Tiger a control freak who loves to take risks

By Doug FergusonJanuary 1, 2010, 4:43 am

His rivals used to joke that if you cut Tiger Woods open, all you would find were some wires and a few nuts and bolts.

Now they know better.

Tom Watson, who won five British Opens himself, watched Woods carve up St. Andrews nearly a decade ago and called him “supernatural.”

The last month proved otherwise.

As another PGA Tour season starts without Woods, one question stands out:

Did anyone really know him?

Recollections point to a player who craved control inside his world of golf, only to test his limits outside of it.

During a trip to New Zealand for his caddie’s wedding, Woods went bungee jumping off a cable car suspended 440 feet over a river valley. On the same trip, he climbed behind the wheel of a race car and traded paint with the competition on a dirt track.

Woods spent a week at Fort Bragg going through Special Forces training with the Marines and became a master scuba diver, capable of holding his breath for four minutes at a time while exploring the ocean. It was one of his tales from under the sea that first gave his colleagues pause.

Woods was having lunch at Firestone Country Club in 2003, regaling Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn with stories about diving and spearfishing. He could stay on the ocean floor even longer, Woods explained, when he used a regulator. But the scenery was so much better without one.

“You don’t want any bubbles because that scares the fish off,” he said. “The only problem is that when you don’t make any bubbles, the sharks come around, too.”

Bjorn stiffened, raised a bushy eyebrow and said, “Just be careful down there. Our future earnings depend on you.”

That story seems appropriate now, since Woods hasn’t surfaced in public since Nov. 27, when he ran his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree at about 2:30 a.m., the opening chapter of an expose of his private life – a second life, really – that few imagined could exist.

He was never without flaws, displaying a nasty temper at times, a foul mouth on occasion, and routinely blowing by autograph seekers. Yet those sins were forgiven soon enough, or at the very least forgotten, once Woods began conjuring magic from his clubs. Maybe that’s why he rarely felt a need to apologize.

At his last tournament, the Australian Masters, Woods hit a poor drive on the 13th at Kingston Heath, then flipped his driver to the ground and watched it bounce sideways into the gallery. The crowd turned into a mosh pit – albeit a polite one – passing the driver toward the front and back into Woods’ grip. He took it without explanation or embarrassment, quickly turned away and barely acknowledged the episode after the round.

“That was my mistake,” was all Woods said.

Then there was the famous tirade on the 18th at Pebble Beach on Saturday morning at the 2000 U.S. Open. Wrapping up a second round delayed by fog, Woods hooked his tee shot into the ocean and followed it with a few curses picked up by a boom mike on the tee box – during cartoon hour, no less.

A year later, returning to Pebble Beach for the first time since that historic 15-shot victory, Woods reached the 18th tee during a practice round and tried to recall his choice of words. Finally, a reporter recounted them for him, adding, “At least that’s what my kids told me.”

The warm smile was replaced by a cold stare.

“I am who I am,” Woods said.

Tabloid-fueled reports have linked him to almost as many women as he has major championships. One of those women kept a voicemail from Woods and gave it to a celebrity magazine. She said the affair began when Woods’ wife was seven months pregnant with their first child. More sordid testimonials followed. In a matter of weeks, he went from being on top of the world to the butt of jokes on the late-night talk-show circuit.

Even Disneyland got into the act. During the “Aladdin” show at the resort, a genie explains to Aladdin that he can’t make people fall in love with him.

“Only saying that to you once,” the genie adds. “I had to say it, like, 15 times to Tiger Woods.”

But he was easy to fall for. Woods proposed to Elin Nordegren at a game preserve in South Africa, and married her in Barbados in 2004. Then along came two beautiful kids: first a daughter, Sam, and then son Charlie. When the family – dogs included – gathered for a tender family portrait not long after, Woods looked like the man who had everything.

Will anyone ever look at him the same way again?

Much depends on what happens to the marriage, but the jokes likely won’t end until he returns to golf, and no one – perhaps not even Woods – knows when that will be. The Masters seems the most logical choice, because it’s both a major and the game’s most buttoned-down event. Everything from how fans behave to how many media members get inside the gates is tightly controlled.

But if Woods doesn’t show up in April, then when?

The U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach in June, and Woods has won there. The British Open returns to St. Andrews in July, and Woods has won there, too – twice, by a combined 13 shots. The Ryder Cup is set for October, but he’s never been fond of team-oriented play.

Golf has always been an individual pursuit for Woods, so much so that whenever people question his Ryder Cup record (10-13-2), he responds with a question of his own: What was Jack Nicklaus’ record in the Ryder Cup? Anyone? Ah, but everyone knows Nicklaus won 18 professional majors. That’s all that matters to Woods.

Despite not winning a major in 2009, few observers would have bet against him catching Nicklaus, and soon. Someone who’s won 82 tournaments worldwide and 14 majors before turning 34 doesn’t forget how to play, and Woods is entering a sweet spot in his career, an age when most players are just coming into their prime.

Yet he’s never played before fans who figure to be this hostile, and just as intriguing will be the reception from his fellow pros.

Anthony Kim, a promising young pro Woods has worked with, considered the question and said with a shrug: “Same guy to me.”

We’ll see. The PGA Tour gets under way Thursday, Jan. 7, with the winners-only SBS Championship at Kapalua, Hawaii. Woods hasn’t played there since 2005, so it’s not until he skips the San Diego Open, which starts Jan. 28, that his “leave” begins taking on significance. Then again, he’s grown accustomed to setting his own rules.

Years ago, after the first wave of “Tigermania,” Woods worked out a deal with the PGA Tour requiring him to appear for a pre-tournament interview at the media center only where he was the defending champion. One year at Memorial, the tour erected a podium alongside the putting green to accommodate the media crush that follows Woods everywhere, inconveniencing all the other pros nearby working on their game. The media center was no more than 50 yards away. No one from the tour challenged Woods.

When CBS Sports placed a camera on the tee box at the same tournament to analyze players’ swings, Woods had his caddie place the bag in front of it. He was working on his swing and preferred to do it without unsolicited advice.

He has been wary of the media for as long as he has been a pro, yet keenly aware of what’s in the news. When he returned this year after missing eight months due to knee surgery, one of his first questions during a practice round was about the state of the newspaper industry.

Woods was discussing the departure of longtime Los Angeles Times’ golf writer Tom Bonk, someone he’d known and liked for years, when he was asked, “Do you read the newspaper?”

Woods started to laugh, then slyly said he reads whatever is left at his hotel room door on the road. Yes, he knows exactly what is written about him. He tried to control that, too, delivering careful, clipped answers to questions, whether they’re posed by the local radio station or Time magazine.

Even his leisure outings seemed stage-managed at times, whether that was courtside at an Orlando Magic NBA game or on the sidelines of a Miami Dolphins NFL game. The last such appearance was during halftime at the Stanford-Cal football game, announcing Woods’ induction into Stanford’s athletics hall of fame.

As Woods began speaking, he was interrupted by scattered boos from the Cal section. He appeared genuinely rattled, for a moment. And that was before all those sordid stories began piling up, one after another – enough anyway, to make a person wonder how Woods will react when it comes time to make his return.

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

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.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.