Golf Buzz

January 30, 2017 - 12:43pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Tiger Woods
USA Today Sports Images
Tiger Woods missed the cut at Torrey Pines on Friday, but it's too early to make a fair assessment on where the former world No. 1 is at with his game.

Tiger Woods is rusty.

In fairness to the 14-time major champion, that should be the only takeaway from his early departure at Torrey Pines on Friday after rounds of 76-72 led to a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. His short weekend is utterly understandable. Woods' appearance at Torrey Pines marked his first PGA Tour start in 17 months -- the longest hiatus of his career -- after rehabilitating from two back surgeries.

If there's anything we've learned from Woods over the course of his illustrious career, it's this: Tiger needs "reps." That was evident at Torrey, particularly with his driver, which was all over the place.

Luckily for us, two encouraging signs emerged from La Jolla.

First -- this might be just me -- did Tiger seem extra happy? He was smiling perhaps more than I've ever seen in competition -- almost a sense of rejuvenation.

RELATED: Timeline of Tiger's injuries and comebacks | Woods misses cut at Torrey Pines

Second, he didn't show any signs of a setback. That's great news for the game and even better news for Tiger... especially when we're talking about those all-important "reps."

In his career -- especially early in the season -- it hasn't been uncommon to see Tiger play one week and then take a few off. That's not the case this time around. Immediately following the MC in SoCal, Woods boarded his private jet for a tournament this week in Dubai -- the second of four tournaments in a five-week stretch.

That's a lot of golf for a guy who's been away for nearly a year and a half. But it's great, isn't it? We can only surmise that it means Woods is feeling comfortable with his recovery and feels it's necessary to get in a bunch of rounds to see how he's going to hold up.

There's another factor in Tiger's schedule that we'd be silly not to point out. Between now and the Masters, there are two World Golf Championships events on the schedule -- the Mexico Championship and the Dell Technologies Match Play. Nobody has dominated the World Golf Championships events like Woods, who has tallied a tremendous 18 victories since the series' inception back in 1999. But he's not eligible to play this year. 

So, considering his current world ranking number of 666, Woods needs to make up some starts. Thus his accelerated schedule.

All of this testing the body and playing plenty of tournament golf, as Woods pointed out last week, is an effort to prepare for what matters most to him and all top players -- "the first full week in April."

That would be the Masters.

It's encouraging to hear in January, after all that time away, that's where Tiger's mind still goes. And now, provided there are no setbacks before the azaleas are in full bloom in Augusta, Ga., in early April, we'll actually have a pretty decent sample-size of Woods and his game. He'll have his "reps."

In his last 10 Masters tournaments, dating to his last green jacket in 2005, Woods finished outside the top 6 just twice. That was a T40 in 2012 and a T17 in 2015.

Woods still believes he can catch Jack Nicklaus and the all-time record of 18 major victories even though he has been stuck on 14 since the 2008 U.S. Open. If he didn't, why would he still play?

One would think his best shot at winning a major is still at Augusta National, where he's been victorious on four occasions. History, however, may not be on his side.

Only five players Woods' age or older -- he is 41 -- have won the Masters.

Here they are:

1986: Jack Nicklaus, 46 years, 2 months, 24 days

1995: Ben Crenshaw, 43 years, 2 months, 30 days

1978: Gary Player, 42 years, 5 months, 9 days

1954: Sam Snead, 41 years, 10 months, 17 days

1998: Mark O’Meara, 41 years, 3 months

Can Woods join that rarified air? While the window certainly appears to be closing, who's to say -- definitively -- that he can't?

January 26, 2017 - 1:12pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Rob Labritz
Pritchard/PGA of America
In this week's installment of "Becoming a complete golfer," PGA Professional Rob Labritz focuses on your game preparation before a round of golf.

Editor's note: This is the second installment of a six-week, six-part series with PGA Professional Rob Labritz, offering up tips on how you can become a complete golfer. Each feature will focus on one of six topics: Body, Game, Game maintenance, Mind, Nutrition and Equipment in an effort to help you become the best golfer you can be.

There are a number of variables involved in becoming the best golfer you can be.

After focusing on your body and fitness in part one of this six-part series last week, we now turn our attention to your game -- specifically how you go about practicing before a round of golf.

Our resident expert Rob Labritz, the low club pro at the 2010 PGA Championship and a man who was recently named 2017 Pro's Pro by Global Golf Post, has a full-bag tune-up you'll want to execute before heading out to play.

"I like to get to the course an hour and 15 minutes before my tee time," Labritz said. "That's enough to get through the entire bag and get the blood flowing before starting a round. I do want to stress, however, you don't want to knock yourself out hitting golf balls before going out to play."

RELATED: Become a complete golfer: Part 1, Body

Just like he envisions playing a hole on the course, Labritz approaches his warm-up session by going backwards from green to tee.

"After I've stretched out, I head right to the practice green," he said. "I start with 4-foot putts. I put my Eyeline Putting Mirror training aid down to make sure my set up is correct. It's a great training tool. When you're set up properly and you see balls going in the hole, your confidence is going to build."

Labritz estimates he hits 5-10 putts from that range, before backing into the 10-15 foot range with golf balls scattered on all four sides of the hole. That way, you're facing putts of every kind -- uphill, downhill, right-to-left and left-to-right.

"The key here," Labritz said, "Is to focus on speed. Don't worry about missing putts. Make sure your speed is right and they're finishing right next to the hole. That's going to give you a good idea of green speed."

From there, Labritz backs up to the fringe to hit chip shots -- 10-15 of them from a 5-yard to 25-yard range (all from the fringe, so hitting chips to hole locations further away on the green).

"Again, with this you're working on getting a feel for the speed of the greens, how those chips are going to roll out and, also, how that club is bottoming out in the fringe. How is the ball reacting when it hits the green?" Labritz said.

Now it's time to back up and work on those pitch shots.

"Personally speaking, I like to find the tightest lies that i can in the pitching area or on the range," Labritz said. "You like to hit pitch shots starting at 25 yards and work out to 100 yards. Hit about two balls from each distance -- 25-50-75-100. That's generally with your wedges, two with a 60-degree, two with 56, two with pitching, etc."

Following the pitch-shot routine, hop in a bunker.

"I like to hit 8-10 bunker shots from 10-20 yards to see the consistency of the sand," Labritz told us.

Once you've reached this part of your routine, you'll be warmed up and ready to move into the full swing.

"At this point, I like to hit one or two balls with every club in the bag," Labritz said. "Loosening your body up is most important -- hit two balls with 9-iron, 7-iron, 5-iron and 3-iron -- short to mid to long irons. That's another eight balls. You're at about 30 shots for warming up and starting to get to get to the maximum you'll want to reach before your tee time."

Lastly, Labritz hits a couple of balls with each fairway wood and hybrid, before finishing up with 3-5 driver shots.

"I can't stress enough -- don't wear yourself out," he said. "Between 20-30 shots is a good warm up and you've worked through your entire bag. Take it right to the course. I prefer ending with club that I am going to use on the opening hole."

Next week, we'll take a closer look at your game maintenance.

Rob Labritz, who has played in four PGA Championships (he was low-Club Professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits), is currently the Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in BedFord Hills, N.Y. He was also the PGA Met Section Player of the Year in 2008, 2013 and 2016, as well as the Westchester Golf Association's Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2015. You can learn more about Labritz at www.RobLabritz.com and you can follow him on Twitter, @Rlabritz