Its Business as Usual - Tiger Still Tiger

By George WhiteJuly 8, 2003, 4:00 pm
The 'slump' business, which isnt something you can prove anyway, has been forgotten. The driver business, which Tiger swears is valid, is momentarily forgotten. And the win business, which he hadnt been able to address for four months, is again at the forefront.
This looks like the Tiger Woods that Ive been watching since the end of 1996. How about you?
He walked all over the gents at the Western Open. Runner-up Rich Beem, for one, said he would be content to sit and watch Woods hit shots on the driving range. Obviously, hes got unbelievable amounts of game, said Beem. I could sit there and watch him hit golf balls all day long. Its that impressive.
Of course,he has gotten annoyed that a few mentioned the no-no word - 'slump.' No one even hinted that he is not the best player in the universe. But the use of the word brings about an irrational reaction within Tiger that, at times, is difficult to understand. It's all a question of semantics, I guess.
But that is a minor little annoyance. The subject here is Tigers brilliance, and the manner in which he whacked everyone who had the temerity to come close. Woods, as he often is, was simply awesome. Its been this way since he became a professional.
But you might not know it by looking at the statistics this season. Hes averaging 293.4 yards per drive, and that is plenty long enough to play any course in the world. However, he used to be second only to John Daly in the distance derby. This year he is 21st.
He is ninth in putting, and as long as he is rolling it that well, he can hit it with a piece of spaghetti and still win tournaments. Now, he is not the 21st longest hitter on the PGA Tour. He probably is in the top five. He might be No. 2 or 3 if all you care about is pure length. But he believes he has been handicapped this year because he couldnt play early when he was rehabilitating a knee injury.
A little bit of it is because I didnt play the beginning of the year when we played at Mercedes where the guys were hitting it 350, Woods said. I didnt play the Bob Hope when the fairways were fast there. I didnt play at Sony when the fairways were fast. At the beginning of the year when the fairways were fast, I didnt play.
Then when he finally did tee it up, Mother Nature didnt cooperate.
Ironically, its rained at every single event Ive played at this year, he said. It (the driving distance statistics) is kind of skewed a little bit in that regard. But also, too, I havent really pulled out the driver that much. The times that I have hit it may not be on good driving, so you may see me hit ' for instance, I hit 2-iron off the tee at No. 2 at Sawgrass, thats one of the driving holes there. So Im hitting 2-iron down there about 240 off the tee ' that kind of skews my numbers.
Driving distances are measured only on two holes on each course ' one on the front side, one on the back. If the player elects not to use driver, officials dont say, Wait until he uses the big dawg ' then well measure him. If the player goes with a 2-iron instead of the big boy, then his stats are necessarily going to suffer somewhat.
And, some of it is just common sense.
As far as I hit my 3-wood, some of the holes, when I dont need 300 yards, why take the chance of hitting driver when I can hit it 280 and give myself all the room to hit the ball into? he reasoned. Thats how theyre set up and how far things are going that you dont really need that driver that often.
Woods isnt so caught up in the macho thing that he feels a need to hit a driver 330 when he can finesse a fairway wood into a little fatter part of the fairway. Courses are set up so that the smallest area of the fairway is pinched in at about 300 yards. The big whackers use their war clubs at a considerable risk.
And consider this: if a drive is off the mark by three degrees, it could well be out of the fairway with a driver, while it may very well stay in the fairway if the player uses a 3-wood.
But such are the things a golfer realizes the more he plays this game. Its not about raw distance. It still is about using the club that best allows you to make birdie.
My swing is completely different, Tiger said, noting that he was much more a power player when he first turned pro in 96 and 97.
Its not as across the line, its not as shut. My footwork is better, my arm-playing is better, my club-face is better, the speed at which I go at it is more consistent, I can hit different shots. So much is not reliant on just pure power to play a golf course. I can shape shots and control the golf ball and put the ball of the correct side of the fairways to give myself the best look at flag.
Makes you wonder what he was doing when he obliterated the field at the 97 Masters by 12 shots. That was supposedly when he had the old schoolboy roundhouse swing. What would he have won by if he had the new, improved Tiger swing ' 20 shots?
Nonetheless, all is at peace again in the golf world today. Tiger has won ' you can sleep well tonight. And there is no reason to revisit the slump issue. And Tiger is still convinced we journalists are skulking around, looking for sensational stories with which to sell papers.
Some things, it seems, never change. Dont use a driver when you can do just as well with a 3-wood or a 2-iron. A great putt will almost always make up for a mis-hit drive. And dont ever forget who is the No. 1 player in the world today ' probably yesterday, too. Tiger Woods.
Getty Images

Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

Getty Images

With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

Getty Images

Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

Getty Images

Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.”