Fans ready to welcome back Woods
He found that intriguing.
Then the talk shifted to the sex scandal that has dogged the world’s best player for months, and Ramos lost all interest.
“I honestly think this: Golf fans, they don’t care about that anymore,” the 28-year-old Ramos said, waiting for his turn to start at Greynolds Park. “Let’s see him play. Leave the other stuff alone, man. Lay off.”
If there was one thing most recreational players on the ranges and courses of South Florida could agree on Tuesday, it was that they just want to see Woods play again and have talk finally end of extramarital affairs and rehab stints that have surrounded the 14-time major champion since November.
Some like him, some don’t, and others like him less now than they did before Nov. 27. That’s when he fled his house in the middle of the night and ran his Cadillac SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree.
But just about all those who agreed to discuss Woods on Tuesday said they’ll be watching his every move at Augusta National.
Welcome back, Tiger.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a Tiger guy, per se, but I’ve always admired his golf skills and he’s probably going to end up being the greatest golfer who ever lived and played,” said Daniel Manichello, who was hitting on the range at Miami Shores Country Club. “The stuff that’s gone on, that’s between him and his family. That’s where it should be kept.”
Manichello was going to watch the Masters, anyway. He’s a year-round follower of golf, someone who drives around listening to golf news on his satellite radio, which is how he learned of Tuesday’s news before hitting a bucket of drives.
Still, Woods’ return means he’ll watch this year’s Masters even more closely.
“Makes it more compelling for television and for fans,” Manichello said. “If he plays up to his abilities, the guy’s incredible. The shots that he pulls off and stuff like that, it makes it more entertaining. And this year and last year when he was out with the injury, nobody’s really stepped up into the spotlight.”
Sue Ferguson-Pagan, a Scottish vacationer and one of the few women who were willing to speak with The Associated Press about Woods on Tuesday, was puzzled on why the Woods saga has attracted so much attention. A former reporter, Ferguson-Pagan said she thought the entire episode has been media driven.
“He’s a superb golfer and I’m just sorry that he’s been so publicly exposed for his failings,” Ferguson-Pagan said, slinging her bag over her shoulder for an afternoon round. “Just because he’s a superhuman golfer doesn’t mean to say that he’s going to be superhuman in other areas. Leave him alone.”
It’s unclear what effect Woods’ latest absence has had on the game, because he actually didn’t miss many tournaments in which he would have played. Doral, though, was one of those tournaments.
When Woods teed off on the Blue Monster in 2009, the gallery stretched nearly 300 yards up the course. While crowds were again sizable at Doral for the weekend rounds of the CA Championship this year – especially following Phil Mickelson, Camilo Villegas and 2010 winner Ernie Els – it was nothing like what greeted Woods a year ago.
“It was kind of empty,” Alfredo Behar said. “The security was a lot less beefed up, I’ll tell you that much.”
Behar, 32, isn’t a Woods fan. He roots for Mickelson, mostly. And Ramos, his friend, isn’t much of a Woods fan, either.
“He always acted like he was better than you,” Ramos said.
They both think they’ll see a slightly different Woods when he returns.
“Tiger’s a little arrogant, I think,” Behar said. “He can’t win every tournament. It’s impossible to win every tournament. I would have loved to see his comeback at Doral. He would have been all right in Miami. Miami’s a very liberal town. And, as a matter of fact, some people would tell you they like him better now.”
Watch that time Tiger throttled Ames, 9 and 8
Nine and eight. Three words that live in golf lore. Just say them and any golf fan can tell you what they mean.
In the 2006 WGC-Match Play, Tiger Woods faced Stephen Ames in the opening round. Ames, when asked prior to the event about his chance of winning, infamously said, "Anything can happen, especially where he's hitting it."
What happened on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at La Coasta Resort & Spa, was the most lopsided result in tournament history: 9 and 8 Check out the highlights below:
Tiger Woods’ 2006 9&8 win at Match Play over Stephen Ames https://t.co/KlB39aNUZB— Skratch (@Skratch) March 20, 2018
After his win, Woods was asked if Ames' comment had motivated him. Woods replied, "9 and 8."
Woods eventually lost, 1 up, to Chad Campbell in the third round. He then won his next start at Doral and went on to finish the season with six consecutive Tour wins, including The Open and PGA. He also won his first start in 2007 to make it seven consecutive Tour titles.
Schedule change, caddie change for Casey at Match Play
AUSTIN, Texas – Paul Casey originally planned to skip the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, opting for two weeks off before the Masters.
Those plans changed when he removed the Arnold Palmer Invitational from his schedule and returned home to England last week to attend the funeral of a family friend. That adjustment also prompted a caddie change this week, with Scott Vail stepping in for the Englishman’s normal caddie, John McLaren.
“We looked at tickets and it just didn't make sense for Johnny to fly back. We try and base our schedule around playing the best golf possible, but also having quality family time,” Casey said on Tuesday at Austin Country Club. “For Johnny to break up a nice three-week break with his family, there was no point to ruining that.”
This isn’t the first time Casey, who won the Valspar Championship two weeks ago, has needed a replacement caddie. At last year’s Travelers Championship, McLaren took a similar break and was replaced on the bag by Shannon Wallace. Although it’s not uncommon for caddies to take a week off, McLaren does have one stipulation.
“The only rule we have is that if Johnny is not going to work, he picks my caddie. So he picked the caddie,” said Casey, who is 20-12-1 in 12 starts at the Match Play and has advanced to the championship match twice.
Westchester selected to host 2021 U.S. Women's Am
The USGA announced Tuesday that Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., has been selected to host the 2021 U.S. Women's Amateur. The tournament will be held Aug. 2-8, 2021.
The club's West Course first hosted the event in 1923, and it boasts a storied history of professional tournaments as well. The PGA Tour hosted the Westchester Classic, later known as the Buick Classic and eventually The Barclays, at Westchester from 1967-2007, including the first-ever FedExCup playoff event, won by Steve Stricker in 2007.
The course was also the site of the 2011 Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship, won by Fred Couples, and the 2015 KPMG Women's PGA Championship, won by Inbee Park.
"The USGA is thrilled to bring the U.S. Women's Amateur to Westchester Country Club for the second time," Stuart Francis, USGA championship committee chairman, said in a release. "One of the USGA's three oldest championships, the Women's Amateur consistently identifies the world's top female players, and we are confident Westchester will provide the ultimate test for the championship's 121st playing."
First held in 1895, the Women's Amateur is open to players with a USGA handicap index not exceeding 5.4. Sophia Schubert won last year's event at San Diego Country Club, while this year's tournament will be held at The Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs.
Stock Watch: Park rises again, under the radar
Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.
Rory (+10%): The massive drives, the fist pumps, the unmistakable strut – McIlroy finally found the spark that he needed to play confident, aggressive golf. Bring on Augusta and his shot at history.
Tiger (+7%): It was another forgettable end to a final round, but let’s not lose sight of the big picture: Five events into his comeback, Woods has now carded 10 consecutive rounds of par or better – all on tough tracks – and can be viewed as a legitimate threat at the Masters. Remarkable, really.
Inbee Park (+5%): Fighting injuries and questioning whether she should retire, the Queen ‘Bee routed a top field in just her second start back. Stud.
Bryson (+3%): When The Machine operates properly, he’s one of the best ball-strikers in the world. Yes, he’s still painfully slow, but there’s no denying his talent – his runner-up against a star-studded field should help him tremendously.
Laura Davies (+2%): Fifty-four years old and nursing an Achilles injury, she turned back the clock with one of the coolest performances of the young season, on any tour. She’s still got tons of game.
Henrik Stenson (-1%): Maybe he’s just destined to go winless at Bay Hill. In the past four years, he’s had three excellent chances to win there and came away empty-handed each time.
Rickie (-2%): Hanging near the lead, Fowler closed his third round bogey-double, then shot 74 in the final round to drop out of the top 10. Sigh.
P-Reed (-3%): His whiny protest to a rules official about a free drop – “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth” – got even juicier when the Ryder Cup partners were drawn in the same group at the Match Play. Get your popcorn ready.
Ted Potter Jr. (-5%): His impressive victory at Pebble Beach over DJ, Phil and J-Day is looking more and more like a fluke each week. He’s now missed four consecutive cuts.
Fan behavior (-7%): Another week, another player complaining about increasingly hostile spectators. The Tour has (frustratingly) remained quiet on the issue, but the tipping point will come when one of these dopes affects the outcome on the 72nd hole.