Tigers return official on Wednesday

By Associated PressFebruary 25, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureMARANA, Ariz. ' Tiger Woods has been ahead of schedule since he first began rehabilitation for reconstructive knee surgery.
 
Only when he returned to the PGA Tour did he fall hopelessly behind.
 
He wasnt even the first player to warm up Tuesday morning at Dove Mountain. That honor went to Phil Mickelson, who had never seen so many photographers on the range at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods finally is back out on the course, ready to compete.(Getty Images)
What will happen Wednesday is a mystery to all ' including Woods, who finished his practice round about an hour later than he expected, and walked into his press conference with an apology.
 
Sorry Im late, Woods said. I forgot how long it takes to play 18 holes walking.
 
It was the first time he had walked a round of golf since the Monday playoff at last years U.S. Open, where he beat Rocco Mediate for his 14th major, then shocked the golfing world by announcing he would miss the rest of the year after having surgery on his left knee.
 
The next question is how many holes he walks at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.
 
Woods is fit enough ' one caddie thought he belonged at the NFL combine ' appears to be swinging better than ever and says his left knee is stronger than it has been in years.
 
But in this fickle format, not even good golf is enough to assure anyone ' Woods included ' of advancing to the next round.
 
You have to be on your game right away, he said. You have to make sure you bring the intensity and bring your game from the very first hole. Because if you dont, then Ill be going home.
 
This is the 10th time Woods has competed in the Accenture Match Play Championship, and he has reached the weekend only four times. Even when healthy ' the year he won the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year ' he lost in the first round to Peter OMalley.
 
For now, hes simply thrilled to be playing.
 
Oddly enough, the last time he played essentially was match play. After 90 holes at Torrey Pines ' four rounds and an 18-hole playoff against Mediate ' they had to go to sudden death, and Woods won on the next hole with a par.
 
He raised hardly any questions about his game during his 18 holes on the Jack Nicklaus design, which features firm turf and greens with too many contours to count. On the eighth hole, caddie Steve Williams was about to suggest a 3-wood until Woods pulled off the cover of his driver and said he would chip one down there. It was hit plenty hard, prompting Williams to say, Beautiful.
 
Even so, there is sure to be rust when he faces Brendan Jones of Australia in the first round.
 
Ive played one tournament in 10 months, Woods said. Ive simulated tournaments the best I possibly can, but its hard to get the adrenaline up to where its going to be tomorrow when I play. Im trying to get into the rhythm of the round as fast as I possibly can.
 
And hopefully, it will happen quickly for me.
 
Even those who have not taken eight months off are leery about this format.
 
Robert Karlsson is the No. 7 player in the world, yet he has never made it out of the first round in his previous three starts. Geoff Ogilvy has an 11-2 record in this tournament and won the season-opener at Kapalua, but he faces Kevin Sutherland, who has an 8-2 mark.
 
A year ago, two reporters looked at the bracket and tried to pick one match that would be a sure thing. Both settled on Vijay Singh over Peter Hanson, and sure enough, the Fijian won ' in 19 holes.
 
Sometimes you can play poorly I remember one of the guys at La Costa one year shot 79 and won his match. So that can happen, Woods said. But the reverse can happen, as well. The only thing you can control is what you do on the golf course yourself.
 
So far, there have been no complaints.
 
Woods says he had about 20 percent of his ACL five years ago, and none of it after stepping into a hole while jogging after the British Open two years ago. But after reconstructing the ligament, and going through a patient but rigorous rehab, he is feeling stronger than ever.
 
I feel a lot stronger in my left leg, Woods said. Both legs have been stronger than they ever have been. Stability is something I havent had in years. So its nice to make a swing and not have my bones move. Its nice to hit into it for the first time.
 
Swing coach Hank Haney was pleased with what he saw.
 
He looked great, Haney said. Im very pleased with how he did today. Its slowly coming around, and hes getting more consistent. His knee is not flopping all over the place. Its nice to see him not in pain, not hurt when hes playing.
 
It felt good to be back among his colleagues, and it was good to be back at work. When he pulled into the parking lot just after dawn, it felt like he had never been gone, just another day at the office. He changed his shoes in the clubhouse, went to the range, grumbled about photographers and played 18 holes without anyone in front of him.
 
But that was practice.
 
Every shot counts when he tees off against Jones.
 
Im looking forward to the rush tomorrow. I really am, Woods said. Waking up tomorrow, and getting ready for my round, and getting focused, and coming out here, warming up and getting fired up. Im really looking forward to that more than anything else. Because I havent had that in a long time.
 
Note: Tiger Woods' return can be seen live on Golf Channel Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage ' Tiger's Return
  • Match Play Bracket
  • Match Play Bracket Challenge
  • Full Coverage ' WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Woods' wife gives birth to son Charlie Axel
  • 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.