A big two weeks for Woods
That time is not this week at Quail Hollow.
And it probably won’t be the following week in front of the party crowd at The Players Championship.
The Masters was the safest place for Woods to return from golf after perhaps the swiftest and most spectacular downfall ever by a sporting icon. Augusta National is synonymous with good manners. People go to watch golf. But while it was his first public display of golf, no other tournament in the world (except for maybe the Tavistock Cup) is so private.
That’s what makes Quail Hollow such a big test.
The tournament is a sellout – even some of the caddies couldn’t scrounge up tickets for their friends – and these tickets were sold to general public. Security has been beefed up, as expected. Even that won’t keep someone from saying something stupid during the five hours or longer that Woods is on the golf course.
Are we back to normal?
Not when the PGA Tour sends out a notice that TV crews can begin setting up two hours before Woods’ interview at 12:10 p.m. Wednesday, and that print media can be seated 30 minutes before Woods speaks (which is the same time Masters champion Phil Mickelson is to hold his press conference).
And not when the tour limits the number of seats in the interview room and inside-the-ropes passes for each media outlet. That wouldn’t have happened a year ago. It might not happen a month from now.
Woods tees off Thursday at 7:40 a.m. on the 10th tee with British Open champion Stewart Cink and two-time major winner Angel Cabrera. That means he will be making his way along the “Green Mile” at Quail Hollow – as brutal a finishing stretch as there is in golf – on Friday afternoon when the crowd is gearing up for the weekend and has had plenty of refreshments.
Eventually, the attention will be mostly on his golf.
Cink began preaching forgiveness in December even before Woods confessed to extramarital affairs. He is hopeful that having one tournament out of the way will allow Woods, and those watching him, to get back to golf.
“It’ll be a different crowd, but I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of unruliness,” Cink said. “I don’t know if that’s optimistic or what. That’s just what I think is going to happen. I think people love watching Tiger Woods play golf. All that other stuff that’s happened, people have forgiven him. And why not? We’re supposed to forgive.”
Forgive and forget?
That might be asking too much.
The best tonic for Woods is playing golf because that’s what attracted so many people to him in the first place. It would help even more if he were to win, and he showed how close he might be with a tie for fourth at the Masters, despite not having played in five months. Still, even a victory pose in a red shirt won’t erase five months of sordid revelations.
Such is the price Woods will have to pay for his reckless behavior.
“Now every one of you has good reason to be critical of me,” Woods said when he spoke to family and friends in his first public apology at the TPC Sawgrass in February.
Woods goes back to Sawgrass next week for The Players Championship, the same clubhouse where he showed his face for the first time since running his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree on Nov. 27, setting off this sex-laden saga.
He will not be in the Sunset Room, set aside for corporate hospitality that week. He will be facing a crowd that celebrates misery, which is why so many of them camp out around the island green 17th hole on the Players Stadium Course.
Tee times are supposed to be random on the PGA Tour, although if a player winds up on the same end of the draw – either early on Thursday and late on Friday, or vice versa – a mechanism kicks in that allows officials to swap it around.
Woods hasn’t played enough for that to happen, although don’t be surprised if he winds up playing Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, meaning he would face the 17th hole at a benign hour.
It will be another step in his recovery, win or lose.
There will be more tournaments in different locations – the Monterey Peninsula, Philadelphia, Ohio, Britain, Boston, Chicago. Even as the attention shifts more toward his golf each time he tees it up, the past still will be fresh in those markets.
The Masters was a good start, and not just his score.
Yes, Woods was caught swearing by the TV mikes and flung a club from his hands. He was defensive in his TV interview after the final round, which received more attention than the effort he made to be more attentive to fans.
If anyone was expecting Woods to have a personality overhaul in one week, it was only because he set himself up for failure by saying he would change. Give that time. It’s best to measure progress when the year is over.
Woods was anxious about the reception he would get at Augusta, relieved when he heard the warm applause.
More uncertainty awaits at Quail Hollow.
“I don’t think it will be any more of a big deal than usual,” Cink said. “We’ll see. I guess I’ll see.”
Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome
Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)
The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...
And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.
Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas
He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.
Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.
Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.
In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.
Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.
Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.
Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic
Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double
Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open
Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open
Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row
Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow
Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship
The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ
Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year
And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season
Photo Galleries: Best of ...
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com counted down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below. And click here for the full collection of articles.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.
They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.
Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.
Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.
Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.
''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''
The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.
In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''
Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.