Tiger Could be in for Another Short Week

By Associated PressFebruary 21, 2006, 5:00 pm
2005 WGC Accenture Match PlayCARLSBAD, Calif. -- Tiger Woods had a short stay at Riviera, withdrawing after two rounds with the flu.
This week might be even shorter.
No other tournament is more unpredictable than the Match Play Championship, which starts Wednesday with 64 players and will be whittled in half after one day with no regard to ranking. Woods knows both sides of the equation, having won this World Golf Championship twice, and having been eliminated in the first round in 2002 by Peter O'Malley.
'It's the final round on the first day, because anything can happen at any time,' Woods said Tuesday. 'You never know what you're going to get. You have to play your best and beat the guy you're playing against.'
Step one is getting past Stephen Ames, who got into the field as the No. 64 seed when Thomas Bjorn withdrew. Woods is the No. 1 seed, followed by Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els.
It will be the last time the Accenture Match Play Championship is held at La Costa Resort, known lately as 'Lake La Costa' because the fairways are better suited for kayak races with only a little rain. The tournament is expected to move next year to The Gallery in Tucson, Ariz.
Woods was asked what he will miss about La Costa, and it was a struggle to find an answer.
OK, there was that 7-iron to a few inches on the par-3 16th hole to beat Tom Lehman in a playoff when the Mercedes Championships was held here in 1997. And the two victories in the Match Play Championship, over David Toms and Davis Love III, were sweet.
'I've played well here,' Woods said. 'But this golf course didn't really handle the weather too well, and this time of year, you get rain. We've been lucky to finish this tournament on time.'
At least Woods has a few fond memories.
That hasn't been the case for Els, who dislikes La Costa so much that he didn't show up the past two years.
When last seen here, the Big Easy had a 1-up lead on the final hole before Phil Tataurangi knocked in a 25-foot birdie putt, then hit his tee shot on the second extra hole to 2 feet for a victory. Els was eliminated in 2002 in the second round by missing a 4-foot par putt that would have extended his match against Bob Estes.
Els could only grin when he arrived Monday night at La Costa.
'You check into the hotel and see you're booked for seven nights,' he said. 'But you know you might be leaving in a day or two. It's exciting for the fans. But you're on edge. And you're on edge the whole round.'
Els opens with former Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer, and it's safe to say he has no expectations. Els has never advanced beyond the second round at La Costa, and he figures he has seen the worst.
'If you look past the first round, you're in trouble,' he said. 'Don't even look at your bracket, because crazy things happen in match play. You've got to prepare yourself for a tight match no matter what happens.'
Crazy would be the time Jeff Maggert trailed for 33 holes in the championship match until chipping in for birdie to win in 38 holes. Crazy would be the time Kevin Sutherland was 2 down with two holes to play in the opening round against David Duval, won in 20 holes, then went on to win the tournament.
Ian Poulter knows what crazy looks like.
He was playing great golf in the semifinals last year and was all square with Toms when they got to the ninth hole. Toms hit a 5-wood to 4 feet for birdie, holed out a 9-iron from 123 yards for eagle on No. 10, then hit a 5-wood that stopped 2 feet away on the par-5 11th.
'When you do that, you're going to win the golf tournament, and that's exactly what he did,' Poulter said.
He was asked what he said to Toms.
'Nice shot,' Poulter replied dryly. 'I'm not happy, am I? I'm not going to stand and have a five-minute chew with him. I'm going to pack my bags and go home.'
He unpacked at La Costa, looked at the draw and saw that he gets to play Toms again -- this time in the first round. The other choice, before Bjorn withdrew, was 2005 runner-up Chris DiMarco.
'You've got to beat the best to win this golf tournament,' Poulter said. 'So what difference does it make if it's the first round, second, third, fourth or semis or finals?'
For some of the newcomers, such as Sean O'Hair and Bart Bryant, it has been years since they played match play. Bryant remembers playing match play on one of the small tours where he once toiled in Florida, and isn't sure it matters. He'll try to hit fairways and greens, make a few putts and see whether that takes him to the airport on Wednesday or the winner's circle on Sunday.
First up for Bryant is John Daly.
'JD has the ability to dwarf any golf course,' Bryant said. 'He can be real streaky. You really never know what you're going to get. I've got to play my game, and let him decide who wins the match.'
It is hard to consider anyone a favorite considering the fickle nature of 18-hole matches, where someone can be off his game and run into someone who is flat-out terrible that day. Even so, Woods and Toms have records that are difficult to ignore. Woods is 21-4 at La Costa, and 33-9-2 as a pro. Toms, who lost in the finals to Woods in 2003, is 18-5 in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
But there is only one certainty this week.
'Any time you get beat in the first round,' Woods said, 'it's not a positive feeling.'
Related Links:
  • Round One Match Ups
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Match Play Brackets
  • Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.