Golf Without Tiger

By Brian HewittJune 20, 2008, 4:00 pm
The Comebacker this will week will be the exclusive province of You-Know-Who. Tiger Woods has shut it down for the year. And our viewers and readers, bless them, will not shut up about the decision and the implications of a golf world without The Striped One.
Without further ado:
Richard writes: With regard to Mr. Goosen, a friend of mine in London sent me the article quoting Retief saying he (Tiger) was hamming it and not really injured. I have four words for Mr. Goosen: Rory Sabbatini ' Stephen Ames!!! The next time they are paired at the Presidents Cup or even the Tavistock Cup you can look for Tiger to take his surgically repaired left leg and kick the you-know-what out of Retief. Here is hoping Tiger has a successful surgery and speedy recovery and can return to follow his dreams.
The Comebacker
If this ever gets on Tigers bulletin board, Retiefs goose is cooked.

Jim writes: Couple of thoughts; I read Goosen's comments to a German reporter that TW was faking it. I really like Goosen, but it appears those are pretty cheap shots. I hope he mans up to his faux pas. Second, I don't know TW and don't know what it would be like to have dinner with him, but I've never seen anyone who was so good at just letting his game do the talking. He NEVER makes excuses. When he gets lucky (17 on Saturday-flagstick) he acknowledges it was luck. As sports figures go, (other than his cursing) he is someone you would like your kids to emulate.
The Comebacker
Dinner with Tiger Hmmmm Im guessing hed pass on the dessert And am hoping hed pick up the check.

George writes: Tiger's an idiot. He's so obsessed with Jack's records that he has risked his long term health for another U.S. Open victory. What if he has just traded 10 more majors in the future for this one? At the very least he will have to change his swing to keep playing. Can he do that? Sure, he's done it before. But the left knee is so important to his violent golf swing that he may not be the golfer he was before. Four surgeries on the same joint? I can't believe he took risk. Time will tell.
The Comebacker
And here I thought all this time Phil, because he told us so two years ago at Winged Foot, was the one that was such an idiot.

John writes: What is different about Tigers putter from all of ours? I spent two days last weekend on the best greens in the Carolinas trying to be Tiger but using three balls... Not even close and I am a 67-year-old 7-handicapper. What I witnessed this past weekend was really not real when it came to putting let alone what he was going through.
The Comebacker
This is why the caddies and players on TOUR sometimes refer to Tiger as The Brother From Another Planet. And it is meant as a compliment. To be sure, Tiger is, very often, not of this world.

Sherry writes: Tiger got a piece of the Rock...the world got a giant boulder dropped upon it. The aftershock has not worn off yet, and I am still not of my right mind. My summer, my autumn, my winter plans...all annihilated. I am one person. What must the rest of the world be feeling? I don't know whether to be angry at Tiger for crushing the life out of me, or if I should be thanking him for quelling some of my addictions. Not only will my long weekends spent glued to a television come to an end, but so, too, will my weekday evenings, always spent watching the fabulous Golf Channel programs and personalities. Will my once multiple times a day visits to the Golf Channel website decline?...Can I bear not reading what you have to write anymore? It all seems so wrong. Can I bear spending more time with family and friends? Spending more time outdoors? Spending time on more productive things in life? The withdrawal symptoms are just beginning. It's only been 24 hours, and so far, I'm not doing so well. I'm not sure how, or if, I can handle the misery that I know is ahead of me. Hopefully, I can proclaim that I've overcome my anger, and that I've beaten these addictions by the end of the year...just in time for Tiger's return.
The Comebacker
Is therapy deductible?

Cheryl writes: Yes, Brian, the hints certainly were there. Although Tiger and his team are usually very private, there was a different aura around this issue. There was more of a concerned look than a mind your own business look at press conferences. I wondered when he said to Annika after her announcement you beat me to it. I thought surely he could not be contemplating retirement; now on hearing this news, it seems clear that for the first time in his stellar yet short career, he was forced to contemplate the prospect of it ending sooner than he anticipated. That cannot be easy. Coming face to face with our mortality is daunting to us all. This shows us hes emotionally about as strong as he is mentally and physically. He kept his promise to himself and I believe to little Sam that her dada would win one for her birthday. True to his word, he won it exactly one year to day i.e. the day after Fathers Day, that she was born. Wow! There is so much we can learn from this young man.
The Comebacker
And now'because we all root for his return--is the time for Tiger to learn from his doctors.

John writes: I had the pleasure of working the Open for the entire week. Having been playing the game since the age of seven, I am a student of the game and follow the Tour very closely through the Golf Channel and other periodicals. My opinion all along was that Tiger would not make the cut, as his coming back was too fast. I watched him the week before when he rode around in a cart and only played nine holes each day before the start of the tournament. We now know that the injury was much worse than he had let on. I have never really been a Tiger fan; he has come on as aloof at times when I have seen him at other tournaments. I will never question the will that was instilled in him by his father, as is evident in the new Nike commercial. This was the greatest Open of the modern era. Injury or not Tiger willed himself to the win. Rocco in no way should feel that, because of the extent of Tiger's injury, this Open should have an asterisk after it. It was a Cinderella story, as the story goes. I still have my opinion of Tiger personally, but I will always say that I have seen the greatest player to ever play this Great Game. I salute Rocco and what he did for himself and for us older guys that still have some fight left in us.
The Comebacker
My sense is that Rocco, 45, will not be the forgotten man in all of this and that the Champions Tour cant wait for his arrival.

Rick writes: Did you ever hear of the Inoculation Theory in your studies? Get too much of something and you become immune to it. I'm like that with Tiger. Sure, he's great, but let me come to that conclusion; I don't need every sportscaster reminding me. I know you've heard the term Less is More. I play a lot of golf and watch a lot of golf, therefore, I'm probably not the demographic that the networks are going after when they give us All Tiger All The Time. I would rather watch other golfers hit shots instead of watching Tiger stalk a putt on the green for five minutes. That brings me to my next point. I like watching the European Tour on The Golf Channel because the coverage goes quickly from shot to shot and shows more full shots. It seems the U.S. networks show too much greens-reading and putting. I think that could be why the non-golfing public doesn't watch golf: there's not enough action. But that's just me and I know I'm in a minority.
The Comebacker
You are, indeed sir, in the minority. But your voice is heard.

George G. writes: Now is the time for all the Tiger wannabees to step up. Tiger only plays 15-18 tournaments a year as it is. The Open, PGA and Ryder Cup are wide open and are there for someone to step up and challenge Tiger. Everyone I see has the skills but is the mental toughness there. My wife only watches golf on a Sunday and if Tiger is there. She said he is a machine. Hogan and Nicklaus looked that way too. They were focused. Some great golfers never won an Open and Mr. Palmer has only one. The list of multiple U.S. Open winners is short. We talk about the players today looking all the same. When they are playing they should..Much was made of Rocco being the everyman and he is, but he was focused on what he had to do. If his back holds up I think Rocco can win a major now that he knows what it takes if he wants it.
The Comebacker
Are you listening, Sergio? Adam? Everybody else? Theres an opportunity now that might not present itself for long.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Related Links:
  • Tiger Woods - Complete Breakdown
  • Full Coverage -- U.S. Open
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    After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 2:39 am

    Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the horrifying car crash involving Bill Haas ...

    I spent a lot of time this week thinking about Bill Haas. He was the passenger in a car crash that killed a member of his host family. That man, 71-year-old Mark Gibello, was a successful businessman in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a new friend.

    Haas escaped without any major injuries, but he withdrew from the Genesis Open to return home to Greenville, S.C. When he’ll return to the Tour is anyone’s guess. It could be a while, as he grapples with the many emotions after surviving that horrifying crash – seriously, check out the photos – while the man next to him did not.

    The entire Haas clan is some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Wish them the best in their recovery. – Ryan Lavner

    On TIger Woods' missed cut at the Genesis Open ...

    After missing the cut at the Genesis Open by more than a few car lengths, Tiger Woods appeared to take his early exit in stride. Perhaps that in and of itself is a form of progress.

    Years ago, a second-round 76 with a tattered back-nine scorecard would have elicited a wide range of emotions. But none of them would have been particularly tempered, or optimistic, looking ahead to his next start. At age 42, though, Woods has finally ceded that a win-or-bust mentality is no longer helpful or productive.

    The road back from his latest surgery will be a winding one, mixed with both ups and downs. His return at Torrey Pines qualified as the former, while his trunk slam at Riviera certainly served as the latter. There will surely be more of both in the coming weeks and months, and Woods’ ability to stomach the rough patches could prove pivotal for his long-term prognosis. - Will Gray

    On the debate over increased driving distance on the PGA Tour ...

    The drumbeat is only going to get louder as the game’s best get longer. On Sunday, Bubba Watson pounded his way to his 10th PGA Tour title at the Genesis Open and the average driving distance continues to climb.

    Lost in the debate over driving distances and potential fixes, none of which seem to be simple, is a beacon of sanity, Riviera Country Club’s par-4 10th hole. The 10th played just over 300 yards for the week and yet yielded almost as many bogeys (86) as birdies (87) with a 4.053 stroke average.

    That ranks the 10th as the 94th toughest par 4 on Tour this season, ahead of behemoths like the 480-yard first at Waialae and 549-yard 17th at Kapalua. Maybe the game doesn’t need new rules that limit how far the golf ball goes, maybe it just needs better-designed golf holes. - Rex Hoggard

    On the depth of LPGA talent coming out of South Korea ...

    The South Korean pipeline to the LPGA shows no signs of drying up any time soon. Jin Young Ko, 22, won her LPGA debut as a tour member Sunday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and Hyejin Choi, 18, nearly won the right to claim LPGA membership there. The former world No. 1 amateur who just turned pro finished second playing on a sponsor exemption. Sung Hyun Park, who shared Rolex Player of the Year honors with So Yeon Ryu last year, is set to make her 2018 debut this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And Inbee Park is set to make her return to the LPGA in two weeks at the HSBC Women’s World Championship after missing most of last year due to injury. The LPGA continues to go through South Korea no matter where this tour goes. - Randall Mell

    Getty Images

    Nature calls: Hole-out rescues Bubba's bladder

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 2:20 am

    LOS ANGELES – Clinging to a one-stroke lead, Bubba Watson had just teed off on the 14th hole at Riviera Country Club and was searching for a bathroom.

    “I asked Cameron [Smith], ‘where's the bathroom?’ He said, ‘On the next tee there's one. Give yourself a couple more shots, then you can go to the bathroom,’” Watson recalled. “I said, ‘So now I'm just going to hole it and go to the bathroom.’”

    By the time Watson got to his shot, which had found the bunker left of the green, his caddie Ted Scott had a similar comment.

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “When he went down to hit it I said, ‘You know you haven’t holed one in a long time,’” Scott said.

    Watson’s shot landed just short of the hole, bounced once and crashed into the flagstick before dropping into the hole for an unlikely birdie and a two-stroke lead that he would not relinquish on his way to his third victory at the Genesis Open and his 10th PGA Tour title.

    “I looked at Teddy [Scott] and said, ‘You called it.’ Then Cameron [who was paired with Watson] came over and said I called it. I’d forgotten he and I had talked about it,” Watson said.

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    Bubba Golf takes long road back to winner's circle

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 1:55 am

    LOS ANGELES – Bubba’s back.

    It’s been just two years since he hoisted a trophy on the PGA Tour, but with a mind that moves as fast as Bubba Watson’s, it must have felt like an eternity.

    Since his last victory, which was also a shootout at Riviera Country Club in 2016, Watson was passed over for a captain’s pick at the 2016 Ryder Cup, endured a mystery illness, lost his confidence, his desire and the better part of 40 pounds.

    He admits that along that ride he considered retirement and wondered if his best days were behind him.

    “I was close [to retirement]. My wife was not close,” he conceded. “My wife basically told me to quit whining and play golf. She's a lot tougher than I am.”

    What else could he do? With apologies to his University of Georgia education and a growing portfolio of small businesses, Watson was made to be on the golf course, particularly a golf course like Riviera, which is the canvas that brings out Bubba’s best.

    In a game that can too often become a monotonous parade of fairways and greens, Watson is a freewheeling iconoclast who thrives on adversity. Where others only see straight lines and one-dimensional options, Bubba embraces the unconventional and the untried.

    For a player who sometimes refers to himself in the third person, it was a perfectly Bubba moment midway through his final round on Sunday at the Genesis Open. Having stumbled out of the 54-hole lead with bogeys at Nos. 3 and 6, Watson pulled his 2-iron tee shot wildly right at the seventh because, “[his playing partners] both went left.”

    From an impossible lie in thick rough with his golf ball 2 feet above his feet, Watson’s often-fragile focus zeroed in for one of the week’s most entertaining shots, which landed about 70 feet from the hole and led to a two-putt par.

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “His feel for that kind of stuff, you can’t go to the range and practice that. You can’t,” said Watson’s caddie Ted Scott. “Put a ball 2 feet above your feet and then have to hold the face open and then to swing that easy. That’s why I have the best seat in the house. That’s the essence of Bubba golf.”

    There were plenty of highlight moments on Sunday for Watson. There were crucial putts at Nos. 11 (birdie), 12 (par) and 13 (par) to break free of what was becoming an increasingly fluid leaderboard, and his chip-in birdie from a greenside bunker at the 14th hole extended his lead to two strokes.

    “It was just a bunker shot, no big deal,” smiled Watson, who closed with a 69 for a two-stroke victory over Kevin Na and Tony Finau.

    A player that can often appear handcuffed by the most straightforward of shots was at his best at Riviera, withstanding numerous challenges to win the Genesis Open for his 10th PGA Tour title.

    That he did so on a frenzied afternoon that featured four different players moving into, however briefly, at last a share of the lead, Watson never appeared rattled. But, of course, we all know that wasn’t the case.

    Watson can become famously uncomfortable on the course and isn’t exactly known for his ability to ignore distractions. But Riviera, where he’s now won three times, is akin to competitive Ritalin for Watson.

    “[Watson] feels very comfortable moving the ball, turning it a lot. That allows him to get to a lot of the tucked pins,” said Phil Mickelson, who finished tied for sixth after moving to within one stroke of the lead early in round. “A lot of guys don't feel comfortable doing that and they end up accepting a 15 to 30 footer in the center of the green. He ends up making a lot more birdies than a lot of guys.”

    It’s the soul of what Scott calls Bubba Golf, which is in simplest terms the most creative form of the game.

    Watson can’t explain exactly what Bubba Golf is, but there was a telling moment earlier this week when Aaron Baddeley offered Watson an impromptu putting lesson, which Bubba said was the worst putting lesson he’d ever gotten.

    “He goes, ‘how do you hit a fade?’ I said, ‘I aim it right and think fade.’ How do you hit a draw? I aim it left and think draw,” Watson said. “He said, ‘how do you putt?’ I said, ‘I don't know.’ He said, ‘well, aim it to the right when it breaks to the left, aim it to the left when it breaks to the right,’ exactly how you imagine your golf ball in the fairway or off the tee, however you imagine it, imagine it that way.”

    It’s certain that there’s more going on internally, but when he’s playing his best the sum total of Watson’s game can be simply explained – see ball, hit ball. Anything more complicated than that and he runs the risk of losing what makes him so unique and – when the stars align and a course like Riviera or Augusta National, where he’s won twice, asks the right questions – virtually unbeatable.

    That’s a long way from the depths of 2017, when he failed to advance past the second playoff event and dropped outside the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking. But then, Watson has covered a lot of ground in his career on his way to 10 Tour victories.

    “I never thought I could get there,” he said. “Nobody thought that Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Fla., would ever get to 10 wins, let's be honest. Without lessons, head case, hooking the ball, slicing the ball, can't putt, you know? Somehow we're here making fun of it.”

    Somehow, through all the adversity and distractions, he found a way to be Bubba again.

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    Spieth: 'I feel great about the state of my game'

    By Will GrayFebruary 19, 2018, 1:43 am

    LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth is starting to feel confident again with the putter, which is probably a bad sign for the rest of the PGA Tour.

    Spieth struggled on the greens two weeks ago at TPC Scottsdale, but he began to right the ship at Pebble Beach and cracked the top 10 this week at the Genesis Open. Perhaps more important than his final spot on the leaderboard was his standing in the strokes gained putting category – 12th among the field at Riviera Country Club, including a 24-putt performance in the third round.

    Spieth closed out the week with a 4-under 67 to finish in a tie for ninth, five shots behind Bubba Watson. But after the round he spoke like a man whose preparation for the season’s first major is once again right on track.

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “I was kind of, you know, skiing uphill with my putting after Phoenix and the beginning of Pebble week, and really just for a little while now through the new year,” Spieth said. “I just made some tremendous progress. I putted extremely well this week, which is awesome. I feel great about the state of my game going forward, feel like I’m in a great place at this time of the year as we’re starting to head into major season.”

    Spieth will take a break next week, and where he next tees it up remains uncertain. He still has not announced a decision about playing or skipping the WGC-Mexico Championship, and he will have until 5 p.m. ET Friday to make a final decision on the no-cut event.

    Whether or not he flies down to Mexico City, Spieth’s optimism has officially returned after a brief hiccup on the West Coast swing.

    “For where I was starting out Phoenix to where I am and how I feel about my game going forward the rest of the year, there was a lot of progress made,” he said. “Now I’ve just got to figure out what the best schedule is for myself as we head into the Masters.”