MJ a Model for TW

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 23, 2009, 5:00 pm

PRODIGAL SON RETURNS: It was a busy PR week for Tiger Woods as he first released photos of his family and their newest addition, son Charlie. He then announced that he would be competing in the upcoming WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, his first event since winning the 2008 U.S. Open.
Backspin Woods returning to the PGA Tour is like Michael Jordan returning to the NBA after his first 'retirement' ' without the whole failed baseball thing. When Jordan came back he dominated just as before, winning three consecutive World titles. We expect Woods will do much the same. Guess this comparison makes Padraig Harrington, Hakeem Olajuwon. Which would make Sergio Garcia, Patrick Ewing.

NICE TIMING: On the same day Woods announced he was returning to the Tour, Phil Mickelson shot 63 to lead after the first round of the Northern Trust Open. He followed that with rounds of 72-62-72 to win by one over Steve Stricker.
Backspin Mickelson had to birdie two of his final three holes ' and have Stricker bogey 18 ' in order to successfully defend his title at Riviera. He started the final round with a three-stroke lead. Had he blown it, fans and media would have roasted him like a Salem witch. As it is, there's promise for a Woods-Mickelson rivalry renewal.

TOUGH TO TAKE: While Stricker's loss was disappointing ' he had a 12-foot putt on 17 to go three up at the time ' Fred Couples endured the most disheartening defeat. At 49, and trying to win on his favorite course not named Augusta National, he was one back on 18, when his errant approach shot landed behind a eucalyptus tree. He made bogey to finish two back.
Backspin A victory at Rivieria would not only have been a great way to cap his PGA Tour career, but a nice ending to a difficult week, which began with Couples learning that his estranged wife, Thais Baker, died Tuesday of breast cancer.

BOY AMONG MEN: Danny Lee, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, birdied his final two holes Sunday to win the European Tour's Johnnie Walker Classic by one shot over three other players.
Backspin Those three players got to share in the first-place prize as Lee is still an amateur. He expects to turn pro after the Masters, and said in the aftermath of his victory: 'All I want to do is just break what he's (Tiger Woods) done. Obviously I can't win three U.S. Amateurs in a row but I'll try to break his records on the PGA Tour.' It's good to have goals. He could have the goal of bringing the Dodo back to life and it might be just as realistic. But at least the kid's got moxie.

SHARK CAGED: Greg Norman, in his run-up to a return to Augusta National, missed the cut at the Johnnie Walker in Australia. Norman, who won the event in 1994, shot 75-71 to miss the cut by five strokes.
Backspin Norman still has a couple of months to fine tune his body and his game for the Masters. As exciting as it was to see the Shark in the hunt at last year's Open Championship, it would be double that should he contend Sunday at Augusta. Sure it's not likely to happen, but one can dream. Right, Danny Lee?

GO HOME: Anthony Kim's caddie, Eric Larson, was reportedly denied entrance into Australia due to 'an alleged failure to declare a criminal conviction in the United States.' Larson was convicted in 1995 for his part in a a small cocaine ring and served 11 years in prison.
Backspin Talk about irony: Western Australia was a penal settlement in the mid-1800s. Guess they only accept British convicts. Larson didn't miss much as his boss closed in 67 to tie for 25th. The good news for Larson: he's going to to be just fine as long as he stays on Kim's bag.

WEATHER OR NOT: Dustin Johnson was declared the winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am when the final round spilled over into Monday and was eventually canceled due to lingering inclement weather.
Backspin Mike Weir was bummed because he didn't get a chance to chase down Johnson. But if he was disappointed, think how we felt: instead of Monday golf, we were forced to watch infomercials with Chuck Norris.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Ryo Ishikawa, playing in the first of three U.S. events leading up to the Masters Tournament, shot 73-71 to miss the cut at Riviera by three strokes. .... Loren Roberts birdied his final hole to win the Ace Group Classic on the Champions Tour. ... Allen Stanford, chairman of Stanford Financial Group, which sponsors the PGA Tour's St. Jude Classic, has been accused of conducting an $8 billion fraudulent investment scheme.
Backspin Wonder what the over 100 credentialed Japanese media did over the weekend in L.A.? ... Roberts claimed his ninth senior title and denied Gene Jones his first. ... PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said the St. Jude event would continue ' as will America's distrust in people who wield power.
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    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”