Tiger the Whistle Stop Tour Pt 6

By Casey BiererFebruary 11, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editors note: Golf Channel business reporter Casey Bierer participated in Nike Golfs Whistle Stop Tour; a press and media junket that traveled a group of Nike execs and invited media to four cities in 48 hours. This column is the sixth and final entry of a multi-part series chronicling the journey.
 
Preface
Heres a recipe we havent seen before. Take the following key ingredients: one Nike GV jet, four cities in 48 hours, three PGA TOUR stars - Tiger Woods, David Duval and Jason Gore - a number of key Nike Golf executives, five print journalists, one television reporter (me) and the launch of two new Nike drivers. Mix thoroughly. The result? Nikes Whistle Stop Tour (WST); a media junket extravaganza that, even by Nike standards, is unprecedented.
 
The assignment given to me by Golf Channel ' create a reporters first person video journal of the trip. Roll tape as much as possible. When in doubt shoot first, beg for forgiveness later. And, oh yeah, interview Tiger Woods. This was going to be fun.
 
Part 6
Pivotal moments in lifeweve all had those. We store those memories up, good and bad, and they last a lifetime. The first time you tasted lobster, your first kiss, the first time you drove a car, your first eagle, your first hole-in-one, the first time you interviewed Tiger Woodssay what!!! Yeah, I said it ' to myself, that is. I said, Self, youre about to interview Tiger Woods. Dont mess it up.
 
Casey: Are we ready for a mic check? Good. Oh, Im so happy to be here with Tiger. And gosh, I hope Tiger invites me to play Isleworth cause I only live three miles away
 
Tiger: Do you really? Well, you can play Windermere Golf Center.
 
Casey: Oh great. Thanks. OK, were ready?
 
Tiger: Casey Kasemgo for it.
 
Casey: Tiger, Nikes Whistle Stop Tour extravaganza. What do you make of it?
 
Tiger: Its a little busy. And its a big deal. Obviously, were trying to gain awareness with what we are trying to do with our new drivers and I think Nike is doing a very good job of that.
 
Casey: Youve seen Nike go from a position of no golf ' literally, they were not in golf ' to becoming a leader in the golf industry. Has it been interesting for you to be part of watching them kick their considerable resources in to play to make this golf division happen?
 
Tiger: Its been very interesting and it started from the top. Phil Knight made it an initiative and said that he was going to put his effort in to Nike Golf. Well, there was Nike and then there was this little golf section over here. He said, no, were going to make it in to Nike Golf. And when it comes from the top like that ' when it comes from Phil ' as driven as Phil is hes going to make it happen. Over the ten years Ive been involved its been remarkable to see the transformation that has occurred. We were barely in the apparel and shoe business. We werent in the hard goods business. Now were in balls, clubs, bags, gloves, apparel, shoesyou name it, were in it. And we are a leader. Thats pretty exciting.
 
Casey: To see Nike as a brand ' one of the biggest brands in the world ' mobilize itself to make golf happen largely on your back. Do you feel a responsibility to help Nike get where they want to go in golf?
 
Tiger: I do feel a responsibility. But, really, its been symbiotic. Ive been fortunate enough to help them along the way but theyve really helped meworking with different fabrics and technologies to help me perform better on the golf course. Weve been lucky that Nike is such an enormous company so that all the technologies that the other divisions haveweve been able to take advantage of some of that and make it applicable to golf. Also, working with our team to develop new golf balls and new clubs is something that has allowed me to elevate my game and at the same time allowed consumers to elevate their games. So its been a lot of fun for both sides.
 
Casey: The Nike tour reps tell me you are actually one the easiest guys on the Nike staff to take care of. You know what you want and you tend to stick with the equipment youre comfortable with. Yet, Nike Golf is driven by innovation. Are you are comfortable with the process of testing new equipment?
 
Tiger: Innovation is the life blood of any golf company. So I will always be testing new equipment. But, I wont put a new product in my bag unless its better. Plain and simple. If it helps me win golf tournaments Ill put it in the bag. If its the same as what I have or not as good its not going in the bag. When Nike brings me something new there is usually a testing process to find something better than what I already have. I have always believed in this. When I was a little kid I always thought of my clubs as fourteen friends in my golf bag. I dont want one stranger in my golf bag. I have to have all fourteen as my friends because I have to rely on them at any given time to execute. So there cant be any strangers in the bag.
 
Casey: Are you optimistic about Nikes future in golf?
 
Tiger: Very. I am very optimistic. I was skeptical early on because there wasnt a directive from the top. But as soon as Phil sat me down and said, here, this is what were doingeverybody got fired up at Nike. And not just Nike Golf, but at Nike as a whole. All of a sudden people knew we were going to make this happen and low and behold here we are. Its going to be very exciting to see over the next ten years what happens and yes, I am very optimistic.
 
Hey, now, that wasnt so tough. Tigers like a regular guy. Well, sort of. Anyway, he was cool. I cant speak highly enough of how Tiger conducted himself. Not just with me but with everyone I saw him talk to. In my opinion he is the genuine article and what you see is what you get; a fierce competitor on the golf course and a fine human being and gentleman off the golf course. A model for all of our superstar athletes to follow.
 
That was it for Tiger and Los Angeles. We were next met by the former world number one, David Duval. Nike flew David in from his home in Denver to join us in Los Angeles and we all boarded the Nike Jet together en route to Scottsdale.
 
I know Im sounding a bit like a broken record here but I cant help it. When I meet nice, genuine people thats what I have to report. Duval, like Tiger, was incredibly friendly. Hes a little quieter maybe, more reserved, but he carries himself every bit as much like a true professional and gentleman. Someone the game of golf can be proud of.
 
The GV jet reached cruising altitude in a hurry. Allison served us a nice lunch. Everyone chatted away. Captain Blair and first officer Keith were all about smooth flying and getting us where we needed to be on time. There were a bunch of people at TPC Scottsdale waiting for Duval and the Nike Whistle Stop Tour to arrive.
 
I was really looking forward to talking with David Duval and watching him crush driver. Ive always loved his swing. Dont you just love Duvals swing? Hey, that roast beef sandwich looks good. I think Ill have one of those.
 
Related Links:
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 5
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 4
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 3
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 2
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 1
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    J. Korda leads M. Jutanugarn by four in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 3:00 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand - Jessica Korda kept an eye on her younger sister while firing a 4-under 68 in the third round of the LPGA Thailand on Saturday to lead Moriya Jutanugarn by four strokes.

    A day after a course-record 62 at Siam Country Club, Korda fought back from a bogey on the front nine with five birdies to finish on 20-under 196 overall. The American was on the 18th hole when concerns over lightning suspended play for 30 minutes before play resumed.

    ''(I) was playing really well at the end of the season, but I haven't been in this (leading) position. Being back, it just takes you a little bit of time,'' said the 24-year-old Korda, who won her fifth and last title at the LPGA Malaysia in 2015.

    Her 19-year-old sister Nelly Korda (65) is eight shots off the lead.


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    ''I'm definitely a leaderboard watcher. I love seeing her name up there,'' said Jessica Korda, who was playing her first tournament since jaw surgery.

    Propelled by eight birdies and an eagle on the par-4 No. 14, with three bogeys, Moriya signed off with a 65 and a total of 16-under 200.

    ''Everybody has the chance to win as all the top players are here this week,'' said Moriya, who has a chance to become the first Thai winner in her home tournament.

    Australian Minjee Lee (68) is third on 15-under 201, followed by former top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (65) on 202. Lexi Thompson (69), the 2016 champion, is a stroke further back. Michelle Wie (69) is tied for sixth.

    Brittany Lincicome was in second place after the second round, four shots behind Jessica Korda, but the American dropped down the board and is tied for ninth after a 73.

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    The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

    By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.

    Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.

    Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.

    The narrative wondrously started to turn here.

    It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.

    It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.

    He is just four shots off the lead.

    “I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

    Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.

    “He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”

    Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?

    “It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”

    This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.

    “I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”

    Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.

    When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.

    “It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”

    Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.

    “I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.

    Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.

    It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.

    “It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”

    Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.

    Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.

    “He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”

    Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.

    “We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.

    Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.

    “I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”

    Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers.  He got a standing ovation.

    “I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”

    So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?

    Woods seems in a hurry to find out.

    Getty Images

    List, Lovemark lead; Tiger four back at Honda

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 12:41 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Even with a tee shot into the water for another double bogey, Tiger Woods could see the big picture in the Honda Classic.

    He was four shots out of the lead going into the weekend.

    Luke List delivered a round not many others found possible in such difficult conditions Friday, a 4-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Jamie Lovemark (69). They were at 3-under 137, the highest score to lead at the halfway point of the Honda Classic since it moved to PGA National in 2007.

    So bunched were the scores that Woods was four shots out of the lead and four shots from last place among the 76 players who made the cut at 5-over 145. More importantly, he only had 13 players in front of him.

    ''This is a difficult golf course right now,'' Woods said. ''Making pars is a good thing. I've done that, and I'm right there with a chance.''

    And he has plenty of company.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour last year, scratched out a 68 and was one shot out of the lead along with Webb Simpson (72), Russell Henley (70) and Rory Sabbatini (69).

    Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger each shot 72 and were in a large group at 139. They were among only 10 players remaining under par.

    Fleetwood laughed when asked the last time he was at 2 under after 36 holes and only one shot out of the lead.

    ''Maybe some junior event,'' he said. ''It's good, though. These are the toughest test in golf. Generally, one of the best players prevail at the end of weeks like this. Weeks like this challenge you to the ultimate level. Whether you shoot two 80s or you lead after two rounds, you can see what you need to do and see where your game is. Because this is as hard as it's ever going to get for you.''

    The difficulty was primarily from the wind, which blew just as hard in the morning when List shot his 66 as it did in the afternoon. More aggravating to the players are the greens, which are old and bare, firm and crusty. It's a recipe for not making many putts.

    Defending champion Rickie Fowler had six bogeys on his front nine and shot 77 to miss the cut.

    ''It's unfortunate that the greens have changed this much in a year,'' Fowler said. ''They typically get slick and quick on the weekend because they dry out, but at least there's some sort of surface. But like I said, everyone's playing the same greens.''

    It looked as though List was playing a different course when he went out with a bogey-free 32 on the back nine, added a pair of birdies on the front nine and then dropped his only shot when he caught an awkward lie in the bunker on the par-3 seventh.

    ''It's very relentless,'' List said. ''There's not really too many easy holes, but if you hit fairways and go from there, you can make a few birdies out there.''

    List and Lovemark, both Californians, have never won on the PGA Tour. This is the third time List has had at least a share of the 36-hole lead, most recently in South Korea at the CJ Cup, where he shot 76-72 on the weekend.

    ''It's kind of irrelevant because there's going to be 30 guys within a couple shots of the lead,'' List said. ''It's going to be that type of week.''

    He was exaggerating – there were 11 players within three shots of the lead.

    And there was another guy four shots behind.

    Woods brought big energy to a Friday afternoon that already was hopping before he overcame a sluggish start and holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to make the turn at 1 under for his round, and leaving him two shots out of the lead. Everyone knew it just from listening to the roars.

    Woods had his chances, twice missing birdie putts from inside 10 feet at Nos. 10 and 12, sandwiched around a 12-foot par save. His round appeared to come undone when he found the water on the 15th and made double bogey for the second straight day.

    Then, he hit out of a fairway bunker, over the water and onto the green at the dangerous 16th hole and faced a 65-foot putt. He misread the speed and the line, so badly that it was similar to a car driving from Chicago to Denver and winding up in Phoenix. A bogey dropped him to 2 over.

    The big moment was the 17th hole, 184 waters into the wind and over water. That's where Rory McIlroy made triple bogey earlier in the day that ruined his otherwise solid round of 72, leaving him seven behind. Making it even tougher for Woods is the Brandt Snedeker hit 5-iron before him to about 6 feet. Woods got to the tee and the wind died, meaning 5-iron was too much and 6-iron wouldn't clear the water.

    He went with the 5-iron.

    ''I started that thing pretty far left and hit a pretty big cut in there because I had just too much stick,'' Wood said.

    It landed 12 feet below the hole for a birdie putt.

    Thomas made 17 pars and a double bogey when he three-putted from 6 feet on No. 16. He felt the same way as Woods.

    ''I'm in a good spot – really good spot – going into this week,'' Thomas said.

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    Woods to play with Dufner (12:10 p.m.) in third round

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 12:10 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Jason Dufner in the third round of the Honda Classic.

    Woods and Dufner, both at 1-over 141, four shots back, will tee off at 12:10 p.m. ET Saturday at PGA National. They’re in the 10th-to-last group.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark will go at 1:40 p.m.

    Some of the other late pairings include Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, who will be playing together for the third consecutive day, at 1 p.m.; Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Pieters (1:10 p.m.); and Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, in the penultimate group at 1:30 p.m.