Woods keeps things under control in Round 1

By Bailey MosierMay 4, 2012, 1:02 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – This week is all about control for Tiger Woods.

Control the message. Control the medium. Control the media. Control the misses.

Despite an opening 71 Thursday at Quail Hollow that left him six shots off the pace set by Webb Simpson, Stewart Cink and Ryan Moore, Woods never lost sight of the process.

He began the week unlike ever before when he opted to use social media to field questions from fans instead of a pre-tournament interview with the media. The Tiger camp assured us it wasn’t a knock on us typing types, rather a way to directly connect with fans.

In truth, it was Woods’ way to control the message, the medium and the media.

After three weeks off from competitive play, Woods was hoping to control the fourth ‘m’ as well, but opened his round with a miss.

“I bogeyed the first hole, so there goes that idea,” Woods said. “You try and build, try and find a rhythm in the round.”

His miss at the first was easily made up for when he birdied the second.

From there, Woods took his regulator role from earlier in the week and applied it to his execution and etiquette on the course.

It was a lackluster 18 compared to that of Woods’ playing partner Simpson, whose round included a chip-in eagle at the eighth and a 62-foot putt for birdie at the 12th. Woods’ round included three bogeys and four birdies. It was neither electrifying nor erratic. Woods never lost his composure nor found his rhythm.

But the one thing Woods did have all round was control. His misses were slight; his makes were simple.

Woods hit driver five times Thursday and found the fairway with it only once, on the par-5 10th. But the only time his driver cost him a shot was at the par-4 ninth; it was his only 'big miss' of the day. He came up and out of the shot, flared it right and immediately let go of the club, looking down in disgust. When his second shot caught a low-hanging tree branch and advanced only 30 yards, he was unable to save the par, making his third and final bogey of the day.

Woods found his footing on the back nine, recording seven pars and two birdies.

“I did play good on the back,” Woods said. “I gave up too many shots on the front nine.”

The shots Woods was referring to were a missed birdie opportunity on the par-5 fifth and a few approach shots that left him short-sided with little room for error in his chips.

His ball-striking was for the most part solid, but he failed to convert pars on more than one occasion where he had tough chips and bad breaks.

Still, no miss was too far gone that he couldn’t recover and his attitude was never so strained that he lost composure.

In fact, Woods was quite jovial all day and often laughed and joked with caddie Joe LaCava, Simpson and Simpson’s caddie.

“We’re all friends,” Woods said. “ Webby I’ve gotten to know because of the Presidents Cup. We had a good time out there.”

The last time Woods played with Simpson was brief but memorable. They were paired in the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral where Woods withdrew after 11 holes, citing tightness in his Achilles. It was a day that stuck with Simpson.

“We went from 10,000 people every hole to zero people,” Simpson recalled with a laugh.

Woods was among 79 players under par in the first round of the Wells Fargo, but stands T-56.

''I've got to obviously not make those little mistakes like that tomorrow,'' Woods said. ''We've got a long way to go, and we've got some rain coming probably on the weekend, so we're going to have to go get it.''

As long as Woods contains his misses for the remainder of the week, his ending may be well within his control. And if that’s the case, we all know what that message looks like.

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."