Woods receives warm reception in return

By Associated PressApril 9, 2010, 5:52 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Wearing golf hats with Tiger Woods' logo, brothers Sullins and James Becton could barely contain their excitement at seeing their favorite player again.

Their grandfather, Dr. James Becton, was a little more conflicted.

Sure, he was happy to see the world's No. 1 golfer back doing what he does best at the Masters. But Becton's grandsons are also 9 and 12, and he agrees with Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, who said Woods failed to live up to his responsibilities as a role model.

'That was pretty much my opinion, too,' the doctor said Thursday morning. 'But we'll wish him well today.'

This was Woods' first competitive round since the November SUV accident that touched off a tawdry sex scandal and made him a tabloid fixture and the butt of late-night jokes. No one – not even Woods – knew quite how fans would respond. Would they cheer him the way they used to? Follow his every move? Or would their response be muted? The occasional, oh-so-polite golf clap?

Or would they heckle him, a scenario that would have been unthinkable six months ago?

By the time he reached the first green, he had his answer: They were glad to see him.

Fans applauded Woods as he made the walk from the practice range to the first tee, and greeted him warmly at the tee. 'Make us proud!' one yelled.

It was much the same reaction on every other hole. Galleries that were one or two deep 20 minutes earlier swelled to mob scenes when Woods and his group arrived. No sooner did he finish one hole than a sea of people was on the move, eager to get in position on the next one.

They applauded his good shots, groaned at the bad ones and shouted encouraging cheers.

'It was unbelievable,' Woods said. 'I mean, all day. I haven't heard them cheer this loud in all my years here.'

Oh, there probably was a time or two in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005 he heard louder cries. But fans definitely seemed willing to overlook Woods' personal failings and appreciate his professional brilliance. Fans seated behind the 12th tee even gave him a standing ovation as he and playing partner Matt Kuchar approached the hole.

'I want to see him golf,' Denny Bleh said after Woods made his way through Amen Corner. 'That's the reason everybody's here.'

Added Freddie Holden, 'He's said he's sorry enough. Enough. Enough.'

There were even a few jabs.

While he was on No. 1 green a plane flew over the course towing a banner that said, 'Tiger Did You Mean Bootyism?' - an irreverent play on Buddhism, the religion he says he fell away from amid all of his problems. A few holes later, another banner - 'Sex Addict? Yeah. Right. Sure. Me Too!' - buzzed above Augusta National.

There was even a hard jab.

'He doesn't have the right character and integrity to represent golf,' Larry Isenhour said. 'He's just a bad representation of golf.'

Woods said he didn't see the planes, but he did see the fans. Heard them, too.

Criticized for being cold and detached in the past, Woods tried to make frequent eye contact with the gallery and acknowledged the cheers by waving or touching the brim of his cap.

After that standing ovation on 12, he actually took his cap off and nodded to the crowd. When fans around the No. 6 green greeted him with a chant of 'Ti-ger! Ti-ger!' he broke into a grin.

'I think the way he's reacting with the crowd is amazing,' Jim Moehring said after watching Woods in Amen Corner. 'He seems to be more relaxed.'

Woods even threw in a couple of fist pumps, despite his earlier warning that he would try to rein in his exuberance.

'It felt really good just to get out there and get into the rhythm of the round,' he said. 'Just kind of go about my business.'

And despite all the allegations, revelations and sordid details of the last five months, it really was business as usual on the course.

'I was expecting that he would be welcomed back,' Holden said. 'It's all about golf.'

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 17, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods teed off at 12:15PM ET alongside Justin Rose for Round 3 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

Getty Images

Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.

Getty Images

Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

Getty Images

Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.