Another day reveals something more about Tiger

By Associated PressJune 18, 2010, 3:20 pm

2010 U.S. Open

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – There’s a lot left to find out about Tiger Woods, a lot more we want to know.

He remains an enigma on spikes, stubbornly private through times both spectacular and scandalous. The tabloids still can’t find out if he’s getting divorced, and sports writers might as well read tea leaves as ask him about the state of his game.

But a few things did become clear about Woods as he made his way around Pebble Beach on a gorgeous afternoon on the edge of the Pacific.

His game, like his life, is different now. And he’s not going to win this U.S. Open by 15 shots.

May not win it at all, though he fared better in his opening effort than his co-favorite, a certain Lefty who made his mark at the Masters as the anti-Tiger. Phil Mickelson hit two balls into the Pacific, couldn’t sniff a birdie putt, and staggered in with a first-round 75 that will take some work to recover from.

Woods, meanwhile, was simply mediocre. That’s not necessarily a bad thing at the Open, but it is if your name is Tiger Woods and the course is Pebble Beach.

It was here 10 years ago that he shot 65 in the opening round to make a statement that the Open was his. It was here that he ran away with the national championship by 15 shots in an epic performance that will live long in golf lore.

And it’s here that he came this week with hopes of finally escaping from the funk on the golf course that started with the infamous funk in his personal life.

It didn’t happen Thursday, when a promising start from tee and fairway was negated by a dismal day on the greens. And it’s not likely to happen this week if Woods continues to fritter away chances like he did in an opening round when he didn’t make even one birdie and finished with a 74.

Surely it won’t happen if he continues to mangle the par-5s he used to own.

“That’s just the way it is,” Woods said. “It’s a U.S. Open. It’s going to be difficult.”

For everyone else, yes. But from Woods we’ve come to expect far more, especially at Pebble Beach.

He was 24 when the Open was played here last, already anointed as the Chosen One and ready to embark on a run that showed the doubters just how great he could be. Twenty pounds lighter, with no baggage and a much different swing, he romped to the first of four straight major championships, a feat most thought impossible.

No one had ever finished a U.S. Open in double digits under par. No one had come close to winning any major by 15 shots.

No one has since, either, and not even the most ardent Tiger fans expected him to do it again this year. Still, there was a feeling that his game was finally coming around and that this would be the perfect spot for Woods to regain his old swagger.

The early holes were promising, even though the putts didn’t fall. Woods was hitting fairways and greens – none of those wild shots that had crept into his game the last two months – and was even par through eight holes on a day where no one would finish better than 2-under.

Then came the heckler on the ninth tee, playing off of Woods’ claim that the state of his marriage was no one’s business.

“It is our business,” he yelled. “You made it our business.”

Woods acknowledged he heard what was said. But he said it didn’t cause his three-putt on the ninth green, or his spotty play coming in.

“No, God no,” he said.

On that point, Woods was probably telling the truth. He’s always had the ability to compartmentalize things, and he’s famous for the focus he brings to every shot.

The heckler was one thing, the tricky greens quite another.

Woods complained that they had gotten bumpy later in the day, as poa annua greens tend to do, and he said it was no coincidence that the best scores came from the morning starters.

Actually, though, the leaders, like Woods, played in the afternoon, and when someone asked if he found that bit of information interesting, he responded with only a curt “No.”

Hard to blame Woods for being a bit testy. Someone yelled at him, he couldn’t make putts, and an 18-year-old and an amateur posted better scores.

Then he topped it all off by making an ugly 6 on the 18th hole from the middle of the fairway.

Ten years ago he left a foggy Pebble Beach after the first round with the lead, secure in the knowledge he could make putts whenever he needed them. On this brilliantly sunny day he went home five behind and with no clue how to get the ball into the hole.

Back then he was confident about winning, confident no one could challenge him. Now he talked about grinding it out and trying to remain in contention.

“There’s a long way to go. Just keep plugging along and see where I come Sunday afternoon,” Woods said.

Where he’s come now is a long way from where he once was. Now at least it’s a fair fight against players who no longer feel compelled to bow before him.

Unfortunately for Woods, there’s no guarantee anymore that he’ll be the last one standing.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.