Can a Tiger change his stripes

By Doug FergusonApril 7, 2010, 4:55 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods never felt he had to apologize for his temper.

Perhaps the most infamous moment – and there are many – came at Pebble Beach in the 2000 U.S. Open, which he won by 15 shots.

Finishing off the fog-delayed second round on a Saturday morning, Woods hooked his tee shot on No. 18 into the ocean and screamed a series of profane words captured by the boom mike next to the tee marker. In most homes, it was cartoon hour.

Eight months later, during a practice round at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Woods came to the 18th tee and went through a list of more swear words as he tried to remember exactly what he had said. Someone finally helped him out by repeating the phrase, adding, “At least that’s what my kids told me.”

Woods didn’t find this funny. His face hardened. His eyes glared.

“I am who I am,” he said and walked away.

And now he’s going to try to be someone he has never been.

Woods said during his 13 1/2-minute statement at Sawgrass that he needed to be more respectful of the game. He pledged that anew on Monday during his press conference at the Masters when asked how he would show more respect.

“I’m actually going to try and obviously not get as hot when I play,” Woods said.

That should be simple enough for now.

Woods is contrite. He has shown more humility. He also is very embarrassed. This is no time to slam a club.

Equally curious, however, was the second half of that pledge.

“But then again … I’m not going to be as exuberant, either,” he said. “I can’t play one without the other, and so I made a conscious decision to try and tone down my negative outbursts. And consequently, I’m sure my positive outbursts will be calmed down as well.”

Picture this.

Woods has a chip from behind the 16th green late Sunday afternoon at Augusta National with a one-shot lead. The ball scoots up the slope, then trickles to the hole and stops on the edge before dramatically dropping for a birdie as the crowd goes crazy.

Woods tips his cap, nods to the gallery and walks to the next tee.


Emotion – good and bad – has always been part of his game.

His first fist pump came as an 11-year-old when he beat his father for the first time. All square on the 18th at Navy Golf Course, Woods made a 15-foot birdie putt that broke to the right and “I started upper-cutting the air.”

“It was the greatest thing I ever did in my life, beating my dad,” he said three years ago.

For all we know, cussing and throwing clubs might have started even earlier. It has been part of his repertoire for far too long, and Woods hasn’t been able to do much about it.

He once hooked a tee shot at the Byron Nelson Championship and angrily yelled, “Fore!” – even though no fans were allowed on the left side of the fairway. Woods no doubt was keeping himself from saying another four-letter word.

Aware that he shouldn’t swear after a bad tee shot, he hit one into the trees at Firestone one year. His instinct was to let loose some profanity, but knowing the cameras were trained on him, Woods walked to the back of the tee box, bowed his head and let loose – with a young boy looking up at him wide-eyed.

Woods didn’t say why he had to wait until he got caught cheating on his wife to tone down his temper.

The question is how long it lasts. He might be muted at the Masters, but it is hard to imagine him turning into Retief Goosen the rest of his career, much less the season.

“You can never tell what’s going on in somebody’s head,” Padraig Harrington said. “But in Tiger’s case, he had changed in the last couple of years and was definitely tougher on himself on the golf course.”

Looking back, his recent outbursts make sense.

In the last tournament he played, at the Australian Masters, Woods flung his driver to the turf after a poor tee shot. The club bounced into and over the gallery, and Woods went over to retrieve it as if he were picking up his tee. He said nothing to the fans, a greater sin than tossing the club in the first place.

“I’ve won numerous times the last few years, but I wasn’t having anywhere near the amount of fun,” Woods said. “Why? Because look at what I was engaged in. When you live a life where you’re lying all the time, life is not fun. And that’s where I was. Now that’s been stripped all away, and here I am. And it feels fun again.”

Fist pumps are fun.

Arnold Palmer famously threw his visor into the gallery when he won the U.S. Open. Jack Nicklaus leapt when he made that 40-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole of the 1975 Masters, leaving what became known as “bear tracks.”

There’s no reason he has to stop celebrating to get rid of the cursing.

“Golf is usually played with the outward appearance of great dignity,” Masters co-founder Bobby Jones once said. “It is, nevertheless, a game of considerable passion – either the explosive type, or that which burns inwardly and sears the soul.”

Woods is the explosive type. It’s hard to imagine him any other way.

Getty Images

Stenson leads strong cast of Bay Hill contenders

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 11:38 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Henrik Stenson has a tortured history here at Bay Hill, a collection of close calls that have tested his mettle and certainly his patience.

Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational won’t get any easier. Not with a course that is already firm and fast and fiery, just the way the King would have wanted it. And not with 13 players within five shots of the lead, a group that includes Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and, yes, even Tiger Woods.

Without his best stuff Saturday, Stenson still managed to edge ahead of Bryson DeChambeau to take a one-shot lead heading into the final round. It’s familiar territory for the Swede, who posted four consecutive top-10s here from 2013-16, including a few agonizing near-misses.

Three years ago, Stenson appeared on his way to victory when he was put on the clock on the 15th hole. Rattled, he three-putted the next two holes and lost by a stroke. The following year, he was tied for the lead with three holes to play, then hit it in the water on 16 and bogeyed two of the last three holes.

“It wouldn’t be the only tournament where you feel like you’ve got some unfinished business,” Stenson said, “but I’ve been up in the mix a few times and we’re here again, so of course I would like to see a different outcome.”

What will be interesting Sunday is whether history repeats itself.

Neither Stenson nor DeChambeau is quick-paced, with DeChambeau even acknowledging that he’s one of the game’s most methodical players, stepping off pitch shots and checking (and re-checking) his reads on the green. With so much at stake, it’s not a stretch to imagine both players grinding to a halt on a course that got “crusty” in the late-afternoon sun.

“We’ve got a lot of guys behind me,” DeChambeau said, “so I’ve got to go deep tomorrow.”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

The 24-year-old earned his breakthrough victory last July at the John Deere Classic, but that was one hot week as he tried to play his way out of a slump.

Even this week’s performance was unexpected, after he withdrew from the Valspar Championship because of a balky back.

Last weekend he underwent an MRI (clean), didn’t touch a club for three days and showed up here cautiously optimistic. His ball-striking hasn’t suffered at all – in fact, he’s ranked fifth in strokes gained-tee to green – and now he’s relishing the chance to take on some of the game’s biggest names.

“Whatever happens,” he said, “it’s going to be a great learning experience.”

Of the 13 players within five shots of the lead, 10 are Tour winners. That includes McIlroy, whose putter has finally come alive, and Rose, who shot a third-round 67 to move within three shots, and Fowler, whose game is finally rounding into form, and also Woods, who has won a record eight times at Bay Hill. 

Even if he doesn’t pick up a pre-Masters victory – he’s five shots back, the same deficit he erased here in 2009 – Woods has showed flashes of his old self at one of his favorite playgrounds, whether it’s the blistered 2-irons off the tee, the daring approach shots or the drained 40-footers.

“I’ve got a chance,” he said.

And so do the rest of the major champions and PGA Tour winners assembled near the top of the leaderboard.

It should be a wild final round at Arnie’s Place – even if Stenson, for once, is hoping for a drama-free Sunday.

Getty Images

DeChambeau uses big words to describe back injury

By Will GrayMarch 17, 2018, 11:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Bryson DeChambeau needed just 30 seconds of explaining the state of his lower back to send the media center at the Arnold Palmer Invitational spinning.

DeChambeau shot an even-par 72 in the third round at Bay Hill, and he will start the final round one shot behind Henrik Stenson as he looks to win for the second time in his young PGA Tour career. DeChambeau’s strong play this week comes in the wake of his decision to withdraw from last week’s Valspar Championship because of a bad back.

DeChambeau is no stranger to new vocabulary words or adopting a scientific take on matters, and it was when he delved into the details of his injury that things got interesting.

“It was because my quadratus lumborum wasn’t working. My iliacus, longissimus thoracis, they were all kind of over-working if you want to get technical on that,” DeChambeau said. “But they weren’t working very well, and I overworked them. Pretty much my lower right back was hurting and I rested it. How about that?”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

DeChambeau tied for fifth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open last month, but he has struggled to find results in the weeks since. One of the keys to a quick recovery between Innisbrook and Bay Hill was some time on the couch this past weekend and a binge session of The Walking Dead on Netflix.

“I literally didn’t do anything, and that’s really the first time I’ve done that in my entire life. I’ve never actually taken three days off where I didn’t touch a club,” DeChambeau said. “So that was unique for me and actually took me some time to acclimate to that, my body to get comfortable to get in a rested state. And then once it was finally able to rest, it healed a little bit and I was able to make a run for it this week.”

Getty Images

Woods fielding Masters practice-round requests

By Will GrayMarch 17, 2018, 10:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Heading into what is likely his final competitive round before the Masters, Tiger Woods is starting to set up his schedule for the days leading into the season’s first major.

Woods has won the Masters four times, most recently in 2005, and in the wake of a runner-up at the Valspar Championship and a strong showing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational he’ll head down Magnolia Lane with more momentum than he’s had in years. As a result, it’s not surprising that he has received more than a few inquiries about a possible practice round at Augusta National Golf Club during Masters week.

“I’ve gotten a couple requests here and there,” Woods said with a grin after a third-round 69 at Bay Hill.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Woods has played the Masters only once since 2014, but don’t expect him to try out some unfamiliar pairings on Tuesday and Wednesday amid the azaleas. Woods still plans to rely on a rotation he’s had for several years, playing with former champs Fred Couples and Mark O’Meara. O’Meara, who received his green jacket from Woods in 1998, plans to make this year his final Masters start.

“I traditionally have played with Freddie, if he can. We’re hoping he can come back and play again and play Augusta. I’ve played with Mark just about every single year,” Woods said. “It’s generally been those two guys, and those are the two guys I’ve grown up with out here on Tour. We sit next to each other actually at the champions’ dinner, and so we have known each other for a very long time.”

While Woods is no stranger to fielding offers for tips and advice from younger players, especially on a course he knows as well as Augusta National, one top-ranked name continues to stick out among the requests he’s received in recent weeks.

“Just the normal JT (Justin Thomas),” Woods said. “He’s always trying to get some practice rounds in.”

Getty Images

Stenson one clear of loaded leaderboard at Bay Hill

By Nick MentaMarch 17, 2018, 10:10 pm

Four of the top 15 players in the world and two men with stellar amateur resumes will do battle Sunday to win Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how things look through 54 holes at Bay Hill, where Tiger Woods sits five back at 7 under par.

Leaderboard: Henrik Stenson (-12), Bryson DeChambeau (-11), Rory McIlroy (-10), Justin Rose (-9), Ryan Moore (-9), Charley Hoffman (-8), Rickie Fowler (-8), Talor Gooch (-8), Ben An (-8)

What it means:  For the second straight day, Stenson (71) will go off in the final pairing with DeChambeau (72), after both players failed to separate themselves from the field in Round 3, shooting a combined 1 under. Stenson really should have a win at Bay Hill by now. He finished in the top-10 four years in a row from 2013-2016, with three top-5s. The closest he came to victory was in 2015, when he lost to Matt Every by one shot after being put on the clock and three-putting the 15th and 16th greens. If he’s finally going to close the deal Sunday, the world No. 15 will need to hold off challenges from three of the top 13 players in the OWGR – No. 5 Rose, No. 7 Fowler and No. 13 McIlroy – and two men who won both the NCAA individual championship and the U.S. Amateur – DeChambeau and Moore.

Round of the day: John Huh and Austin Cook both made the 1-over cut on the number and shot 66 Saturday to move into a tie for 18th at 5 under.

Best of the rest: McIlroy, Rose and Jason Day (-5) all signed for 67. McIlroy remains in search of his first worldwide win since he walked away from East Lake with the Tour Championship and the FedExCup in 2016.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Biggest disappointment: Fowler was 11 under for the week but dropped three shots in his last two holes. He failed to get up and down from the front bunker at 17 and then had his ball almost fully bury in the lip of a greenside trap at 18. With only a small portion of the ball visible, Fowler took two to get out of the sand and two-putted his way to a double-bogey 6, dropping him to 2 under for the day and 8 under for the championship.

Shot of the day: Woods’ 210-yard 5-iron from the fairway bunker at the par-5 16th:

Quote of the day: "I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow, and probably get a little bit of help. But my responsibility is to go out there and shoot a low one first." – Woods