Tiger Woods readies for second phase of career

By Associated PressApril 4, 2009, 4:00 pm
Consider the 10 months between his last major and the next one as an intermission in the incomparable career of Tiger Woods, a break in a seamless act of historic and head-turning moments.
 
The 12-shot victory in the Masters. Winning the U.S. Open by 15 shots at Pebble Beach.
 
The Tiger Slam, when he won all four majors in 294 days. Not missing a cut in seven years. Three PGA Tour winning streaks of at least five tournaments. The magic acts, from that putt on the island green at Sawgrass to the chip-in at the Masters that hung on the hole.
 
Tiger Woods and Steve Williams
Tiger Woods celebrates during one of his four Masters victories. (Getty Images)
And then he was gone.
 
Woods limped away from his epic U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines and wound up in Utah for reconstructive surgery on his left knee that kept him out of golf for eight months, his longest break from golf in his life.
 
He returns to the stage at Augusta National, golfs grandest theater, to start what seems like a second phase in his career.
 
I can certainly see that, no doubt, Woods said. Ive been playing golf for a long time, and it was nice actually to take that break. I didnt want to take that break ' trust me. I didnt want to have to go through all the things I went through. But when its all said and done, Im feeling so much better now than I did for years.
 
Better than ever?
 
He certainly looks the same.
 
In his last major, Woods made a do-or-die putt from 12 feet on the final hole to force a playoff at the U.S. Open, which he won the next day. In his last tournament, he matched the largest comeback of his PGA Tour career ' five shots ' and won the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole at Bay Hill in the dark.
 
But there are changes that those around him have noticed, which the layoff only accentuated.
 
Hes in a good place, said Mark Steinberg, a close friend and his agent at IMG. He has balance in his personal life, his business life and balance in his golf life. He has learned not to get ahead of himself. Hes been extremely patient. Twelve years ago, patience wouldnt be the word I used with Tiger. Now, patience is a virtue with him.
 
Woods is 33, a family man. He has lost a father and become a father. He and his wife, Elin, will celebrate their five-year wedding anniversary in October. Their second child, a boy, was born in February.
 
Mark OMeara was on the helicopter to Isleworth after the Tavistock Cup last month and recalls a poignant image of the guy whom he befriended when Woods was 20.
 
Elin was waiting on him ' and this is a side of Tiger Woods that people dont get to see ' he grabs his daughter and they hoof it down the road, OMeara said. Not in a cart. Just him and his family walking together to their house. Hes a good father. Being an only child, I think hes going to do everything he can to be there as much as possible.
 
With everything that transpired in the last year ' winning on one leg, taking a major break, his son coming into his life ' its been a little bit of a whirlwind, OMeara said. It gave him time to reflect where hes at, what hes done, and what hes getting ready to do. I think hell be back better than ever.
 
Woods won at Bay Hill in only his third tournament back. It assured his position at No. 1 in the world and made him the favorite again at the Masters, although now with perhaps more challengers since the start of the decade.
 
Padraig Harrington won the British Open and PGA Championship while Woods was away, and neither came with an asterisk. The Irishman, who has shown a remarkable knack for bearing down on the back nine at majors, goes to the Masters with a chance to join Woods and Ben Hogan as the only players to win three straight majors in the 93 years that there have been at least three on the menu.
 
Its nice that I am going for three in a row, Harrington said. It means I did something right in the last two majors.
 
The last player who had that chance was Phil Mickelson.
 
Mickelson hasnt come close to winning another major since that meltdown at Winged Foot in 2006, but that might change. The two-time Masters champion won twice in his last three starts going into the Shell Houston Open ' starting, perhaps coincidentally, with word that Woods was ready to return to golf. Perhaps no two players today are better suited for Augusta National than Woods and Mickelson.
 
Sergio Garcia had a mathematical chance to be No. 1, which only indicates how close he is ' not only to the ranking, but toward shedding the burden of the best to have never won a major. He came closer than ever at the last major, the PGA Championship, until Harrington rallied on the back nine at Oakland Hills.
 
It was Garcias ninth top-five in a major, as many as Mickelson had when he won his first major at 33.
 
I feel like Ive been a good, solid player throughout my career, Garcia said. You guys always compare to one guy, and its kind of unfair for the rest because hes extraordinary. Hes a little bit different than the rest. I feel like Ive done well.
 
Garcia is only 29, but that practically makes him a dinosaur compared with some of these kids at the Masters. Three teenagers ' Ryo Ishikawa (17), U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee (18) and Rory McIlroy (19) ' will make their debut at Augusta National, and all of them have already won on recognized tours.
 
Woods became the youngest Masters champion at age 21 in 1997. This year, 41 players are older than Woods.
 
Not even he knows how much longer he will play. Woods first said in 2005 that he will leave the PGA Tour when his best isnt good enough to win. Even so, odds are he is closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
 
Swing coach Hank Haney doesnt see how Woods can do anything but get better, especially now that his left knee is stable.
 
One thing Tiger always talks about is trying to improve as a person and a golfer, Haney said. And when you live your life like that, youll keep getting better. He just keeps getting more experience, and hes experiencing new things in life. With children, just from being around him, they certainly teach you patience.
 
Woods is known for a blank stare when he shows up on any given Sunday, particularly when hes in the lead or in the last group. But at Bay Hill, a young boy boldly walked up to him in the breezeway as Woods headed to the practice range and asked for an autograph. Whats the magic word? Woods said, signing as the boy said apologetically, Please.
 
After he failed to birdie the par-5 sixth for the fourth straight day, Woods walked briskly from the green past a 6-year-old boy who said in a quiet voice, Good job, Tiger.
 
Woods looked him in the eye and said, Thanks, little dude.
 
He was reminded of the tantrum he threw at Doral last year when a three-putt bogey on the last hole put him in a foul mood, even though he shot 67. Woods stormed off the course, into a terse interview and out to the parking lot, fuming until he got to his boat and saw his daughter, Sam, crawling toward him.
 
Dont even know what I shot after that, he said the next day.
 
And how long would he have carried that anger in the early stages of his career?
 
There probably would have been a few backup sand wedges that would have been altered, he said, laughing as he got into his car to drive home with another trophy.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Masters Tournament
  • Getty Images

    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

    Getty Images

    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

    Getty Images

    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

    Getty Images

    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.