When it comes to Tiger: Is it ever OK to quit?

By Jason SobelMarch 3, 2014, 10:40 pm

Have you ever sat through a job interview where the questioner maintains, “There is no right or wrong answer,” then grills you on your viewpoint, furiously taking notes the entire time? That’s how I feel about a persisting issue in golf that reared its ugly head once again this weekend.

As you know by now, Tiger Woods withdrew from the Honda Classic with five holes remaining in his final round because of lower back spasms. It was the sixth withdrawal of his 19-year professional career and fourth in the last five years.

On three of those occasions, he bowed out during the final round. These were final rounds which saw him out of contention and in pain, on the way to an uninspired T-37 finish or whatever, something invariably un-Tiger-like.

That’s hardly a pattern, but it can be considered a recurring theme.

His message, each time, was transparent: If I can’t win, then I’m not going to risk further injury by continuing to languish out here on the course.

Sounds like thoughtful, reasonable rationale. After all, there are really two things about the man that we know to be true: He only cares about winning and wants to peak four times each year for the major championships. Everything else is gravy. The justification that if he can’t win then he’s better off protecting himself for the majors is hardly misguided.

Then again, withdrawing early from a competition – in any sport, at any level – is expressly frowned upon. For a 14-time major champion who owes it to the tournament and his fans and his position as a role model, he should feel the responsibility to soldier on in the face of adversity, to grit it out until the bitter end.

And so this is the question that remains: Is it fair to withdraw when you’re hurting and have no chance of winning?

There’s no right or wrong answer – but don’t get it wrong anyway, just in case.

Immediately after Woods’ latest withdrawal, I searched what I’d written about Rory McIlroy exactly one year earlier after he’d left the Honda due to what he’d termed an impacted wisdom tooth.

“This is beyond poor form. This is quitting,” I wrote at the time. “This is the absolute opposite of what we expect and demand from our superstars. … The golf course may not be a rugged gridiron or a blood-spattered boxing ring, but we still want our best players to be tough. We want them to suck it up during the lean times. Take their lumps, get through it and move on.”

Shouldn’t the same logic be applied to Woods? Yes, I think, but with a bullet: You can’t exacerbate a toothache by continuing to play golf. A back injury, though, can indeed worsen.

Make no mistake, if Woods had been closer to the lead on Sunday afternoon we would have witnessed five more holes of stretching and wincing as he tried to capture a title. Sure, it was a half-dozen years ago, but the 2008 U.S. Open is still fresh in our minds, the image of an oft-doubled-over Tiger forging ahead on a torn ACL and multiple leg fractures to win a Monday playoff. It was the kind of performance they’ll make a movie about someday. It might not have been Ben Hogan returning from a near-fatal collision with a Greyhound bus, but it was pretty special in its own right.

More recently, we can look back to last year’s Barclays tournament. In contention, Woods fell to his knees after hitting an ugly pull-hook on the 13th hole, the result of a back spasm. He not only persevered, he carded two birdies down the stretch, then missed a putt on the final green that would have forced a playoff before shuffling off the course, barely able to lift his feet off the ground.

What that tells us is that he’s capable of competing through pain – and competing at a high level – but doesn’t feel the need when he’s not in contention.

We can also learn from Sunday’s withdrawal. The takeaway, once again, is that Tiger doesn’t care what the rest of us think. He doesn’t care if he gets castigated for packing it in, doesn’t care if he gets censured for not persevering as he’s done when in contention.

What he cares about – not necessarily in this order – is winning and remaining healthy for the major championships. The first wasn’t going to happen this time, so he left the course before the second was any more in doubt.

Was it the right move? Well, it depends if we’re speaking physically, technically, mentally, emotionally, morally or ethically. No matter what, though, there’s really no right or wrong answer.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.