News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 29, 2009

Rub of the Green: Woods vs. Yang at PGA proves anything can happen

By Bob Arnett

Tiger Woods wants to win major golf championships, and he wants to win them in the worst way. With 14 of them already in his resume, it looked obvious that the 2009 PGA Championship would be No. 15, especially since Tiger, No. 1 in the world, had never lost a major holding the lead going into the final round. But then, as most golfers know, cow pasture pool can be a crazy, weird and wild game.

Not getting to a television set until the season’s last major was in the waning holes, I expected a dancing, fist-pumping Tiger Woods to have his 15th major all sewed up. I couldn’t have been further off base.

Here came Y.E. Yang from South Korea, ranked No. 110 in the world with one PGA win, compared to Tiger’s 70. Yang was not only matching Woods shot for shot, but also doing some fist-pumping of his own. When Yang at the age of 37 hadn’t even taken up golf until he was 19, chipped in for eagle on the par-four 301-yard 14th hole to take a one shot lead, few would have suspected that Tiger would ultimately lose by three shots.

Woods has had some close calls in the past, but he had always managed to come up with an answer to whatever threat was thrown at him, whether it was finding the cup with an “impossible” shot from behind the 16th green at The Masters or holing a long putt at Valhalla while hapless Bob May was missing a four-foot birdie try at another PGA Championship a few years back.

To add insult to injury in that one, Woods hit a wild hook in the playoff that had “out of bounds” written all over it until it rattled off a huge tree and came floating back to the fairway where it was turned into an easy birdie and another major win for Tiger.

Golf balls, however, don’t know and furthermore don’t care who is striking them. They simply go their merry way, sometimes finding the bottom of the hole, but often simply teasing the hapless golfer by disregarding the darkness that awaits them at the bottom of the cup.

I’ve always maintained that the ability to putt extremely well is also the curse that can lead to some horrendously poor efforts with the flat stick. That internal voice that creates an aura of invincibility and supreme confidence is great to possess in one’s golfing arsenal, but when that same voice does a 180-degree turn and tells you in no uncertain terms that there is no way your putts are going in, you have troubles with a capital “T.”

It will be interesting to see if Woods can snap back after a letdown of such monstrous proportions. Supreme confidence is definitely something that no golfer can summon at will and Woods with all his vast resources will realize there is no lifetime guarantee to perform at the pinnacle that he has demonstrated through the years with the putter in his hands.

Sam Snead summed it up long ago when he advised, “The sun don’t shine on the same dog every day.” It certainly was shining on Y.E. Yang during that last round of the PGA Championship, while it was hiding behind a dark cloud when it was Woods’ turn to putt.

Although Woods experienced the pain, despair and agony that he felt at Hazeltine, I’d be the last to believe that he won’t be back with a vengeance, allowing of course that he and his putter can rekindle the magic they once shared. If Tiger is to maintain his lofty status in the professional golf world, he will need to make sure his putter is operating at maximum efficiency when it comes to confidence and consistency.

As the old saying goes, if you want to make more putts, you must have more confidence. How do you gain added confidence? You must make more putts! Crazy? Sure, but that’s the kind of game it is.

• Chad Collins is continuing to rise on the Nationwide money list. With $25,000 garnered last Sunday, Collins moved into the 14th spot with $168, 581. The top 25 will earn playing privileges on the PGA Tour for 2010.

• Don Albert celebrated his first hole in one recently when he holed his wedge shot on number eight at River Bend Golf Course at The Landing.

Witnessing Albert’s ace were Harvey Cabak and Pappy Poore.

• • •

TIP OF THE WEEK: Jack Nicklaus was considered the best putter of his era. He was asked how many putts he had missed that he had to make to win various tournaments. He answered, “None — in my mind.”

Jack never putted until after he had envisioned the ball rolling into the cup, a good idea for any golfer.

Keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.