Tiger's Catch 22

By Jason SobelOctober 10, 2011, 2:06 pm

Maybe it’s the nature of our instant-gratification society. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s such a polarizing figure. Whatever the case, every time Tiger Woods produces a single maneuver on the golf course, the masses are quick to either proclaim, “He’s back!” or, “He’s done!”

These declarations often aren’t proffered after witnessing the sum total from an entire golf tournament or even a full round. They can be pronounced on a shot-by-shot basis. A stiffed iron shot means “he’s back”; a wayward drive means “he’s done.” Even the stock market doesn’t see that kind of volatility.

It’s all a matter of opinion, of course, and following Woods’ tie for 30th at the Frys.com Open this past weekend, the two camps remain as divided as ever.

I believe Woods is going to win again. I’m certain of it. OK, fairly certain. At least, I think I’m fairly certain.

Excuse the vacillating, but I thought Tiger was “back” when he returned to competition at last year’s Masters and finished in a share of fourth place. And again when he posted five birdies on the back nine in the third round of last year’s U.S. Open. And when he peeled off a final-round 65 at the Australian Masters. And when he blistered Francesco Molinari in their Ryder Cup singles match.

He’s put together glimpses of the past in individual swings and putts, in multiple-hole stretches, even during full rounds. In his most recent appearance, he performed admirably for multiple rounds, following an opening 2-over 73 with three consecutive identical scores of 68. Afterward, he was predictably upbeat about what it all meant.

“I got better every day,” said Woods, who finished the week tied for seventh in total birdies. “And I hit a lot of good putts the last three days, which is good, and it was nice to make that adjustment there on the putting green after Thursday's round. I felt very comfortable, and I just need to keep staying the course. The game's coming.”

Now the $1 million question – literally – may revolve less around “if” than “when” the erstwhile No. 1-ranked player will once again reach the winner’s circle.

Here’s my theory: It will come when we least expect it, when nobody is paying agonizingly close attention to him, when there is far less scrutiny on his every machination than there is right now.

The only problem? We still haven’t reached the point where Tiger teeing it up isn’t a major news story in itself, independent of how he actually fares. While many observers will contend that shouldn’t be the case, it’s simple supply and demand. More coverage of Woods’ rounds is demanded and so the various media outlets supply the content.

Makes sense, too. If his career is a three-hour movie, we’re only 90 minutes into it right now. The second half may be a triumph over self-infused adversity or a tragic drama. Either way, nobody is walking out of the theater just yet.

All of which makes it even more intriguing to focus on Woods. Playing under the intense spotlight is no problem when you’re hitting 300-yard drives on a string and holing everything inside 20 feet, but it can burn when the going gets tough. Despite dropping to 52nd in the world and failing to win a title in nearly two full years, he still draws the largest crowds on the PGA Tour.

Heck, players not named Tiger don’t have hot dogs thrown at them in the middle of rounds – and yes, that happened to Woods on Sunday.

While he may be accustomed to life under the microscope – both on and off the course – it has to pose a greater problem than it would for most other pros who could work through struggles with their games in comparative anonymity.

Two months ago, when Woods returned to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after a three-month absence due to injury, I asked him whether he was ever surprised at the large galleries that continue to follow him, even when his A-game hasn’t followed him to the course.

“I think it's great they just came out, period,” he said. “It's great to have them come out and support the event. This is a big event, and whether they're following me or someone else, it's great to have them out here.”

Great? Sure, but likely not beneficial to the cause. I’ve always believed that whenever Tiger is playing, there are not only more distractions, but it becomes a more stressful situation, with increased fans, media, security and – as a result – greater tension.

It’s not an easy environment in which to play proficient golf, which may have more to do with Tiger’s previous domination over playing partners than any perceived “intimidation factor.” Even for a guy accustomed to that spotlight, trying to regain his former elite status in front of discerning eyes must be an exceedingly difficult task.

End result? Consider it the ultimate Catch-22. Woods may not return to his previous form until the spotlight dims, but there’s no sign of anyone shining it away from him anytime soon.

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.