The Tiger Saga Week 2

By Mercer BaggsDecember 6, 2009, 10:50 pm
Reports surface courtesy, from the proverbial “unnamed sources,' that the Florida Highway Patrol is seeking a warrant to get Tiger Woods’ medical files regarding his car accident. Similar reports also say FHP wants security tapes from Woods’ house at the time of the accident. FHP officials deny the stories.

Backspin'Celebrity Witch Hunt' would be an awesome reality show. Of course, maybe this isn't a witch hunt. Maybe there is reason to investigate. Unfortuantely for Woods, it's not the golf media who is going to be digging through his closet; it's outlets like TMZ.

John Daly, playing in the Australian Open, first says what happened to Woods is no one’s business. The following day he backpedals, saying Woods should come clean about the crash details.

BackspinThere’s a guy at CVS who sits in the back of the parking lot and talks to a shopping cart. I’d just as soon get domestic advice from him as from Daly.

As first reported on GolfChannel and, Woods announces that he will not compete in his own Chevron World Challenge. He says doctors have advised him not to travel to California for the tournament that benefits his Tiger Woods Foundation.

Backspin Andrea Bocelli saw this one coming. If Woods isn’t talking to the police, then he’s definitely not addressing the media. But don’t hide behind a white coat. If you could win the U.S. Open on one leg, you could play a charity event – one that benefits your charity – with a few cuts and bruises. Just say now is the time for family, not golf – everybody gets that.

A lawyer for the neighbors who phoned in the 911 call says Woods’ injuries were consistent with a car accident and not domestic violence.

Backspin Is there anyone in this soap opera who hasn't lawyer-ed up? If anyone is offended by my commentary, please contact my attorney, Mr. Lionel Hutz.

Florida Highway Patrol, as first reported by, cites Woods with careless driving, which carries a fine up to $164 and a dock of four points on his license. They say they will not pursue criminal charges, that there was insufficient evidence for a subpoena to seek medical records relating to the crash, and that their investigation is over.

BackspinSo Tiger’s “Nightmare on Deacon Court” comes to an end. Or does it? Don’t all big money-makers have sequels? Especially the horror flicks. This is a cash cow for the tabloids. They aren’t going to let this thing die. Woods is dealing with people who have the soul of a Kraken.

Woods releases another statement on his Web site apologizing for his “transgressions” and says he let his family down. The statement comes in the wake of a recorded voice mail released by alleged Woods mistress Jamie Grubbs in which a voice implores a woman to take her name off her cell phone because his wife might be calling her.

BackspinWoods' statement was much more admonishment than contrition. It was two paragraphs mea culpa, three paragraphs you-a culpa. It's obvious that Woods is trying to contain this wildfire. He just doesn't realize that it has already spread beyond his control.

While Woods’ corporate sponsors offer their support, Jesper Parnevik, the man who introduced Elin [his former nanny] to Tiger, says he wishes he had never done so. “He lost all my respect,” Parnevik said.

Backspin “You don't care about anything except you. You just want to persuade people that you love 'em so much that they ought to love you back. Only you want love on your own terms. Something to be played your way, according to your rules.” – Jedediah Leland.

A lawyer for Rachel Uchitel, who had previously denied a relationship with Woods, cancels a scheduled news conference. It was rumored that Uchitel was going to admit to the affair.

BackspinGloria Allred canceling a press conference for “unforeseen circumstances?” Did Uchitel get paid off [as Allred’s daughter claims]? Did she keep her silence to protect Woods and any other people involved with him [as Uchitel claims]? I could sooner buy back time as to buy any nobility in this saga.

It is reported that Tiger and Elin have entered “intense martial counseling.” Meanwhile, experts and specialists are chiming in across every medium offering their opinions on how Woods has handled the situation, what it means to his reputation, his future earnings, his quest to win 19 majors, his legacy, etc., etc., etc.

Backspin How about Elin? Sam? Charlie? The pain, the humiliation, the intrusion – the fact that Elin can never again trust anyone inside Tiger’s secretive inner circle. A sinful man such as myself will not cast stones on Tiger, but I’m not overly concerned about him. Still, everyone needs prayer.

So what else is there: Just an apparent email, from Woods' buddy and business partner Byron Bell, sent to Uchitel with flight plans to Australia; a purported prenuptial alteration that would significantly enhance Elin’s net worth; multiple mockings on 'SNL'; a possible cover up involving a magazine feature Woods did; at least four more possible mistresses. Those are just the things that have surfaced in a wasteland too murky to tell fact from fiction. What’s next? John Waters couldn't begin to write a script. How did we get here? That one is easy to answer.

Backspin“There's only one person in the world who decides what I'm going to do, and that's me.” – Charles Foster Kane.
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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.”