it’s still the most democratic of the majors, with more than half the field — including a pair of two- time champions — having to go through qualifying. Just about everything else at the 115th U. S. Open is breaking new ground, starting with where it is being played. Chambers Bay, a public course perched along Puget Sound south of Seattle, for more than a century was a sand and gravel pit used for mining. Ten years ago, it was still being built. And now it’s the first U. S. Open in the Pacific Northwest, and the first major in the area since Vijay Singh won the PGA Championship in 1998 at Sahalee. No other golf course has been awarded a U. S. Open so soon after it opened. Also new this year: Fox Sports was awarded a 12- year contract that starts this year. Johnny Miller no longer will be calling the shots. That now falls to Greg Norman. And Fox will be making its debut in major championship golf with a course hardly anyone has seen. It’s more than location that makes it so different. Instead of thick rough typical of a U. S. Open, Chambers Bay has fine fescue grass that allows the ball to bounce and roll, similar to a links course. There are no tree- lined fairways because there is only one tree on the golf course. “ It’s everything like a British Open,” Phil Mickelson said after playing the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design. “ I’ve never seen this type of fescue in the United States. I’ve never seen greens with fescue grass in the United States. The ball runs like the British. You’re hitting the same shots as the British.” Maybe that bodes well for Mickelson, who hasn’t won a tournament since the 2013 British Open. This is his second shot at trying to become only the sixth player with the career Grand Slam. All he has from the U. S. Open, the only major he has never won, is a record six silver medals. The par is 70, but even that is different. The USGA plans to move the tees and alternate par between four and five on the first and 18th holes. And there’s a par 3 ( No. 9) that has two sets of tees — one that makes it play slightly uphill, the other has a 100- foot drop to the green. Players already are suspicious, especially after USGA executive director Mike Davis said anyone who plays only two practice rounds and has his caddie walk the course to get the yardage off the tee and to the green is “ done.” It’s not clear if the USGA is trying to identify the best player or the best student of architecture. “ There’s going to be someone lifting the trophy at the end of the week,” said Rory McIlroy, the world’s No. 1 player. “ It’s a bit of an unknown to most people, so you have to prepare. But you can fall into the trap of trying to overprepare.” He said that right before he missed consecutive cuts in Europe, his final competition before the second major of the year. Missing cuts is nothing new for McIlroy, but no less startling for the world’s No. 1 player who has had minislumps in the summer two of the last three years. Still, nothing is more surprising these days than Tiger Woods. The last time the four- time champion played in the U. S. Open, at Merion in 2013, he was No. 1 in the world and in the midst of a five- win season. Now he is No. 181 and has gone nearly two years since his last victory. Woods took two months off early in the year when his game hit an all- time low — an 82 in the Phoenix Open — and then three tournaments into his return, he shot an 85 at the Memorial. Woods also took a reconnaissance trip to Chambers Bay and was struck by how different it could play, with a variety of tees that could allow some par 4s to be reached off the tee, and other par 4s that required a fairway metal for the second shot. “ What combinations is Mike going to present us?” Woods said. “ He could make it to where it’s just brutal, or he can make it to where it’s pretty easy and give us a combination of both, and then switch it up on every other hole. That’s going to be the interesting part.” McIlroy and Masters champion Jordan Spieth are the betting favourites, and the form is with Spieth. Only three times in his last 10 events has Spieth finished out of the top three, including a 65 at the Memorial in his final start. The 21- year- old Texan also has the advantage of being one of the few to have competed at Chambers Bay, as an amateur. — The Associated Press Now, for something completely different Chambers Bay unique U. S. Open layout By Doug Ferguson HARRISON, N. Y. — Inbee Park shot a final round 68 and finished at 19- under par to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship for the third consecutive year and retake the No. 1 ranking in women’s golf. The 26- year- old from South Korea made five birdies and shot a bogey- free round at the Westchester Country Club, finishing the season’s second major five strokes ahead of 22- year- old compatriot Sei Young Kim on Sunday. Park, who shot a 273 for the tournament, tied the Tour record for the lowest score in a major in relationship to par and finished the four rounds with 22 birdies and just three bogeys. It was her fifth major championship in the last 12 played on the LPGA Tour since the beginning of 2013. “ I played great the last three days,” she said. “ I couldn’t believe myself. I made no bogeys for three days.” This is Park’s sixth major title. She ties Annika Sorenstam ( 2003- 2005) as the only golfers who have claimed this championship in three consecutive years. Park’s last birdie came on the final hole. She chipped her second shot to within five- feet of the pin, then sank the ensuing putt and threw her arms in the air as a fan yelled “ three- peat.” It was her 56th consecutive hole without a bogey. The rookie Kim, who was trying to win her first major, started the day two strokes back She bogeyed the third and the fourth holes, but then reeled off four consecutive birdies, including long birdie putt on the eighth to pull within a shot of the lead. That was as close as she would get. A three- stroke swing on the ninth hole put Park in charge. She hit a birdie putt, then watched as Kim three- putted for double bogey. “ Everything fell apart at the ninth hole,” Kim said through an interpreter. American Lexi Thompson ended up in third place. She had eight birdies on her first 13 holes Sunday and shot a 66 to finish at 12- under par. The now 20- year- old former child prodigy began the day at 5- under par. She got within two strokes of the lead after her birdie on the 13th, her eighth of the day. But she missed a chance on the par- 5 15th hole, hitting her tee shot well right and scrambled to make par. She then bogeyed the 16th to end her chances. “( I) just take a lot of positives from it knowing that I can pull off a round on Sunday here at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship,” she said. “ It means a lot and I’m going to take a lot of confidence going into my upcoming tournaments.” Brittany Lincicome, who won the first LPGA major of the year at the ANA Inspiration, finished in fourth place at 11- under par. She shot a final- round 68 that included a birdie on the final hole. Seventeen- year- old Canadian Brooke Henderson finished in a tie for fifth place with Morgan Pressel at 10 under par. The prize money will help in Henderson’s quest to earn a Tour card for next year. The Smiths Falls, Ont. native needs to either win a tournament or finish with an equivalent of a top- 40 on the money list to avoid qualifying school after being denied an age exemption. “ Today I was hoping to climb up that leaderboard a little bit more than I did, but two- under on Sunday at a major championship, I can’t complain too much,” said Henderson. “ And tied fifth, that’s pretty cool. “ Definitely moving forward, I have a lot that I can take away and I’m hoping to do that.” — The Associated Press Park puts it in drive to claim major title By Pat Eaton- Robb KATHY KMONICEK / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Inbee Park was in complete command during Sunday’s final round. C_ 05_ Jun- 15- 15_ FP_ 01. indd C5 6/ 14/ 15 8: 49: 47 PM

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