Tigers Knee Still a Problem
The left knee didn't affect his game in February and March, and it's unlikely a sore knee is the reason he has finished over par in the first two majors for the first time since 1999.
The impact could be in his practice sessions.
Few people work harder than Woods on the range, but he said while cleaning out his locker at Olympia Fields that he has scaled back this year.
'I don't hit balls for four to five hours like I used to,' Woods said.
He also isn't playing as much.
Knee surgery caused him to miss the Mercedes Championships and Pebble Beach (although he was planning to skip Pebble because of the bumpy greens), and Woods dropped out of Dubai because of war-related concerns.
As for the state of his knee? 'I'm not quite there yet,' he said. 'That's why I don't play much. You have to look at the big picture and make sure everything is sound so you can go the long haul.'
MASTERS TICKETS GET PRICE INCREASE FOR 2004
Tickets for practice rounds at the Masters are going up by $10 next year, although the price is still as much a bargain as the $1.25 for pimiento cheese sandwiches.
Tickets for Monday and Tuesday rounds will increase to $31, while tickets for Wednesday, which includes the Par 3 Tournament, will increase to $36.
Augusta National Golf Club has not decided whether to increase its weekly badge for the tournament rounds, which last year was $125.
Club spokesman Glenn Greenspan said the ticket increase is not related to the Masters going without television sponsors for the second straight year.
'Every three or four years we do this,' Greenspan said.
Ticket prices have increased only twice in the last 10 years, the last time in 2001.
'Our major concern is value for our patrons, and we still think our tickets are a great value,' Greenspan said.
Practice round tickets are awarded through a lottery system. Applications can be obtained from the club; the deadline is July 15.
THE MAGIC DATE
Looking for the favorite at the British Open? Start checking birth certificates.
Masters champion Mike Weir and U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk have more in common than winning their first major this year. Both were born on May 12, 1970 -- Weir in Sarnia, Ontario, Furyk in West Chester, Pa.
Another significant occurrence that day: Ernie Banks hit his 500th home run at Wrigley Field to lead the Cubs to a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
If the magic is in the year, that can only help Phil Mickelson (June 16, 1970).
CHICAGO RETURN FOR MAHAN
The next time Hunter Mahan returns to Chicago, he'll be playing for money.
Mahan, the runner-up at the U.S. Amateur, turned professional after missing the cut in the U.S. Open at 6-over par. He plans to play the Western Open, where he received the first of seven sponsor's exemptions in his bid to earn enough money to get his PGA Tour card.
If not, he advances to the second stage of Q-school because he made the cut at a major, tying for 28th in the Masters.
'If I go to Q-school and can get through that second stage, I'll at least have a place to play next year,' Mahan said.
PUZZLED HOCH TAKING TIME OFF
Scott Hoch missed the cut four weeks in a row for the first time in his career, then decided to take three weeks off to figure out what was happening.
It didn't help.
He missed the cut at the Capital Open and the U.S. Open, running his streak to six. Next up for Hoch -- maybe nothing until the PGA Championship.
'I might be off indefinitely,' he said. 'There's no point.'
Hoch, who won at Doral in a playoff over Jim Furyk, had hand problems earlier in the year that haven't gone away. The pain is at the base of where the thumb and index finger meet, and he says it gets weak at the top of his swing.
What about the British Open?
'I lost the entry,' Hoch said with a smile.
FASTH NOT HAVING A BALL
For Niclas Fasth of Sweden, it was in with the new, but not quite out with the old at the U.S. Open.
Fasth switched to the new Callaway Black Hx Tour ball at Olympia Fields, but when he got to the par-3 seventh green, his 16th hole of the first round, he realized he had teed off with the Hx Tour Red.
Players must use the same model of golf ball for the entire round.
'Unfortunately, there was an old one left in the bag that came out,' Fasth said. 'I realized it when I marked my ball, and gave myself a two-stroke penalty.'
That turned his 73 into a 75.
David Duval was in no mood to talk after missing the cut for the 10th time in 13 stroke-play events this year.
Having spent the last month working with David Leadbetter, Duval says his game is getting closer. His only beef is with reporters who question his desire or work ethic without seeing the amount of time he spends on the practice range.
'I'm out there pursuing excellence,' Duval told ESPN. 'And I have a hard time explaining that to those who aren't.'
Bethpage Black will be included in the newest version of 'Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004,' due out in September from EA Sports. Woods was the only player to finish under par at Bethpage Black, winning the U.S. Open last year by three shots. ... The Royal & Ancient Golf Club said there are 2,150 entries for the British Open, similar to the number last year. ... Trip Kuehne kept driving distance in the family last week. He led the U.S. Open with an average 325.6 yards off the tee. Younger brother Hank, who didn't qualify for Olympia Fields, leads the PGA Tour in driving distance at 314.8 yards.
STAT OF THE WEEK
In the last three tournaments Jim Furyk won -- U.S. Open, '02 Memorial and '01 Mercedes Championships -- Tiger Woods was the defending champion.
'It's like comparing the old Astrodome to Fenway Park.' -- Tiger Woods, on the differences between Bethpage Black and Olympia Fields.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.