Tiger's birthday brings more speculation than celebration

By Jason SobelDecember 30, 2012, 5:07 pm

On Sunday, I woke up and checked Twitter, which is sort of a reflex impulse these days. When used as a news and information source, the tool can provide a personal feed complete with facts you want and largely devoid of those which hold little interest. It's like watching the nightly news, but fast-forwarding through the parts you don’t need.

In this instance, I was immediately reminded that Dec. 30 is Tiger Woods' birthday. He turned 37 on Sunday.

Rather than supportive shouts of, 'Happy birthday!' or playful jabs at being over the hill, the mass reaction to this milestone was speculation as to how it will factor in his long-term career goals.

(To be fair, I'm not complaining about that. An entire feed of birthday wishes would probably be cause for more than a few unfollows. Remember: Twitter is all about customizing your own news and information. I’ll take analysis and debate over puffed up pasturage any day.)

I was initially met with tweets from fellow journalists in the golf community who took the occasion to compare Woods' career accomplishments before 37 with those of Jack Nicklaus. And more importantly, reminders of what the man he's chasing accomplished after this point in his life.

It turns out Nicklaus won four majors once turning 37 – one of each – so the unwritten logic not so subtly suggests that Woods must win more majors at a later age if he hopes to pass the major championship record of 18.

And yes, that's been a long-standing career goal, commenced not long after Tiger first took a few whacks on The Mike Douglas Show a mere 35 years ago. Just ask him, because it seems like everyone else has over the past three-and-a-half decades. He wants one record more than any other in his career, and that’s to pass the man whose poster adorned his bedroom wall as a child.

Personal goals are what give each of us the motivation and inspiration to continue improving on a daily basis. It’s when those personal goals become the expectations of others that the lines become blurred. Among his many philosophical musings, the innovative martial artist Bruce Lee often used to say, “I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations and you're not in this world to live up to mine.”

I was reminded of this quote upon reading the statistically based reactions to Woods’ birthday. His entire career – with 74 career PGA Tour victories and 14 major titles – has been broken down to one simple, and so far, unanswerable question: Will he or won’t he? As in, will Woods pass Nicklaus and be remembered as the greatest golfer of all-time, or will he fail to meet his stated goal and come up agonizingly short?

The debate makes for great 19th hole fodder, especially because neither opinion can be proven wrong until he’s no longer competitive. But it also serves as a sad commentary on how we view superstars. Being great isn’t good enough; failing to be the best is still failure.

Think about it this way: If you were, statistically speaking, the second-greatest doctor or plumber or insurance salesman of all-time, wouldn’t you consider that a successful career? Well, what if you had told everyone that you only wanted to be the greatest, that anything less was failure? And what if, instead of celebrating your accomplishments, those around you only speculated as to whether you would ever fulfill that lifelong goal?

It’s hard to feel sorry for a guy who is, at the very worst, the second-best golfer ever from a statistical standpoint, but it can’t be easy living with the constant pressure – both internally and from external sources – over reaching that goal of becoming the best.

With each candle that is added to Woods’ birthday cake, and each year that passes with the odometer stuck on 14, (he’s gone four straight now) Dec. 30 becomes a day less for celebration and more for speculation. It becomes another reminder that time is no longer on his side, that even matching Nicklaus’ career from here on in will leave him with “only” 18 major championships.

For a man who has so clearly set his sights on 19 to pass him, second place is the first loser – a notion Woods has often reminded us about when finishing runner-up at specific tournaments. It’s gotten to the point, though, where so much debate about his future has turned into a caricature of our society. Only one person can claim the title of best ever, but that shouldn’t relegate everyone else to the position of failure, no matter their stated goals.

Even so, people on Twitter and other sources used Woods’ birthday as a platform for further speculation about the most speculative question in the game today. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering he placed such lofty expectations on himself before the masses also wielded this anticipation.

For most, birthdays are reason for revelry and jubilation, with a hint of ennui toward turning a year older mixed in for good measure. For Woods – and for those of us who follow his career – it’s another reminder that with each year that passes, he’s either closer to reaching his goal or closer to coming up short. That’s a hell of a burden to have to bear.

As one person tweeted to me Sunday morning, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Perhaps that bit of Shakespearean wisdom could be amended to he who chases a crown, as well.

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 17, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods teed off at 12:15PM ET alongside Justin Rose for Round 3 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.