Silence is golden

By John FeinsteinAugust 3, 2011, 11:57 pm

AKRON, Ohio – At 2:30 on Wednesday afternoon on a cloudy, humidity-laden day in Akron, the No. 1 golfer in the world finished his practice session on the range at Firestone Country Club and headed in the direction of the media center to do his pre-tournament interview.

There was media everywhere as players finished preparations for the start of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Luke Donald took a look around, smiled and departed. No one made a move in his direction. Not a single camera crew followed him and no one tried to grab him for a quick, non-interview room one-on-one.

Everyone continued doing what they were doing.

Which was watching Tiger Woods.

Had he lost weight since he was last seen on the PGA Tour, limping through nine holes in 6 over par at TPC Sawgrass? Or maybe he’d gained a few pounds? Was his swing a little deeper? Was he doing something different? Would he cast an eye at his old caddie, Steve Williams, standing at the other end of the range with Adam Scott, his new employer?

On a day when Rory McIlroy, who is not the world’s No. 1 ranked player but is probably the world’s best player right now, announced that he was almost certain to re-join the PGA Tour next year, most members of the media couldn’t have been pulled away from Woods without a court order. Or perhaps even with one.

There is no doubting Woods’ importance to golf. He has played the game at a level perhaps never seen before and has brought attention to golf from people who probably didn’t know the difference between a birdie and a bogey.

All of that no doubt explains the media’s Tiger-obsession. That said, there is only so much to be said about a player hitting balls for an hour and then going out to play nine practice holes. McIlroy was a much more important story. For that matter, what Donald had to say (especially since Woods had already done his pre-tournament talking on Tuesday) about how he felt about missing the cut at the British Open and where that leaves him for next week’s PGA Championship was probably more significant than standing around trying to guess Tiger’s weight.

But that’s the way it is on Tour even though Woods hasn’t won since late 2009 and has spent a lot more time not playing golf than playing golf. Maybe it’s Howard Hughes syndrome: Tiger spottings have become almost as rare as spottings of the reclusive billionaire were years ago.

There’s another factor: When you are someone who has made a career of saying almost nothing, people will run around hoping for any scrap they can find. The media’s reaction to Woods’ presence on campus at a golf tournament isn’t that different from the fans who crowd around to watch him walk from the locker room to the range knowing that the chances he will actually stop to sign autographs are the same as John Boehner being honored as the Democratic Party’s Man of the Year.

The Woods aura in the media is such that when the PGA Tour announced that the golf course would be closed to the public during Tuesday’s practice round, there was speculation that Woods had asked to be allowed to play his nine holes in private and that’s why the public was turned away.

The truth was that attendance at the Tuesday practice round was so sparse last year that the Tour decided it would be less costly to open the golf course to the few fans who wanted to show up than to simply close it. A few fans that showed up with tickets marked “Tuesday” who weren’t happy at being told that Tuesday tickets weren’t good on Tuesday, were allowed onto the grounds as long as they understood that nothing was open – except the golf course.

Woods had nothing to do with the decision. But, given his past, his secretive nature and the fact that everyone still working for him acts as if the simplest question is a request for Tiger’s cell phone number, one can understand why speculation would abound.

Example: Wednesday afternoon someone asked a member of Team Tiger if Woods was going to play the back nine (since he played the front nine on Tuesday).

Answer: “I don’t know. He played the front nine yesterday.”

It was also Tuesday so thanks for the insight.

That’s the way it is in Tiger World. He says nothing and then the media analyzes what he didn’t say at great length. Woods isn’t to blame for this. He’s just doing what he’s done for years. One can’t help but wonder how the public would react if the media didn’t report constantly on what he didn’t say or didn’t do and just allowed his golf – which is the only thing anyone should care about – be the story.

That’s not to say that Woods doesn’t owe the public more of his time. He should sign more autographs and it would be wonderful if he ever decided to talk honestly about what’s happened in his life since Nov. 27, 2009.

But he chooses not to do that – which is his right. There are plenty of golfers who are willing to talk to the media at length on a number of different topics. Of course if no one is listening because they’re too busy watching Tiger talk to Sean Foley, they aren’t going to learn very much.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x