Newsmaker of the Year No. 2: Tiger Woods

By Jason SobelDecember 28, 2013, 2:10 pm

Let's face facts: From the moment that big golf ball in Times Square dropped at midnight to commemorate the beginning of 2013, Tiger Woods was a virtual lock to make's list of newsmakers of the year.

If he returned to glory, winning five times and regaining his standing as the world's No. 1-ranked player, he'd make the list. If he failed to win a major for a fifth straight year, his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus continuing in a holding pattern, he'd make the list.

As it turns out, both scenarios came true.

It was more best of times than worst of times for Woods this year, but his not-so-Dickensian tale continued in the form of his most Woodsian performance in nearly a half-decade.

Woods competed 19 times around the globe in 2013, winning at a 26.3 percent clip that nearly mirrors his career number. That includes victories at old stomping grounds Torrey Pines, Bay Hill, Doral and Firestone, with a second career title at the pesky Players Championship serving as his coup de grace during a campaign that netted a record 11th PGA Tour Player of the Year award.

Following his final appearance of the year, a runner-up finish at his own Northwestern Mutual World Challenge during which he was uncharacteristically caught from behind by Zach Johnson and even more uncharacteristically missed a par putt in the playoff to lose, Woods was asked to assess his results.

“Pretty damn good year,” he said matter-of-factly. “Five wins and, you know, on some pretty good venues, so very pleased with the year.”

After a down period due to injury and personal scandal that saw him drop to as low as 58th in the world, Woods supplanted Rory McIlroy as the No. 1-ranked player with his third win of the season at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his eighth career victory there, tying the all-time single-tournament PGA Tour record.

It wasn’t all glory for Woods, though. At the major championships – the four tournaments upon which he so often maintains that he measures himself – he finished T-4 (Masters), T-32 (U.S. Open), T-6 (Open Championship) and T-40 (PGA Championship), solid performances for most mere mortals, but further disappointment for one still chasing Nicklaus’ elusive mark.

While this year will be grouped in with the previous four as another failure to push closer to that record, it will be remembered more specifically as the year of the rules controversies.

In Abu Dhabi, he took an improper drop that was deemed a penalty and led to a missed cut. At the Masters, another bad drop after hitting the flagstick and seeing his ball carom into the creek guarding the 15th green led to a disputable penalty that kept him in the tournament based on a decision by the rules committee. At the Players, he drew further criticism when his tee shot on the fourth hole of the final round snapped left and some believed he gave himself a favorable drop. And at the BMW Championship, Woods maintained his ball only oscillated after moving debris from behind it, while slow-motion video evidence showed a slight movement; he was assessed a penalty prior to signing his scorecard.

There were even controversies over the controversies. Nick Faldo, working for CBS, was among those who suggested Woods should withdraw following the Masters ruling. Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee wrote in a article that Woods was “a little cavalier with the rules.”

Conversely, it was also a year during which he opened up and showed more of his personal side for the first time since a widely publicized divorce. In March, he announced that he and world-class skier Lindsey Vonn were dating. While they didn’t exactly do the talk-show circuit together, they weren’t living in total private, either. From hanging on NFL sidelines together to Woods attending her skiing events to Vonn placing a squirrel on his shoulder at the Presidents Cup in the ultimate YouTube moment, the high-profile couple hardly kept a low profile. Hey, she even called him “dorky-goofy” in a live television appearance.

That wasn’t the only sign of transparency. Following his victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, with the cameras still rolling, Woods’ four-year-old son Charlie embraced him in celebration for the first time.

“This was the first win he’s ever been at,” Woods later explained. “That’s what makes it special for both of us. He’s never seen me win a golf tournament.”

Chances are, he’ll see him win again soon. Woods will enter 2014 still in pursuit of Nicklaus, and much closer to the all-time victory record of Sam Snead, needing two wins to tie and three to claim sole possession of the mark.

The smart money says it will happen early, with Woods prepared for another successful campaign. One thing is for certain: Whether it’s another Player of the Year type of season or he falters, he’ll find his name on this list of newsmakers once again next year.

More Newsmakers in 2013:

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 3: Adam Scott

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 4: Phil Mickelson

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 5: Anchoring

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 6: Inbee Park

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 7: Rory McIlroy

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 8: Henrik Stenson

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 9: Jordan Spieth

Newsmaker of the Year, No. 10: Vijay Singh

Newsmaker of the Year: Honorable mentions

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.