Tiger Defends Dubious Record of Late

By Associated PressJuly 1, 2004, 4:00 pm
Cialis Western OpenLEMONT, Ill. -- Tiger Woods had barely settled into his chair when the barrage began. He wasn't a factor in either of the year's first two majors. Hadn't won that much on the regular tour, either. And his swing continues to be in a state of flux.
Sound familiar? Woods heard the same questions when he arrived at last year's Western Open - then went out and promptly shattered a bunch of records on his way to a wire-to-wire win.
'Certainly I'm not playing as well as I know I can,' Woods said Wednesday after his pro-am round at the Western Open. 'I feel like the game is very close to coming together. I know I keep saying that, but I feel in my heart of hearts that it is. I'm close to putting it together.'
What better place to do it than the Western, one of his favorite tournaments? Woods played the Western's amateur tournament when he was growing up, and he's played this tournament every year but one since he turned pro, winning three times. He withdrew in 2002 with the flu.
His first victory in 1997 remains one for the ages, with fans breaking through the ropes to follow him, Pied Piper-like, up the 18th fairway. Last year, he gave a resounding answer to all the critics of his game - at least for one week.
After opening with a 9-under 63 that tied the course and tournament records, he went on to win by five strokes. His 21-under 267 matched the Western Open record, and he was the tournament's first start-to-finish winner since 1993.
And he's clearly excited to be back on familiar ground. A grin spread across his face as he talked about his past trips to Cog Hill Golf Club, and he seems very much at home here. He was relaxed as he talked about what's wrong with his game, not showing any of the defensiveness he had at the U.S. Open earlier in the month.
'Any time you come to a golf course where you've had success, you usually feel pretty good,' Woods said. 'If you're playing great or poorly, you still feel like you can play well around a golf course that you played well on in the past, and that's been the case when I've played at Bay Hill or Memorial.
'I may go in the tournament hitting it great, may go in there hitting it terrible. But for some reason I've turned it around and really played well, just because I like the golf course and a lot of the holes just fit my eye. This golf course is very similar to that.'
While part of that is just personal comfort, familiarity can also give a big practical advantage. Aside from owner Frank Jemsek, there probably aren't too many people who know the Cog Hill course better than Woods. He knows what clubs to hit when. Where he needs to put shots on every hole. What holes will get tough if there's rain or wind or high temperatures.
Instead of calculating yardage and deciding what clubs to use, Woods could spend his pro-am round Wednesday tinkering with a new driver.
'I just feel comfortable on it because I've had success on it in the past,' he said. 'The only thing I need to know is where is my landing area now as opposed to where it was before.'
Two holes on the course were changed for this year's tournament. The fifth hole was shortened 45 yards and will play as a par 4 at 480 yards, making the Dubsdread Course a par 71 for the first time. No. 5 had been an eagle hole for many players in the last few years.
A more significant change was to the par-5 ninth, where the tee box was backed up 38 yards to make the hole play at 600 yards.
'That was a really tough hole to begin with. It's going to be extremely difficult now,' said Jerry Kelly, the 2002 winner. 'It's going to play over par if we play into the wind, I guarantee you.'
The changes don't seem to bother Woods. Then again, he's got enough on his plate with his ever-evolving game.
Woods is an 0-for-8 slump at the majors, not winning one since the 2002 U.S. Open. He's also struggled away from the majors. He's won once in 11 starts this year, the Match Play Championship, and has only two victories since winning the Western last year.
Those numbers might not be so glaring for anyone else, but Woods set an unbelievable standard with his run in 1999 and 2000. He won 17 of the 41 tournaments he entered, and finished in the top five in eight others. He won four majors, and when he won the 2001 Masters, he held all four major titles at the same time - a Tiger Slam.
Some have questioned whether he's lost focus since getting engaged to Elin Nordegren, but Woods scoffed at that notion.
'I was living with Elin when I won my two majors in 2002. We had already made a commitment to each other back then,' Woods said. 'Our relationship hasn't changed, so it's not her fault. It's not my family's fault, not my friends' fault. It's nobody's fault but my own for not putting the ball in the hole fast enough.
'Everybody goes through highs and lows in their career. Everyone,' he added. 'You don't want to do that, trust me. But it happens.'
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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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    Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

    “That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

    So was Woods.

    DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

    “His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

    Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

    “He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

    Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

    “Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

    “Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

    Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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    With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.