A Summer of Speculation Over Woods

By Associated PressJune 17, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger answered his phone during the final round of a U.S. Open that attracted more prime-time viewers than the NBA finals. He was among them, camped in front of his TV.
 
Im watching my show pony, he said, referring to longtime friend Rocco Mediate.
 
Asked what he thought about his Secretariat, there was a slight pause.
 
Im a little worried for him, Azinger said while watching Tiger Woods flinch, grimace, limp and hit a careers worth of clutch shots at Torrey Pines. Not for the Ryder Cup. I just hope hes not doing anything to create a long-term issue for himself. Thats my concern.
 
Woods seems to have everyone worried.
 
The countdown toward Jack Nicklaus benchmark of 18 professional majors began in earnest three years ago when Woods won the Masters in a playoff and reached the halfway point with his ninth Grand Slam title.
 
But when he picked up No. 14 with a playoff victory Monday at the U.S. Open, looking into his future was like summer in San Diego. It can be so foggy you cant see the Pacific from the bluffs, or clear enough to see across the ocean to La Jolla Cove.
 
I think I need to shut it down for a little bit, Woods said. I pushed it pretty hard this week, and I just want to enjoy it. And were going to reevaluate after this event and see what happens.
 
What does that mean? How bad is his knee? How severe was the pain?
 
Only Woods knows, and hes more tightlipped with an injury report than Bill Belichick.
 
The Buick Open next week is most certainly out, and probably his own AT&T National at Congressional the week after. Even the British Open at Royal Birkdale, where Woods missed out on a playoff by one shot in 1998, is up in the air.
 
Woods is expected to expand on his immediate future later this week.
 
In the meantime, this surely will be a summer of speculation.
 
Perhaps it was only fitting that Woods cradled his daughter in his arms before handing Sam Alexis, who turns 1 on Wednesday, over to his wife. As he was piling up majors at a staggering rate, conventional wisdom said that only three things could keep Woods from breaking Nicklaus major record'marriage, children or injury.
 
He handled the first two just fine. But he has had three surgeries on his left knee, two in the last five years.
 
Weve got to get this fixed, one member of his camp said quietly.
 
After going 91 holes to win at Torrey Pines, someone brought up Ben Hogans victory in the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion, which came 16 months after a near-fatal car accident. As injuries ago, there is no comparison.
 
Geez, he was in the hospital and he didnt know if he was ever going to walk again, Woods said.
 
But there is a worthy comparison in their schedules.
 
Hogan never played more than nine times a season for the rest of his career. He won three of the four events he played in 1951, including the U.S. Open and the Masters. He won all three majors he played among eight tournaments in 1953.
 
This was the second time Woods returned from a two-month layoff due to knee surgery and won at Torrey Pines. The other was the 2003 Buick Invitational, and swing coach Hank Haney spoke of a huge difference that had little do with firm greens and thick rough.
 
With Woods, everything comes down to preparation.
 
Hes done this before'laying off'but he didnt do it without preparing, Haney said. Thats what made me apprehensive. Thats why this is the greatest win hes ever had.
 
Woods had not played a full round since the Masters until eight days before the start of the U.S. Open, and that was in a cart. Then came more cart golf in Newport Beach, followed by nine holes of walking on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. He didnt walk 18 holes until the first round at Torrey Pines.
 
As far as practice time, Haney said Woods never tested himself on anything but an even lie. Haney was asked if Woods might follow that routine before going to Royal Birkdale, if he plays.
 
Hopefully not, Haney said, breaking into a thin smile. But he proved he could do this, too.
 
Woods has played only seven times through the U.S. Open, the most abbreviated schedule of his career. That he already has won five times worldwide and leads Phil Mickelson by nearly $2 million on the PGA TOUR money list illustrates how wide the chasm is between No. 1 and everyone else. This is the 500th week that Woods has been atop the world ranking, and his 14 majors are one more than the rest of the top 20 combined.
 
But where does he go from here? And when?
 
Unless his knee heals quickly'or he finds the doctor that helped Paul Pierce climb out of a wheelchair in two minutes'Woods might have to decide between two cups at the end of the season.
 
Ryder Cup or FedExCup?
 
In a typical schedule, he would play two FedExCup playoff events, take a week off, then go consecutive weeks at the time-consuming Ryder Cup and the TOUR Championship.
 
Based on what happened at Torrey Pines, its doubtful he can play four times in five weeks.
 
Under a retooled points system, Woods could not sit out three playoff events and win the FedExCup'not the end of the world since he didnt even bother kissing the cup last year.
 
Does he pour everything into the Ryder Cup?
 
Woods loves the competition of the matches, but loathes everything else about that week. He might have a convenient excuse to sit this Ryder Cup out. Imagine the no-win situation Europe would face playing an American team without the worlds best player.
 
Who knows? Woods might up doing his team a favor.
 
And himself.
 
Related Links:
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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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    J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

    Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

    ''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

    Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

    Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

    She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

    ''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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    Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

    Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

    ''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

    Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

    Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

    ''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

    It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

    Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

    The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

    ''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

    PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

    Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

    ''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

    It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

    He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

    ''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

    Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

    Later, he laughed about the moment.

    ''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

    Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

    Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

    The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

    “They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

    The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

    “Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

    “As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

    Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

    “Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.