Tiger People Are Talking

By Brian HewittNovember 12, 2008, 5:00 pm
Tiger Woods broke a short political silence Saturday when he used the word incredible to describe the victory of Barack Obama in the recent Presidential election.
 
Meanwhile, it turns out all kinds of people are talking about Woods.
 
Over the weekend GolfChannel.com got a private audience with Annika Sorenstam near her Lake Nona, Fla. home and one of the subjects discussed was Tigers injury. Specifically, Annika was asked if she thought Tiger would be able to stay on top of mens golf when he returns even if the knee forced him to change his swing in any significant way.
 
Absolutely, Sorenstam said. Hes a very smart guy. One of the things that I was impressed with him is that he can imitate a lot of golf swings. He reads a lot, he watches a lot of TV, and he can just pick up a tip and try it. For him, if his knee is not perfectly healed ' even if he slows down a little ' hell still be very long. But powers not everything; he can do without the power and still be able to play.
 
Next, GolfChannel.com got into a discussion with Texas native Scott Verplank on why Woods has played just once (1997) at Colonial on the Texas Swing. Verplank said he wasnt sure why but said he had heard that Woods had once said Colonial was not a great golf course.
 
The only dumb thing Tigers ever said, Verplank said. Verplank added that Colonials test, although not a long one, calls for a full examination of shapes and trajectories and that it would be perfect Woods versatile arsenal.
 
Wish that all the rest of us could say we had only said one dumb thing in our entire lives.
 
Finally, rookie Kevin Streelman was a virtual one-man publicity machine for Woods at Disney last week.
 
I think any event he plays in is good for the U.S. Tour, Streelman said. And its good for the world of golf. This was a pretty cool year for him (not counting the injury). Ill vote for him for Player of the Year. I think he played six times in 2008 and won four. And the other two were top 5s.In my opinion its pretty evident whos Player of the Year.
 

MORE MAN OF STREEL
Streelman, who tied for sixth at Disney and wound up 35th on the season-ending money list, calls himself a huge golf nerd.
 
Asked to define huge golf nerd, Streelman said, .Courtney (his wife) sometimes has to cut me off and say, you cant watch the Golf Channel anymore, I want to watch a movie.
 

FALL GUYS
The fate of the Fall Series next year is not on the front burner up in Ponte Vedra right now. But it's a definite priority.
 
The problem is an economy that has weakened many of the financial institutions that serve as Tour title sponsors. That same economy isn't expected, according to the experts, to rebound any time soon.
 
When I asked PGA Tour executive VP Ty Votaw if there might be contraction next fall from seven events to a lesser number, his text messaged reply was: Still working on that. Will have definitive answers when we announce the Fall Schedule.'
 
The good news here for the Tour is that the amount of money it contributed to charity in 2008 is expected to surpass the $123 million it reported, across all three Tours, for 2007.
 
To be sure, the optimism is cautious at best. When I asked Votaw if he expected the Tour's charity contribution number to increase again in '09, his three-word reply was, 'We don't predict.'
 

SEMANTICIZING
The best golf played, by anybody, this year was authored by Tiger Woods in June at Torrey Pines South where he won his third U.S. Open.
 
The best year turned in by anybody this year was the one produced by Sergio Garcia, who climbed al the way to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Rankings with his recent HSBC victory in China.
 
Garcia won The Players Championship in May and finished his PGA Tour season with four top 5s in his last five events.
 
Having stated all of that:
 
The Player of the Year for 2008 is Padraig Harrington. You can debate this all you want. And it all makes for great bar talk. But the plain fact remains: Two major championship wins in one year trumps all. Harrington won the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale and the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills. Case closed.
 

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Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.