Tiger preps for rare 3-tourney stretch

Updated: July 29, 2009

By now, Hank Haney is used to the chatter. It comes with the territory for Tiger Woods, and by extension, for his swing coach.

So, of course, when Woods had a bad six-hole stretch that led to a missed cut two weeks ago at the British Open, conjecture commenced about Haney's future.

Tiger Woods

Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images

Tiger Woods missed the cut at the British Open by a single stroke. It was just the second time he's gotten the weekend off at a major as a pro. The other was the 2006 U.S. Open, which was held just weeks after his father passed away.

All of that talk seems silly when viewing the big picture. Woods has played 10 events this year on the PGA Tour and won three of them -- more than any other player. He leads the money list and is second in FedEx Cup points. He's recorded top-10s at eight of the 10 events.

And while he played six holes in 7 over at Turnberry, he played the other 30 in 3 under -- and missed the cut by a stroke.

It was just the second missed cut of Woods' pro career in a major championship, and the question might really be: Why hasn't he missed more? (It should be noted that Jack Nicklaus missed four cuts and withdrew from one major from 1962 through 1986.)

"It's a hard game," Haney said after spending the weekend working with the world's No. 1 player in Orlando. "The margin for error is so slight. Even when you're Tiger, it's not like you're just so much better than everyone else that you can just pitch shots away and still do OK. It doesn't work like that. I guess I'm surprised it hasn't happen more. You don't have to have much to have an off week."

As for Woods' game, Haney said: "He was good this weekend. I think he had been so good before the British, so it came as kind of a surprise. But that's golf."

Before the British Open, Woods had won the AT&T National. That came after a tie for sixth at the U.S. Open and a victory at the Memorial.

Woods was a surprise entrant into this week's Buick Open, which means that for the first time in his professional career, he will play two events leading into a major championship. Woods will play next week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational -- a tournament he's won six times -- and then the PGA Championship a week later at Hazeltine National in Minnesota.

In a session with reporters Wednesday after the pro-am at the Buick Open, Woods said it was his intention to play the Buick Open all along, regardless of what occurred at Turnberry. There have been reports that this would be the final Buick Open because of General Motors' financial woes, and the company has been a longtime supporter of Woods, ending a nine-year endorsement deal last year.

So this isn't about getting in another tournament before a major or feeling the need for more competition.

And his reflections on the British Open weren't much different from those on the day he missed the cut.

"I had a bad stretch, and you can't have bad stretches and make it into championships," Woods said. "You just can't afford to do it and not only make the cut, but expect to win a golf tournament. And I didn't keep it together during that stretch. I didn't make any birdies during that stretch to turn it around, and I made two doubles, and you can't afford to do that, and it cost me."

By playing this week, Woods has set himself up for a potentially busy stretch.

After these three tournaments, he would take a week off following the PGA Championship. Then the PGA Tour playoffs begin with the Barclays, followed by the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship. A week off is built into the schedule before the Tour Championship, and then there is another week off before the Presidents Cup.

So that is potentially six tournaments in seven weeks, seven in nine and eight in 11.

Two years ago, when Woods captured the inaugural FedEx Cup -- and the last time he played three straight weeks -- he did so despite skipping the first event, the Barclays. Given an overhaul of the points structure, it will be harder to win it all by skipping an event, although Woods on Wednesday did not commit to playing all four.

"We'll see," he said.

Buick out, Greenbrier in?

We won't know anything officially until at least next week, but there are numerous rumblings that this will be the final Buick Open at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club. And really, how big of a surprise is that? General Motors has been the recipient of federal bailout money, filed for bankruptcy, ended an endorsement deal with Tiger Woods, and is expected to keep coughing up $7 million to sponsor a golf tournament?

It should be no shock that Buick -- which also has the Buick Invitational in San Diego to worry about -- would want out of its deal, even a year early.

The more surprising news is that the tour may already have a replacement title sponsor and venue.

Golfweek is reporting that the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia has been discussing that possibility with the tour. Not only would one of the resort's courses serve as the venue, but the Greenbrier would step up as title sponsor, meaning a $7 million-plus commitment per year.

One thing about the PGA Tour and commissioner Tim Finchem: They are not into sentimentality. The Buick Open dates to 1958, and Buick was the tour's first corporate title sponsor. No matter. An opening on the schedule is an opening on the schedule, and if someone is willing to write a check, that is where the tournament will go.

If it goes down this way, that will leave Michigan without a PGA Tour event. One wonders whether the tour worked behind the scenes to see whether there was any way of saving the tournament for the state with another sponsor. Again, this is about business, and we've seen it before. When 84 Lumber decided to bail on its financial commitment, the tour didn't wait to offer up the event to another Pennsylvania suitor. Within days, it had struck a deal with Travelers, bringing a PGA Tour event back to Hartford.

And when the International in Denver decided to close shop, there was no effort to relocate the tournament in Colorado. The tour had an offer from AT&T and Tiger Woods, hence the 3-year-old event in Washington, D.C.

A look at this week's venue

Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club has been home to the Buick Classic in all of its 50 years dating to the 1958 tournament won by Billy Casper and has been played every year at the course since 1978.

The course was originally designed in 1956 and now plays to 7,127 yards, par-72. To call it a pushover might not be fair, but only eight courses out of 54 on the PGA Tour ranked easier last year, and Kenny Perry's winning total of 269, 19 under par, is typical of the winning score, which usually ranges between 15 under and 25 under.

That is not to say there isn't some difficulty lurking. The par-4 15th at Warwick Hills played as the second-hardest on the course in 2008, second only to the closing 18th hole. Those two holes are among just five that averaged over par for the week.


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Birdies and bogeys

Birdies:

1. Tom Watson. He made an 8-footer at the final hole Sunday -- a week too late. Still, it capped an amazing run in Britain, where the Hall of Famer followed up his runner-up finish at the British Open with a tie for eighth at the Senior version.

2. Mark Calcavecchia. At age 49, Calc still has game. And we don't care where it happened or what the conditions, but making nine straight birdies during the second round of the Canadian Open to set a PGA Tour record is pretty remarkable.

3. Ai Miyazato. The Japanese star came to the LPGA Tour with great fanfare after winning the Q-school in 2006 but didn't win until Sunday's Evian Masters in France, a victory that might propel her to the greatness that was forecast.

Bogeys:

1. Greg Norman. The 54-hole leader at the Senior British Open, Norman still had a chance Sunday until a double-bogey at the 71st hole spelled doom.

2. The Canadian Open. Not only is the tournament saddled with a poor date following the British Open, it suffered through biblical-style rain that pushed the tournament to a Monday finish. Canada's national championship deserves better.

3. Senior majors. Isn't it a lot to ask of Champions Tour players to play one of their biggest events -- this week's U.S. Senior Open -- in the Central Time Zone a week after playing one of their biggest events -- the Senior British Open -- in England, six time zones away?

Phil Mickelson, waffle man?

Having earned more than $50 million in his PGA Tour career -- not to mention the countless millions in endorsements -- Phil Mickelson can afford to explore entrepreneurial endeavors. But Waffle House?

According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Lefty is one of three partners who bid more than $20 million for a chain of 105 Waffle House restaurants operating in four states.

Mickelson's partners are his agent, Steve Loy, who runs Gaylord Sports Management, and Terry Pefanis, a former executive with Franklin, Tenn.-based Big Idea Inc.

If the deal flies, perhaps the PGA Tour will have another possible title sponsor to solicit.

Notables

• Tiger Woods is not fond of tournaments that require going way under par, but he'd have a hard time convincing you that he doesn't like Warwick Hills. Woods has won the Buick Open twice, and after shooting even-par 72 in his first appearance at the tournament in 1997, Woods has carded 31 straight under-par rounds. During that span he has combined to go 137 under par in eight appearances and is averaging 17.125 under par for each tournament.

• Woods holds the course record of 11-under 61, which he shot in 2005, matching the score by Billy Mayfair in 2001.

• Jim Furyk also has an amazing run at Warwick Hills, where he has been par or better in 55 of 56 rounds, including 41 straight. He won the tournament in 2003 and has eight top-10s at the event.

•  Woods said he caught the last six or seven holes of the British Open after having missed the cut and was able to see Tom Watson's brush with victory, plus the playoff won by Stewart Cink. "It's unfortunate how it turned out for Tom, but Stewart played the way he needed to play and did the things he needed to do to win the tournament."

• In 31 PGA Tour events heading into the Canadian Open, there had been 21 aces recorded. There were eight alone last week at Glen Abbey, bringing the total for the year to 29.

• With just three tournaments left to determine the 2009 U.S. Presidents Cup team, Tiger Woods is a lock at No. 1. Jim Furyk (eighth), Justin Leonard (ninth) and Brian Gay (10th) are in the Buick field and trying to improve their positions. The 10 automatic qualifiers will be determined at the conclusion of the PGA Championship. U.S. captain Fred Couples and International captain Greg Norman will make two at-large picks Sept. 8.

• As the Women's British Open tees it up this week at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, it was announced that Carnoustie will host the event in 2011 and St. Andrews in 2013.

Quotable

"Mentally and emotionally, I'm fine. I mean, I've always been able to take a defeat or disappointment and make lemonade out of it. Bobby Jones said it right. He said very simply, 'You never learn in victory, you only learn in defeat.'

"I learned it wasn't over until it was over. I hit two perfect shots at 18 and I still had to finish. I didn't do a very good job of finishing."
-- Tom Watson, before this week's U.S. Senior Open, on his near-miss at the British Open.

Catching up with last year's champ

Kenny Perry all but locked up his coveted U.S. Ryder Cup team berth when he won last year's Buick, the second of his three victories in a remarkable season. But Perry is not back to defend his title.

Perry, who has won twice this year, including last month at the Travelers Championship, has elected to spend time with his mother, Mildred, who is suffering with cancer. Perry had contemplated staying home from the British Open two weeks ago but, after consulting with doctors, made the trip to Scotland. He is making up for that by taking this week off.

It is unclear, however, whether Perry will compete at next week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and then the following week at the PGA Championship.

Buick Open picks

Horse for the Course. Tiger Woods. He's been under par every time he's played Warwick Hills except for his first round at the tournament in 1997.

Birdie Buster. Brandt Snedeker. He's been in the top-10 in three of his last four tournaments, and tied for 10th at the Buick two years ago.

Super Sleeper. Nick Watney. He's cooled off some after his hot start to the season, but tries for the Buick double after his victory earlier this year at the Buick Invitational.

Winner. Jim Furyk. The only other top-25 player in the field besides Woods, he has also played the course well and is due for a victory after two years without one.