Chase Your Own Potential
Davis Love III underlined those four words, even put stars around them, as a reminder that the best way to catch Tiger Woods is to wear blinders.
The strategy came from an offseason session with sports psychologist Bob Rotella. Love jotted down the notes on a yellow legal pad, and he reviewed them the night before the final round of The Players Championship.
He proved to be a quick study.
Love turned in the greatest closing round in the 30-year history of the tournament. In cold, blustery conditions, he shot a bogey-free 64 to make up two strokes on the leaders and eventually win by six.
'We always talk about playing against Tiger down the stretch,' Love said. 'I was chasing my own potential, and I think that's the difference.'
It sounds good on paper, anyway.
The real test comes next week in the Masters -- or any other tournament where Love's pursuit puts him on a collision course with Woods on the back nine Sunday.
That never happened on the TPC at Sawgrass.
Love's stiffest competition came from Jay Haas, who had not won in 10 years, and Padraig Harrington of Ireland, who has never won on the PGA Tour.
It wasn't Love's fault that Woods finished one hour in front of him and 11 strokes behind, Woods' largest deficit since the 2001 PGA Championship.
Love didn't need blinders, he needed binoculars.
Would it have been different if Love played the final round with Woods, instead of good friend Fred Couples?
Couples has been around for 20 years and shot a 64 on the final day in 1996 to storm from behind and win The Players Championship. He called Love's round the best he has ever seen anyone play.
'Not just Davis -- anybody,' Couples said.
Love said he was building to a moment like this and that he felt comfortable enough to compete with anyone, although he eased off when he saw the next question coming.
'I'm not throwing down challenges and saying, 'I'm back,'' he said. 'But it's nice to see the ball going where you're looking.'
Phil Mickelson called out Woods in a magazine interview by saying he used inferior equipment, words that were intended as a compliment but perceived as a challenge. Woods whipped him the first time they played together, in the final round at Torrey Pines.
Ernie Els challenged Woods with his results.
The Big Easy became the first player in 14 years to win the first two PGA Tour events of the season, then won twice more against good fields in Australia.
He and Woods met for the first time this year on Saturday at Bay Hill under unfavorable conditions -- Els had a sore right wrist; Woods had a four-stroke lead.
Woods wound up 10 strokes clear of Els after the third round, and finished 19 shots ahead of him at the end of the tournament.
Love has scars, just like everyone else who has been run over by Woods.
He handed Woods his first PGA Tour victory in 1996 at Las Vegas by missing a 6-foot par putt in a playoff. Woods trounced Love twice during a four-week span in 2000, in the semifinals of Match Play and in the final round at Bay Hill.
'It's going to take somebody to stuff it in his face a couple of times coming down the stretch to knock him off,' Love always used to say.
That was the problem.
Not many can, and even fewer do.
Love acknowledged as much Sunday night, when he talked about the legal pad of notes he carries with him.
Chase your own potential.
'You can add the next four or five words that I didn't write down,' Love said. 'I need to chase myself and not chase anybody. I've got a big enough tail to chase.'
He is going in the right direction, and Love might find some company along the way.
Els also approached this season with a renewed determination to stop worrying about Woods.
'Instead of trying to improve things, doing things out of the ordinary, trying to chase Tiger down, I just thought, 'Play my game' and see where it goes,' Els said.
Els has been runner-up to Woods six times, more than anyone. He played with him when Woods won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 strokes, the single greatest feat in golf.
Els hit rock bottom a year later and sought help from Belgian psychologist Jos Vanstiphout, whose first piece of advice was to forget about Woods.
'Tiger wasn't the issue,' Vanstiphout said. Els 'was the issue.'
Vanstiphout spoke from the locker room at Bay Hill. Out on the course, Els was falling further and further behind Woods, an ominous sign.
'No man, it's perfect,' he said. 'Whenever Tiger gets into a tournament, pow! There's five times more press, more security, more attention. Ernie has got to learn to live with it, and he will. He's still in the learning process.'
McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.
The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.
McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.
McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.
''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''
Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.
''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''
McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.
''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.
''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''
The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.
Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel
If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.
Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:
When in the Middle East... pic.twitter.com/lNv1Lh79E0— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 16, 2018
If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:
Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."
Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."
I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H
And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.
Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational
Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.
The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.
Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.
“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”
Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews
Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.
Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.