The old Tiger Woods is never coming back

By John FeinsteinJune 19, 2012, 8:25 pm

There is a good reason why people tend to jump back on to the Tiger Woods bandwagon every time he pieces together a couple of decent rounds.

It’s because when they look at him they see Tiger Woods. Problem is, he’s not.

He’s not the Tiger Woods who dominated golf in ways no one in history has ever dominated the sport. He’s not the Tiger Woods who made getting up-and-down from anywhere look so easy that the only real question seemed to be whether he’d hole out from off the green or walk up for a tap-in.

And he’s most certainly not the Tiger Woods who, in a rare moment of complete honesty, once said finishing second “sucks.”

That doesn’t mean he isn’t going to win more majors. As he pointed out repeatedly after his victory at the Memorial, he’s still only 36. That’s right in golfing middle age and there isn’t any doubt that Woods is going to continue to work maniacally on finding the missing pieces in his game because that’s who he is and who he always has been.

Even so, it was shocking to hear him talk about how encouraged he is, about how close he is, after he collapsed on a weekend at a major championship in a manner one would expect from a mini-tour player who somehow found himself on top of a 36-hole leaderboard and then remembered who he really was when he woke up on Saturday.

It is to Woods’ credit that he talked to the media after his rounds on Saturday and Sunday even if he did react to Roger Maltbie asking him if the hand that smacked a camera on his way off of 18 on Saturday was alright, as if Maltbie had asked him how things were going with his ex-wife. You go from tied for the lead in the U.S. Open on Friday night to five shots back on Saturday night you should be a little bit cranky.

But let’s face it, the old Woods wouldn’t have talked to Maltbie or anybody else on Saturday. And Sunday? He would have been in the car and out of Dodge – or San Francisco – before the group behind his had walked up the hill to the 18th green at Olympic.

Butch Harmon, who was Woods’ teacher during the period when he was so much better than the rest of the world, made the comment a few months ago that he believed part of his old pupil’s problem was that he was trying to be someone he’s not; that trying to rehab his public image in order to win back corporate sponsors was getting in the way of rehabbing his golf game.

There may be something to that. Or there may be something to the theory that he has spent so much time trying to hit the ball straight off the tee that he’s lost the magic he once had around the greens.

Or maybe it’s just this: he’s trying too hard in the majors.

That’s natural for everyone who plays golf at the highest level. Does anyone think for one second that Jim Furyk would have hit a tee shot like the one that came off his club at No. 16 on Sunday if he was in contention at Bay Hill, the Memorial or, for that matter, The Players?

Of course not. Even though the Official World Golf Rankings and the FedEx Cup point systems don’t acknowledge the fact that the majors are at least 10 times as important as any weekly tournament, the fact is they are to everyone who has ever teed it up on Tour.

And for Woods, they are even more important than that. He’s said as much from the first day he first popped onto golf’s radar and, for the most part, has never backed away from that. There was the tiniest crack in that veneer when he won at Memorial. For some reason, he really wanted people to understand how remarkable it was that he had matched Nicklaus’s 73 Tour victories. He repeatedly pointed out that he’s 10 years younger than Nicklaus was when he won his 73rd tournament, something he never would have brought up pre-hydrant. His response then would have been something like, “It’s an honor to have my name in the same sentence with Jack Nicklaus but this is NOT the number I’m ultimately after.”

Maybe the thought has crossed his mind that he might not reach that number, the one that appeared to be an absolute lock at the moment four years ago when he last kissed a major trophy. Maybe that’s why he’s squeezing the club so tight at the majors these days.

Think about this: after his victory at Torrey Pines, Woods had won six of the previous 14 majors. Earlier in his career he won seven-of-11 at one point. It was not unreasonable to think that today, 16 majors later, he would already be at 19. Even if you account for the two he missed at the end of 2008 he still would have had 14 chances to win five more and be past Nicklaus now.

Of course, since that day his body has betrayed him and he betrayed his family. His putter has turned on him at key times and even his nerves have frayed. Four years ago, tied for the 36-hole lead at a major, Woods would have wondered only by how much he was going to win, not if he was going to win.

He’s correct when he says he’s seen progress. He’s won twice on Tour this year and finished second with a closing 62 on another occasion. But the majors have been a different story. In fact, his past four majors have produced the following results: DNP-injured; missed cut; T-40; T-21.

Do those results look like Tiger Woods? Consider for a moment his results the last year he was completely healthy and scandal-free, which was 2007: T-2; T-2; T-12; 1. And he wasn’t all that thrilled with those numbers.

In the end, there’s probably too much of the old Woods rummaging around inside the one we’re looking at right now for him not to win again when it really counts. He’s smart and he’s driven like perhaps no one in golf history has ever been driven. Nicklaus was driven by history; Woods is driven by history and anger.

But when it does happen, when he does win again on a Sunday when he really and truly cares, let’s not start screaming, ‘he’s back!’ The new Tiger Woods may be good enough to win a major. But the old one, the one who would have won by five last week and then said, “it’s nice win but I’ve got a lot to work on,” is never coming back.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.