The ultimate compliment

By John HawkinsJune 21, 2011, 1:34 pm

To all those suffering heartburn over the onslaught of Rory and Tiger comparisons, grab yourself a roll of antacid tablets and accept the giddy reality.

After waiting an eternity for one of golf’s burgeoning stars to tinker with the competitive landscape, young Rory McIlroy has taken quickly to the task of moving mountains and flattening the past. Yes, Padraig Harrington went a bit over the top in his assessment that McIroy is a legitimate threat to Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18 major titles, but there's no crime in getting carried away.

Besides, most references to Woods were in regard to dominant single-week performances, not their overall bodies of work.

My point? People finally have a reason to slobber all over someone who doesn't wear a red shirt on Sunday. McIlroy was touted as very good and has proven to be even better – rare is the phenom in any sport that exceeds the most radioactive hype.

At last, one can say there's a new sheriff in town and his name ain't Reggie Hammond.

Obviously, McIlroy would rather be halfway to the Grand Slam than shooing away the demons of his Masters collapse with the victory at Congressional, but the speedy-rebound factor only adds style points to this accomplishment. I certainly was among those who thought the train wreck at Augusta National would leave a mark. Plenty of young players have blown 54-hole leads at majors, but a vast majority were never expected to hold that lead in the first place. Project Rory was moving full-speed ahead, and in stumbling to a closing 80 in such unsightly fashion, you did not need a degree in negativity to figure it might take him a while to get back on the horse.

He chose Secretariat. He said he'd learned from his mistakes at the Masters, which is what you have to say, but this kid really did. As dazzling as McIlroy's first two rounds were at Congressional, Saturday's 68 was every bit as impressive.

Having slept on the Masters lead for three consecutive nights then waking up to a nightmare, the Irish lad returned on Moving Day with an airtight arsenal, expanding his lead from six to eight with a brand of golf about as conservative as any 22-year-old can muster.

It was a perfect combination of aggressive and protective, but he still had 18 holes to go. I definitely think McIlroy was partially victimized by fate on Sunday at Augusta National – not just sleeping on the lead all week, but then getting paired with another quick player (Angel Cabrera) in the final group behind a procession of slower players. With so much time to wait between errors, Rory had little choice but to actually ponder the burden. It's not like Cabrera – who finished seventh, five strokes back – tore the place apart, either.

So now we're left with a prodigy-turned-prince who already has overcome enormous competitive trauma, a guy with immense physical skill who just found a three-ton package of mental toughness in his locker. Please, spare me the notion that McIlroy was the beneficiary of a U.S. Open venue softened by rain, then relegated to sitting-duck status by a lack of wind.

If Congressional had been firm and fast, the kid's precision off the tee and towering iron shots might have produced a final margin of larger than eight. McIlroy wouldn't have broken the tournament scoring record, but then, Woods didn't dismantle Pebble Beach (2000) in a four-club breeze or from 6 inches of rough.

In golf, they don't put asterisks next to the records achieved in favorable conditions or discount them altogether, as they do in track and field. Some people are slow to accept the whim of the competitive element, but in our game, those with logical sensibilities embrace the idea golf is contested on a massive playing field, and thus, more likely to be affected by random variables.

The bounce of the ball, the luck of the draw – premium performance avoids and demolishes obstacles. It doesn't fall prey to them.

As for next month's gathering at Royal St. George's, we've swiftly gone from a field full of nobody's favorites to a very clear-cut top dog.

I would be surprised if McIlroy goes off at anything higher than 7-to-1 odds, especially if Tiger doesn't show. Greatness validates itself through monumental accomplishment, but as easy as it was to see that McIlroy was a player with extraordinary potential, he has matured faster than any realist could have imagined, producing brilliance barely two months after suffering through the reverberations of the Masters humiliation.

Woods never blew a four-stroke lead at a major with 18 holes to play.

Woods never shot a 43 on the final nine while still in the hunt, and he certainly didn't carry himself with such admirable deportment after the few occasions when he failed to get it done. This kid has done all that and a whole lot more.

What happened on the second Sunday in April wasn't the best thing that ever happened to McIlroy, but there's something to be said about a young man who graduates with honors from the University of Adversity.

Unless Woods never comes back, that Rory and Tiger thing won't be disappearing anytime soon. You clutch your chest and call it undue pressure. I'm going double thumbs-up and calling it the ultimate compliment.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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Article: Players disappointed Woods withdraws from Dubai

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Begay on Tiger: Future is 'extremely uncertain'

Woods arrested for DUI, enters diversion program after getting "professional help"

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

Photos: Tiger Woods in court for DUI hearing

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

Article: Woods pleads in court guilty to reckless driving

Woods goes from unsure of his pro golf future to resuming full golf activities

Article: Doctor clears Woods for full golf activity six months after back surgery

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Article: Woods back to making full swings

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Woods returns to competition for first time since February at Hero World Challenge

Article: Hero comeback a success for healthy Woods

Article: Woods discusses his back: 'No issues at all, none'

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Woods out and about in 2017

Article: Video, images of Tiger's round with Trump

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Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm