Woods relaxed, upbeat heading into Phoenix Open

By Jason SobelJanuary 27, 2015, 6:24 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – If you're the world's most famous athlete and inherently image-conscious and were last seen in public missing a front tooth and you've got to speak with the media – the same meddling media that for two decades has asked you every question from "Was that a 7-iron or 8-iron that you hit from 205 yards to the tucked pin?" to "What did you have for breakfast this morning?" – there might not be a better time to schedule this interview session than at nearly the same moment as Super Bowl Media Day, where just across town behemoth football players embarking on one of the world's biggest sporting events were about to be grilled over deflated balls.

Call it a brilliant coincidence or an astute conspiracy theory – after all, Tiger Woods doesn’t make a habit of playing Tuesday practice rounds at non-majors, let alone a pre-dawn Tuesday practice round that left him finishing up right before the New England Patriots were taking to their podiums in nearby Glendale – but Woods unquestionably repositioned himself in a spotlight that any other place, any other time, would have been firmly affixed to his pearly whites.

Oh, right – about those. Woods showed up at TPC Scottsdale with all previous toothless gaps filled in. Despite appeals from the masses on social media to leave it be - or at the very least, replace the missing chicklet with a gold substitute in the most (OK, only) gangsta move in professional golf history – he returned to the public eye with all chompers in proper working order.

He also offered an explanation of the incident after girlfriend Lindsey Vonn’s skiing victory in Italy that was equal parts believable and amusing.


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“Yeah, that didn't feel very good,” he said. “I had my mask on, so no one knew who I was; trying to blend in, because there is not a lot of brown dudes at ski races, OK? That was the whole idea of why I wore the mask, and then I came up above. I was looking down, and all the camera guys are below me on their knees or moving all around, trying to get a picture because she's hugging people, saying congratulations to the other racers as they are coming down. Dude with a video camera on his shoulder, right in front of me, kneeling, stood up and turned and caught me square on the mouth. He chipped that [tooth], cracked the other one. And so then, you know, I'm trying to keep this [mask] so the blood is not all over the place.”

Those conspiracy theories that Woods was ducking additional attention seemed to wilt in the brisk desert air, as he spent 12 minutes largely showing off that reworked smile during a series of relaxed, engaging answers prior to his first start on the 2015 calendar.

All of which is just as well, because even though the Scottsdale scene looks like the perfect backdrop for “Hangover 4,” it’s not the kind of place which takes kindly to embarrassment. Tiger won’t have that missing tooth to provoke catcalls from what’s expected to be more than a half-million spectators this week, and he believes he’s cured himself of the embarrassing chipping woes which plagued his last competitive performance eight weeks ago.

“I was caught between techniques, between my old release pattern and body movement when I was working with [former instructor] Sean [Foley] and then my new release pattern,” he explained. “We had to basically just hit thousands upon thousands upon thousands of chips and just get it out of there, and now it's better.”

That’s not the only thing that’s better. As if to only refute those conspiracy theories even more – you know, the ones questioning why he’d be grinding away with the PGA Tour’s great unwashed on a Tuesday morning of non-major tournament – the explanation comes in the form of his health. For years, he’s insisted that he needs “more reps,” yet he’s simultaneously played less and, more telling, practiced less, especially in the days leading up to tournament rounds, when his fellow competitors are putting the final touches on their preparation.

Even though it was just a nine-hole practice round followed by another range session, it should symbolize Woods’ commitment now that his body is healthy enough to allow him to prepare the way he needs.

Or as he put it, in an economical use of words that might say everything about not just his impending season, but the current of electricity which for so long has run through the game when he is competing at his very best: “It’s going to be a fun year.”

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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.

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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 of engaging in 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 WGC-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.

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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.”

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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.