BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Tiger Woods first tried the shot in competition during the third round at the Memorial, choking up on the grip of his driver about 2 inches, and he pulled it off to perfection.
He used it again on the eighth hole Thursday in the first round of the AT&T National.
It soon might become a regular part of his repertoire, much like the “stinger” he made popular with a 2-iron and later a 3-wood.
Woods said he began working on the shot a few months ago, and the idea is to give him a range that is a little less than a full driver, and a little more than a full 3-wood.
The eighth hole played 341 yards on Thursday, a slightly elevated green that makes it nearly impossible to drive, but Woods wanted to take the bunkers out of play.
“A full driver I felt would get me too far down there, and 3-wood couldn’t take the bunkers out of play,” he said. “So it’s nice to have a little bit of a tweener. I drop down and hit just this little softy cut out there. It’s a lot further than my 3-wood, but it’s nowhere near a full driver, and I can keep that in play.”
It worked to perfection, at least off the tee. Woods came up short with his wedge, however, and had to scramble for par from the front of the green.
On the par-5 fifth hole at Muirfield Village last month, he felt enough breeze in his face that he figured 3-wood wasn’t enough to get beyond the tree-lined portion of the fairway, yet driver was too much because of a stream. He choked up on that driver, landed the ball in an ideal spot and made an easy birdie.
BRITISH OPEN RACE: U.S. Open runner-up Ricky Barnes took a step toward making it to the British Open, as did Bryce Molder.
There are two ways for PGA Tour players to qualify for the British Open at the AT&T National – as the top two players from a special money list that ends this week, or as the leading player from among the top five. In both cases, it’s only for those not already eligible.
Barnes is second on the special money list of six tournaments – The Players Championship, Memorial, St. Jude Classic, U.S. Open, Travelers Championship and AT&T National. He opened with a 70.
Paul Goydos, the leader of that money list, opened with a 73 and was in danger of missing the cut. Also in the chase are John Mallinger (70), Matt Bettencourt (70) and Kevin Na (71).
Molder is $20,000 behind Barnes, and it helped that he opened with a 64.
The tour had the standings posted in the locker room at Congressional, although Molder didn’t need to see it.
“I did check late Sunday afternoon,” he said with a smile. “That would be a tremendous honor to play in the Open Championship, which I never have. I love the golf over there. It would be a great challenge and a great honor to play.”
Molder played on the Walker Cup team that competed in Nairn in Scotland, and on a Palmer Cup team at St. Andrews. Despite being in a tie for second, he realized there was a long way to go until Sunday.
“I’m going to try to ignore that as much as I can and just play golf,” he said. “It’s hard to.”
SPECIAL VISIT: Jim Furyk found perspective Wednesday night going to a barbecue at the Walter Reed Hospital to visit wounded soldiers, some of whom have lost limbs.
Just like last year, he thought he could help cheer them up. And just like last year, Furyk came away inspired.
“It was just good to meet a lot of wonderful people that have gone and risked their lives for our country,” he said. “Some of them have gone through some very tough experiences, and the hospital is all about getting them back on track. It’s amazing, their outlooks and their positive attitudes.
“It’s an odd scenario where you think want to go there and try to cheer some people up, and you leave there in awe of their attitude and how tough they are. They end up inspiring you.”
ON A ROLL: Bryce Molder, a four-time All-American at Georgia Tech, has been trying to find his way to the PGA Tour most of the decade. He finished 185th on the money list as a rookie in 2007, and after earning back his card, was headed in the same direction.
It started to turn around, however, at the Byron Nelson Championship, and it continued Thursday with a 64, his ninth consecutive round at par or better.
A key moment was being paired in Memphis with Brian Gay, who finished five shots ahead of Molder.
“His golf game is not the same as a lot of guys out here,” he said. “There’s so many guys that bomb it and everything, but he putts so well and he keeps the ball in play. And I think the biggest part of playing with him, what meant so much, was just seeing that he’s extremely comfortable with who he is as a player, as a person out there.
“I think it’s more important how you see yourself than what type of player you really are,” Molder said. “And I think that’s a big part of it is I’ve been able to take whatever shots I can play with at that time, take it to the golf course and try to score. When I’ve played my best golf, that’s what I’ve done.”