Woods' 61 at Firestone a majorly impressive feat

By Jason SobelAugust 2, 2013, 11:31 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Tiger Woods shot a 9-under 61 in the second round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Friday. But he still can’t catch a break.

Welcome to the first recorded instance in the history of golf when a player beats everyone else by five in a single round … and gets criticized. When a player ties his own course record … and gets chastised. When he takes a seven-freakin’-shot lead into the weekend … and somehow, it’s not good enough.

Does it make sense? Of course not. Forget 59, Tiger flirted with 56 or 57 for a little while at Firestone before “settling” for a score that matched his best-ever total in PGA Tour competition. His ball-striking was brilliant, his putting peerless. He made par saves that left even the Golf Gods applauding. He rolled in a 26-footer from the back fringe on the final hole like most guys tap in a gimme.

Anyone else in the field would lick the locker room floor to be in his position right now. And anyone else would have lavish praise heaped on him for such a remarkable achievement.

When it comes to Tiger, though, any major accomplishment outside of a major championship isn’t major enough.

Which is why in the immediate aftermath of his 61, he is already being condemned for not playing this well two weeks ago at Muirfield during The Open Championship. Or not saving it for next week’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Articles, videos and photos

Video: Highlights of the 59 that almost was

It’s as if a player – even one of Woods’ immense caliber – can pick and choose when and where he’d like to shoot 61.

If it sounds unfair, well, it probably is. Then again, Woods himself is the one who created this quandary. By constantly and consistently telling us that majors are what matter most, that he hopes to peak four times each year, he's brought this upon himself.

Let’s be a little realistic here, though, and compare him to his fellow competitors.

How many other players would be criticized for 'only' playing their best golf at a WGC event?

How many other players would be criticized for 'only' dominating on courses where there’s a palpable comfort level?

How many other players would be criticized for “only” chasing a fifth victory of the season?

The obvious answers to these rhetorical questions are Zip, Zero and Zilch, which also might be the answers to whom can beat Tiger in this one.

According to my calendar, there isn’t a major being contested this weekend, so he can be excused for not winning one. He won’t be, though. The more Tiger succeeds at non-majors, the more a spotlight will be shined on his failure to win one.

Such analysis is analogous to bashing a powerhouse football team after it whales on a cupcake opponent. You can only beat who’s in front of you, just as Tiger can only win the tournament he’s playing right now.

That won’t stop the catcalls from the cheap seats, though. When it comes to Tiger, oftentimes anything he does isn’t enough. He can win by 10 this weekend and it won't be enough. He can win every regular-season PGA Tour event and it won't be enough. In between holes, he can cure cancer and solve the federal deficit. It still won't be enough.

The ironic part is that Tiger is usually his own harshest critic. When he stumbles on the weekend of a major championship and can’t find the fairway or has trouble adjusting to green speeds – a scenario which has occurred three times already this year – the internal aspersions are greater than anything he hears publicly.

And so it’s telling that when he posts 61 at this event, he doesn’t grouse about how he wishes it could have happened two weeks ago. He doesn’t gripe about how he needs to play like this next week instead.

No, he simply accepts it for what it is.

“Am I disappointed? Absolutely not, nope,” he said. “Sixty-one is pretty good. I'm not bummed.”

If it’s good enough for him, on this day, at this event, it should be good enough for everyone else, too.

You can almost sense the ire coming next week, though. At some point, Tiger will falter at Oak Hill. He’ll make a few bogeys, he’ll post an over-par round, maybe he’ll fail to win. Again, there will be public outcry about him “using up” all of his good shots this week at Firestone or not being able to take his A-game from a non-major to a major.

We’ve been there, done that before. Three times in the past two years, Tiger has triumphed in his final start before a major, only to stumble on the bigger stage.

If you want to criticize him for not playing his best golf in those situations, have at it. If you want to chastise him for feeling the pressure and failing to perform up to expectations, go ahead. If you want to say that somehow his good isn’t good enough at the major anymore, you should.

None of that has anything to do with what he accomplished Friday at Firestone. This isn’t a major week. He can’t go back in time and play this way at Muirfield, can’t save it for Oak Hill.

So let’s take this 61 at face value. Sometimes a majorly impressive round has nothing to do with the majors.

Getty Images

McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

Getty Images

Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days engaging pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGCC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

Getty Images

Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

Getty Images

Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.