Can Woods ever be the same on the course

By Associated PressMay 9, 2010, 1:59 am

The Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Hank Haney spent Friday in Las Vegas, teaching a comedian how to play golf.

Across the country his star pupil wasn’t finding much to laugh about as he made his way around TPC Sawgrass just trying to make the cut.

Why Haney was taping a reality show with Ray Romano instead of working with Tiger Woods wasn’t exactly clear, especially when Woods’ swing is clearly a mess. Contrary to the rumors sweeping around the state of Florida, though, Woods said the swing coach was still solidly in his employ.

“Hank and I talk every day, so nothing’s changed,” Woods said.

What has changed is this: Three tournaments into his latest comeback, Woods is finding that regaining his dominance on the golf course will be far more difficult than he or anyone else may have ever imagined.

If he needed any reminder, a young kid standing around after Woods signed his scorecard Saturday gave it to him.

“Tiger, say so long to No. I,” he yelled out. “Kiss it goodbye.”

Not so fast, kid. This thing’s not over just quite yet.

Still, the plight of the world’s best golfer is on public display at The Players Championship, where Woods will be long gone by the time they crown a new champion late Sunday afternoon.

So many questions. Not a lot of real answers.

Was the Masters an aberration? Is his personal life so fragile he can’t concentrate? Does forcing himself to acknowledge the existence of fans throw him off stride?

Or is his game just history, done in by a scandal he may never recover from.

Inquiring minds want to know, and for that at least Woods can be grateful. He’s playing so bad right now that even the tabloids can’t dig up enough new dirt to shift the conversation away from golf.

Woods himself blames rust, though that never seemed to stop him before. Remember that he was off just as long recovering from knee surgery last year and still won his third tournament back, the first of what would be six PGA Tour wins.

Back then he didn’t talk about needing more work. Back then he didn’t dwell on the difficulty of regaining his competitive edge.

He went out and won, just like he’s been doing his entire life.

Contrast that with his third tournament back since going into exile and spending time in rehab. Woods seemed so happy just to make the cut on Friday that he had a big smile on his face as he exchanged pleasantries with his playing partners.

Things didn’t get much better Saturday as he stumbled to a finish, treating viewers to the odd sight of the player who used to blow it by everybody hitting a second shot on the par-4 18th hole with a fairway wood.

Afterward, he talked as if it was his golf game that was on a 12-step program.

“This is a process, especially since I haven’t played at all,” Woods said. “I just need more rounds.”

Don’t tell that to the fans so used to watching Woods dominate on Sunday. Or to the golf fanatics who used to be able to mow the lawn and have a leisurely lunch on the weekend before tuning in to see him in action.

Tiger the philanderer they could deal with. Tiger the middle-of-the-pack grinder is another matter.

Yet there he was, popping up tee shots like a weekend hacker, and hitting other shots sideways. His game is in such disarray that he seems to want to hide behind the new sunglasses he now wears between shots.

It now just seems a matter of time before the kid is right and Woods loses the No. 1 ranking he has held for five years to Phil Mickelson. Indeed, that could happen on Sunday should Mickelson shoot another low round and win.

More troubling for Woods is that the future looks just as uncertain. He once seemed destined to pass Jack Nicklaus in major championship wins and be anointed as the greatest player ever, but now his standing in history seems as shaky as his tee shots.

While Woods has won an average of one major a year since turning pro, he’s now 34 and it’s been two years since he won his last U.S. Open. Where he was once the fearless young kid who could blow people away on Sunday, there are now young players seemingly everywhere like Rory McIlroy who can do the same thing.

What is really striking is how Woods seems in denial of what is happening around him. He talks vaguely about other players not being subjected to the same scrutiny he is, but mostly it’s the same party line about how his swing is coming around and it’s just a matter of time before all is well.

He may believe it, though it’s hard to believe much Woods has to say anymore. His pledge to treat the game with more respect unraveled quickly at the Masters, and his pledge to treat fans better didn’t last much longer.

While Mickelson signed autographs by the dozens after his round Saturday, Woods didn’t sign any, not even for two young volunteers.

It was just like old times, except with a twist.

At least then he had the game to get away with it.

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.

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Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”

She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.

That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.

With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.

Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.

Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.

Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?

“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”

Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”

Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.

“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”

About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.

“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.

Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.

While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.

“You never know,” she said.