Knees and Knee-Jerk Reactions

By Associated PressMarch 4, 2003, 5:00 pm
Three of the top five seeded players were knocked out in the first round of the Match Play Championship, and everyone started trying to figure out how to bring some stability to golf's most unpredictable event.
By the end of the week, it was Tiger Woods against David Toms in the final match, and no one had any problems with that.
'If the No. 1 player in the world has played four times and been in the finals twice, I don't see anything broken with it,' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said.
'You've got to look at these things over time,' he said. 'There's a role for match play, and you have to accept it for what it is.'
Indeed, the first two months of the golf season have been a case study in knee-jerk reactions -- including the left knee of one particular player.
Exhibit A comes from the Mercedes Championships, where Ernie Els hit a tee shot on the 15th hole at Kapalua that traveled about 400 yards to the bottom of a hill. Equally alarming was his score, 31 under par, which shattered a PGA Tour record.
A week later at the Sony Open, Els reached the 501-yard ninth hole at Waialae Country with a driver and a wedge, and there were murmurs about the ball going too far.
Never mind there was virtually no wind on either island.
True, Finchem and the U.S. Golf Association are starting to look more closely at equipment issues, particularly the golf ball.
But a case can be made for waiting until the PGA Tour has gone to a variety of courses in a number of states under all kinds of weather conditions.
Woods was hitting 4-iron into some of the par 4s at Torrey Pines, which was soaked by rain that kept the fairways from rolling like linoleum. The pins were tucked at the Buick Invitational and Nissan Open, although Riviera's greens are so tough that no one has come close to the 72-hole record -- 20-under 264 -- that Lanny Wadkins set in 1985.
'Look at the conditions at Kapalua, Hawaii, Phoenix, Hope and the AT&T,' Jeff Sluman said. 'Beautiful weather. Hard, fast fairways. I don't care what ball you were playing, it was going a long way.'
All of the top 10 players in driving distance are averaging more than 300 yards off the tee, although Finchem says the data is 'overblown a bit' at the beginning of the year.
USGA executive director David Fay also preaches patience.
'I'd like to reserve my comments until we hit the straightaway,' he said. 'And the straightaway is usually some time after Florida.'
It will take a little longer to overcome the knee-jerk reaction that women are taking over the PGA Tour.
So far, Annika Sorenstam and Suzy Whaley are the only women who have entered PGA Tour events. Whaley qualified for the Greater Hartford Open by winning a club pro sectional from a shorter set of tees.
She went from a national story to a local story when Sorenstam, the best woman in golf, decided to play the Colonial in May.
Sorenstam has brought the LPGA Tour more attention during its three-month break than when the tour is in season. There is enormous curiosity over whether she can contend, compete or keep up -- and what the outcome will mean for women's golf.
'I hope she shoots her best,' Finchem said.
Others are shooting off at the mouth. One guy who finished dead last at Q-school is so offended by a woman playing on the PGA Tour that he said he would enter the U.S. Women's Open -- which is against rules that say an entrant must be born a woman.
If Se Ri Pak wins three majors this year, will she want to play on the PGA Tour? What about Michelle Wie, the eighth-grader from Hawaii who already tried to Monday qualify at the Sony Open and beat half the men in the field.
Finchem isn't bracing for a wave of women.
'I think the novelty will probably wear off,' he said. 'It creates interest, and I don't think there's any huge danger.'
No one is overreacting to Woods -- only to his knee.
After taking off two months because of arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, Woods won two of his three starts and might have won them all if not for a tee shot that was closer to the tennis courts than the first fairway at Riviera.
Not a round went by at La Costa that he wasn't asked how his knee was holding up. At one point, Woods jokingly said he would have to get it amputated.
During his practice round two days before his official return, Woods said he probably would get at least one question about his knee every day through the Masters.
Oh, yes -- Augusta National.
The club added 300 yards to its golf course last year. After one tournament -- a wet and sloppy week -- everyone said the extra length took away from the back-nine drama that helped make the Masters so special.
A month from now, that might prove to be another knee-jerk reaction.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

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.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

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:

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

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

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.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

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.