Tiger takes his game public

By Doug FergusonApril 28, 2010, 7:32 pm

Quail Hollow ChampionshipCHARLOTTE, N.C. – Tiger Woods entered the room with little fanfare, and without the constant clicking of camera shutters.

His press conference lasted only 16 minutes. The PGA Tour required an admission ticket for the media, although that wasn’t necessary. There were 76 seats in the interview room, and 24 of them were empty.

On the golf course, Woods received warm applause when he was introduced on the first tee. The loudest cheer came at the end of his pro-am round Wednesday at Quail Hollow when he knocked in a 25-foot birdie putt before thousands of fans soaking up warm sunshine.

“I have to say, this feels a heck of a lot more normal than the Masters did,” Woods said.

The Quail Hollow Championship is another step toward Woods trying to get back to normal, at least with his golf.

Everything about this tournament was going to be different from Augusta National, where the world’s No. 1 player made his celebrated return to competition after five months of fallout from his extramarital affairs. Quail Hollow doesn’t have the magnitude of the stage, the size of the gallery or the level of media interest.

Even so, this is the first PGA Tour event Woods is playing where tickets were sold to the general public. The behavior was not much different from three weeks ago at the Masters, and Woods wasn’t surprised.

“I’ll tell you what, the people here have always been very gracious, very excited about this event,” Woods said. “These fans here really get into the event, and again, with a great field like this, I think it’ll be another great week.”

He caught a couple of jeers upon leaving the 18th green when he walked past fans wanting his autograph, but it was a claustrophobic walkway toward the clubhouse, and Woods stopped about 30 yards away and signed for 20 minutes.

He went out of his way to make eye contact with the fans, as he did at the Masters. Woods even posed for a picture with a kindergarten student on his way to the second tee.

Perhaps that will change when the tournament begins on a world-class course with another strong field that includes four of the top five players in the world ranking. Phil Mickelson is making his first start since winning the Masters, although his week got off to a rough start when he withdrew from the pro-am with a stomach illness.

Woods is to start Thursday morning with Stewart Cink and Angel Cabrera, and he will play Friday afternoon when the gallery typically is at its most vocal. If there are fans wanting to heckle him, that might be the time.

“Whether they do or not, it’s happened before, and it happened before any of this ever happened,” Woods said. “I’ve dealt with that before. But as far as the fans here over the years, they’ve been great. There’s no reason why that shouldn’t continue.”

One change Woods wants to see is with his golf.

He sounded bitter in his interview with CBS Sports after his final round at the Masters, more angry at a missed opportunity than pleased with a tie for fourth having not played a tournament in five months.

“But given a little time to reflect on it, it was an incredible week,” Woods said. “I think it went as well as it could have possibly gone, and obviously I didn’t do what I needed to do on the weekend, but after not playing for that long and coming back and finishing fourth, I think that’s pretty reasonable.”

Woods wasn’t terribly crisp during his pro-am round, hitting his first two drives deep into the trees. Then again, he didn’t look all that sharp during practice at Augusta National, either.

Mickelson is also trying to work off some rust, although the layoff was far more brief and a break worth celebrating. Of his four majors, none was quite like this – a Masters victory after a year of turmoil at home as his wife battles breast cancer, and Amy coming to the golf course to greet him when he walked off the 18th hole.

Mickelson slipped on the green jacket the next morning while fulfilling a promise to his three kids – a visit to Krispy Kreme for some glazed doughnuts – and spent the entire week going to their after-school activities and taking in a San Diego Padres game.

“When I take two weeks off, the first week I usually don’t touch a club, which was the case this past time off,” Mickelson said. “But for the last five, six days I’ve been practicing pretty hard. I feel like my game is starting to come around. I see the improvement each day, and I feel like it’s back to a level close to where it was at Augusta, so I certainly have high expectations this week and next.”

Mickelson already has one distinction as the only player to win three straight tournaments with Woods in the field. They are playing in the same event the next two weeks, both hopeful of building some momentum.

“I think just two weeks in a row competing … I’ll have a better barometer of what normal really feels like,” Woods said. “Because I haven’t done that in a while.”

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.