Tiger looks better than ever in return at Masters

By Associated PressApril 9, 2010, 4:57 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods, the person, is a work in progress.

Tiger Woods, the golfer, is the same as ever.

Maybe better.

Coming back from a five-month layoff, his marriage and reputation shattered by revelations of serial infidelity, the world's greatest golfer stepped up to the first tee at Augusta National and picked up where he left off.

He hit a booming shot down the right side of the fairway – 'One of the best drives I've ever seen him hit,' swing coach Hank Haney said – and it seemed as if Woods had never been away.

By the third hole of the Masters, he had a birdie on his card.

Five holes later, he calmly rolled in an eagle and broke out that patented fist pump for the first time.

Then at No. 9 came one of those signature Tiger shots, a wicked 5-iron hooked around the pine trees, a line drive that skidded to a stop just above the hole to set up an improbable birdie. He sidestepped out into the fairway to see where it landed, then strolled up to the green and knocked in a 15-foot putt.

'I got into the flow of the round early,' Woods said. 'Got into the rhythm of just playing, making shots, thinking my way around the golf course.'

He made it sound so easy.

'I was just pretty calm all day,' Woods said. 'I felt this is what I can do. This is what I know I can do. Just go out there and just play. I expected to go out here and shoot something under par.'

That he did, probably exceeding even his own high expectations.

Woods made another eagle at the 15th – the first time he's ever had two of those in a single round at Augusta – and finished up with a 4-under 68, the lowest opening score he's ever posted at the Masters and two strokes behind the surprising leader, 50-year-old Fred Couples.

Woods pledged to control his emotions on the course, yet there was little change. He twirled his club after a good drive, slammed it after a few bad ones. He pumped his fist when the putts fell, sunk to his knees when they failed to drop – including a birdie attempt on the 16th that slowed his climb up the leaderboard.

As always, he complained about not making enough putts.

'Otherwise, it could have been a very special round,' Woods said.

After heavy overnight showers, the second round began Friday on a cool, sunny morning with temperatures expected to rise into the lower 70s – a forecast that's expected to hold through the weekend.

Woods, playing again with K.J. Choi and Matt Kuchar, was scheduled to tee off at 10:35 a.m.

Couples, who played a practice round with Woods on Monday, sauntered along in tennis shoes and no socks and shot a 66. It was his best score ever at the Masters and made him the oldest player to be the outright leader after the opening round.

'I never really thought about what I was shooting,' said Couples, who already has won three times this year on the Champions Tour. 'It was a fun day for me. I still think I can play, and if I putt well I've got to be some kind of factor in my mind.'

Tom Watson, at 60 the oldest player in this Masters and who came within a whisker of winning last year's British Open, had a bogey-free round of 67. That left him tied with Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, PGA champion Y.E. Yang and Choi.

'My goals were to play better than I've played in the last five or six years, and I achieved that – for the first round,' said Watson, whose magical run at Turnberry ended when he missed an eight-foot putt on the last hole of regulation and then lost a playoff. 'I'm playing pretty well. I've said I have to play better than 90 percent to be successful on this golf course.'

Still, this day was always going to be about Woods.

He had not hit a competitive shot in 144 days, since winning the Australian Masters on Nov. 15 for his 82nd victory around the world. A four-time Masters champion, he has never come to Augusta National with so much uncertainty – about his game, and mostly how fans would respond to a player whose impeccable image had been shattered by tawdry tabloid tales of sex.

The patrons were on their best behavior, as expected at the most polite tournament in golf. Augusta National can't control the perimeter of the course, however, and a couple of planes toted banners that poked fun at Woods – one for his pledge to get back to Buddhism ('Bootyism,' the banner said), another mocking claims he needed therapy as a sex addict.

On the ground, the gallery was mostly positive, with a few exceptions.

'He doesn't have the right character and integrity to represent golf,' Larry Isenhour said. 'That's why I came out early this morning to applaud Jack Nicklaus.'

Nicklaus, the six-time Masters champion, joined Arnold Palmer as an honorary starter. The two longtime rivals hit the ceremonial tee shots to open the Masters, and chairman Billy Payne said, 'The 2010 Masters is now officially begun. Have fun.'

They did.

Clouds moved in quickly and kept the sun from baking out the greens, and some of the hole locations allowed for birdies. The low scores weren't a surprise, only the names next to them.

Couples and Watson were the biggest surprises, of course, but Mickelson came to the Masters without having finished in the top five all year. He looked as comfortable as ever, particularly on the back nine with an eagle-birdie-birdie stretch that briefly put him atop the leaderboard at 67.

'I do love this place,' Lefty said. 'I don't have to be perfect. I can miss a shot and still recover. It relaxes me when I go down Magnolia Lane.'

Westwood, Europe's top player, had only broken 70 twice in his Masters career until running off seven birdies for a 67.

They'll all have to contend with Woods, it seems.

He'll be looking to set up a weekend no one could have envisioned, the kind that ends early Sunday evening with Woods, perhaps, slipping on a green jacket for the fifth time.

'Why play if you don't think you're going to win,' he said.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.