Notes: Finding Tiger’s best shot a tall task

Tiger Woods during the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

Tiger Woods during the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

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ORLANDO, Fla. – At his best, Tiger Woods hit so many good shots in a year that it was hard to pick one. When his caddie, Steve Williams, was asked for the best shot his boss hit in 2010, it was a difficult choice for a different reason.

There weren’t very many.

“I’m going to have to give that some thought,” Williams said with a laugh. “When making a swing change, the list of poor shots is greater than what it would normally be.”

After a few minutes, he settled on a 3-wood at a major.

But it’s not what anyone might think.

“For me, the shot that stood out was at Whistling Straits,” Williams said. “It was the second hole, when he hit it in a bunker off the tee, then way right onto that road. He hit a 3-wood for his third shot just short of the green. It was that one, and the fairway bunker shot on the 18th hole (of the third round) that he started left of the ninth green.

“Those were the two shots. It’s coincidental that it was the same week.”

But what about that 3-wood on the 18th at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open, the one that Woods carved around a tree, out over the ocean and onto the green for a two-putt birdie and a 66?

Williams shook his head.

“That’s a shot where commentators made it a lot harder than it was,” Williams said. “That was a good shot, but certainly not a difficult shot. The result was outstanding. The shot itself wasn’t that outstanding.”

Woods agreed.

“It wasn’t that hard. He’s right,” Woods said. “The angle of the camera was too far to the right, so the angle brought the ocean into play. The tree was in the way, but it wasn’t that hard of a shot.”

• • • 

A LONG YEAR: Steve Stricker loves playing in the Presidents Cup. He hates playing golf during hunting season in the fall.

Something will have to give next year.

The Presidents Cup will be played the week before Thanksgiving in Australia, which means Stricker will have to find a way to keep his game sharp before the matches. That will force him to play at least once in November, and perhaps even practice leading up to that.

“When is it? Middle of November? I don’t know,” Stricker said when asked about his schedule. “I’ll probably have to play the week before. Is there something the week before? China? Maybe I’d go playing something like that.”

The HSBC Champions in Shanghai will be two weeks before the Presidents Cup.

“Is China on the way to Australia?” Stricker asked. “In a roundabout way? Not really?”

Just then, Camilo Villegas walked by on his way to the clubhouse at Sherwood Country Club. Villegas has played Shanghai the last two years, and he played in the Australian Masters this year.

He was told about Stricker’s asking if China was on the way Down Under.

“Man, everything is far when you head that way,” Villegas countered with a laugh.

Officials still are trying to decide whether to allow the Australian Masters – played on a sand belt course in Melbourne, just like the Presidents Cup – to be held the week before the matches.

Zach Johnson doesn’t prefer to play much golf that late in the year, although he would welcome the inconvenience.

“You’ve got to stay in game shape,” he said. “Maybe I’d play another tournament. Australia is a possibility. It’s not an easy situation, but it’s a good situation if that means playing for the Stars and Stripes. If I make that team, it will be worth it.”

Stricker has experience getting his game ready for Australia.

He qualified for the Match Play Championship in Melbourne in 2001. On his way to Australia, he played a Gateway Tour team event in Arizona with his brother-in-law. They didn’t win, but the competition helped Stricker. He went on to beat Padraig Harrington, Scott Verplank and Justin Leonard on his way to winning the Match Play title.

• • • 

MAJOR PRIORITIES: Given the choice between a major or being No. 1 in the world, Lee Westwood made it sound like an easy decision.

He’ll take No. 1.

Westwood is the only player to be No. 1 without ever winning a major, although he’s only been atop the ranking for two months and at age 37, figures to have some 25 more chances. Even so, he made a compelling argument in an interview with The Sun as to which is more significant in a golfer’s career.

“Well, I’ve been world No. 1 now and I’ve never won a major so, obviously, I would like to win one,” Westwood told the British tabloid. “But I wouldn’t swap world No. 1 for a major – no way.”

Westwood has been trying to explain for the last few months that being atop the world ranking is not related to winning a major, although more ranking points are available in the majors. He was runner-up at the Masters and British Open, which helped him rise.

“But winning a major doesn’t make you the best player in the world,” he said. “No, being the best player in the world is all about consistency. Just look at the world rankings. I have way more points than anyone else.”

Westwood said he believes that golfers get what they deserve, and he knows he has put the work into his game. So why hasn’t he won a major? It certainly wasn’t for a lack of opportunity. A 15-foot birdie putt kept him out of a playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open, and an 8-foot par putt kept him out of the Turnberry playoff in the 2009 British Open. He had the 54-hole lead at this year’s Masters.

“I could easily be sat here with three major championship right now, but the harsh fact is I’m sitting here with none,” he said. “That gets on my nerves, but it is not as if I’m failing to give myself opportunities in big events.”

• • • 

DIVOTS: Ernie Els won the South African using a Callaway putter that was a replica of the one he used as an amateur and for the first 10 years of his career. ... The Nationwide Tour will have three fewer events in 2011, with total prize money at just over $16 million. ... By not playing the minimum 15 tournaments this year, Tiger Woods could not vote on the player awards, nor can be vote for a player to serve on the PGA Tour board of directors in the spring. If he plays 15 events next, all voting privileges are returned.

• • • 

STAT OF THE WEEK: Since the world ranking began in 1986, 61 players have won a major and 13 players have been No. 1.

• • • 

FINAL WORD: “I loved what I was doing.” – Arnold Palmer, on why so many pictures of him show him smiling.

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