Woods' golf being overshadowed by scrutiny

By Doug FergusonMay 14, 2013, 11:11 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods has faced more scrutiny that any other golfer from his generation. Maybe ever.

Just not this variety.

Woods must long for the days when the golf world obsessed over his swing changes (all four of them) and questioned his coaches (all three of them). He was criticized for not playing enough tournaments and not giving the tournaments he did play enough notice that he was coming.

Some complained he practiced so early in the morning that paying customers didn't get a chance to see him. Others complained he didn't sign enough autographs. Most of it was petty.

But this is different.

Now it's his integrity on the golf course that's being questioned.

Woods won The Players Championship on Sunday for his fourth victory this year. Making it even more memorable, Woods ended his public spat with Sergio Garcia by posing with the crystal trophy. They were tied with two holes to play, and Garcia hit three shots in the water.

That all seems like B-material compared with the buzz over the drop Woods took on the 14th hole of the final round.

He hit what he called a ''pop-up hook'' with a 3-wood from the tee, and the ball landed in the water left of the fairway. Consulting with Casey Wittenberg, he dropped it some 255 yards short of the green. Woods then hit a remarkable shot short of the green, pitched on and missed a 6-foot putt to take double bogey.

The Internet has been alive with video showing the ball's flight on the 14th, along with analysis dissecting what was and was not said by a TV analyst, and seemingly endless theories how the ball could possibly have crossed land where Woods took his drop.

The chatter won't stop, even though there is nowhere to go with it. Consider this statement put out by Mark Russell, the Tour's vice president of competition: ''Without definitive evidence, the point where Woods' ball last crossed the lateral water hazard is determined through best judgment by Woods and his fellow competitor,'' the statement said.

Woods conferred with Wittenberg, his playing partner.

''I saw it perfectly off the tee,'' Wittenberg said. ''I told him exactly where I thought it crossed, and we all agreed. So he's definitely great on that.''

And if video suggests otherwise?

Decision 26-1/17 says a penalty would not be appropriate because it comes down to an honest judgment.

Of course, this might not be that big of an issue except that Woods in his most recent tournament – the Masters – was guilty of taking an illegal drop on the 15th hole at Augusta National. He eventually was docked two shots, but spared disqualification by the Masters because officials said they erred in not talking to Woods about the drop before he signed his scorecard. The rules back up that decision, though this one (Rule 33-7) is subject to interpretation. It could have gone either way.

That debate rages on. Should he have withdrawn for his own benefit? Did the Masters bail him out? Meanwhile, Adam Scott has a green jacket at his place in The Bahamas and he apparently wears it every morning. Good for him.

Back to Sawgrass, where there was that Saturday incident with Garcia which was one case where Woods shared some responsibility.

The scene on the par-5 second hole was chaotic. Woods was so deep in the trees that it appeared it was his turn to hit. Garcia stood over his second shot for the longest time. There was a burst of cheers when Woods pulled out his 5-wood. Garcia finished his swing and looked over at the crowd, clearly frustrated.

Woods and Garcia don't like each other and haven't for the better part of 13 years. That much can be established.

Garcia suggested in a TV interview during the storm delay that Woods pulled the club at just the right time to fire up the crowd and disrupt his swing. Woods said in a TV interview that evening, ''The marshals, they told me he already hit, so I pulled a club and was getting ready to play my shot.''

Sports Illustrated talked to the chief marshal for that section of the course, John North, who said he stood over the ball to keep the gallery away from it and was 5 feet away when Woods played his shot.

''Nothing was said to us and we certainly said nothing to him,'' North said. ''I was disappointed to hear him make those remarks. We're there to help the players and enhance the experience of the fans. He was saying what was good for him. It lacked character.''

To suggest Woods purposely tried to distract Garcia is a stretch. It was hard to even see Garcia from where he was in the trees. But it was silly to hang this on ''the marshals,'' unless he mistook any of the hundreds of people around him as marshals.

Woods' mistake was not doing what just about every other Tour player would have done – look over to the other player to determine who was away. This would require eye contact, and there wasn't much of that in the third round.

Garcia's mistake was not doing what just about every other Tour player would have done – say something to Woods, instead of calling him out on TV. The ball was back in Woods' court at this point. Instead of telling Garcia he didn't see him (if he didn't) or apologizing (if he did) he threw out the line about the marshals and couldn't resist taking a shot.

''Not real surprising that he's complaining about something,'' Woods said of Garcia.

Both of them should have been put in time-out.

''It's very unusual for an individual spat to get out,'' Padraig Harrington said. ''There's no winners when that gets out there. I think when players have an issue, they find things. So if you don't like somebody, you read things in, and you make more of a situation than there is.''

Lost in this mess is that Woods is playing golf at a very high level. He is four short of Sam Snead's record for career wins. He is a month away from the next major, where he will be the heavy favorite again. Woods is motoring right along.

But it sure is a bumpy ride at the moment.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”



Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.



Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)