Latest setback doesn't mean the end of Tiger

By Jason SobelApril 1, 2014, 6:14 pm

In the wake of Tiger Woods’ announcement that he will miss next week’s Masters Tournament after having surgery on his back, allow me to save you some time by summarizing the initial reaction from social media and message boards and water coolers around the world.

He’s done. It’s over. All of it. The chase for Jack Nicklaus’ all-time major championship record. The quest to be the best golfer ever. It’s finished. Kaput. He had a nice run, but it’s time to move on. Thanks for the memories, Tiger.

Forgive me for pumping the brakes on public opinion and stifling more than a little speculation. I’m just not ready to write the guy off so quickly. That’s not to say I believe he’ll unquestionably break Nicklaus’ record – I didn’t maintain that even before his back became an issue – but I’m also not convinced that we’ve reached some sort of finality, either.

In order to explain this view, let me relay an old story you probably remember.

This now-famous story centers on Woods’ visit with a doctor prior to the 2008 U.S. Open, when he was suffering with a torn ACL and multiple leg fractures. It turned out to be a pointless visit, because Woods was advised to remain on crutches for three weeks, then rest for another three afterward.

“Tiger looked the guy in the eye,” his then-coach Hank Haney once recalled, “and said, 'I'm playing in the U.S. Open and I'm going to win.' Then he started putting on his shoes and told me, ‘We're going to go practice.’ It's just incredible."

The rest was, literally, history. Woods won the tournament at Torrey Pines in a Monday playoff, and then sat out the remainder of the year to recuperate.

Tiger vs. Snead and Nicklaus

Check out Tiger's road to catching Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus' victory records

If we’ve learned anything about Woods after Tuesday’s announcement, it’s that he now follows doctors’ recommendations and is taking necessary efforts to aid the longevity of his career.

Think about it: He could have defied medical orders once again. He could have sacrificed the year to compete in the Masters. He could have been stubborn once again.

Instead, at age 38, Woods is playing it safe and making the proper call.

That doesn’t mean he’ll return in two or four or six months completely healthy and ready to win majors again. And really, if his back was in too much pain to swing the club, he couldn’t have defied doctors’ orders even if he wanted to.

But the microdiscectomy surgery that Woods recently underwent should be considered more of a positive than a negative. It means that rather than trying to continue playing through pain as he did at the Honda Classic before withdrawing and the WGC-Cadillac Championship, he is making a point of looking more toward the long-term than the short-term.

“I'm absolutely optimistic about the future," Woods said in a press release on his personal website. "There are a couple [of] records by two outstanding individuals and players that I hope one day to break. As I've said many times, Sam [Snead]and Jack reached their milestones over an entire career. I plan to have a lot of years left in mine."

In this case, the precautionary measure may have also been a necessary one. Woods is five years younger than Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, each of whom have won majors in their 40s. If they can do it – both after suffering career-affecting injuries, as well – there’s no reason to believe Woods can’t similarly win during the back-nine of his career.

That said, Woods is an old 38. He started playing competitive golf and enduring lengthy, grueling practice sessions at such a young age that he might have as much as a decade more tread on the tires than fellow professional of the same age. Since turning 30, he’s endured major injuries to his knee, Achilles, neck and now back – all of which are unequivocally important in maintaining a successful golf swing.

Through it all, he’s maintained the world’s No. 1 ranking and status as the game’s most talented player. He’s no stranger to the three R’s – rest, rehabilitation and recovery – and certainly isn’t unfamiliar with working hard to achieve those goals.

All of which should lead to the following conclusion: This is not the end of the line. It’s too shortsighted to believe that Woods won’t recover from this injury as he has in the past. It’s too careless to think he won’t return as the game’s best player once again.

That’s probably not the popular opinion right now. You might think he’s done. You might think the chase to catch Jack is over. You might think he’s doomed – if such a term is the proper description – to be the second-leading major winner ever.

The most riveting subplot in sports will only become more intriguing when he returns. There are plenty of people writing off Woods’ chances following this latest announcement. But if there’s another thing we’ve learned about him over the years, it’s that he loves proving people wrong.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.