A Question of Character

By Mercer BaggsAugust 11, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 PGA ChampionshipSPRINGFIELD, N.J. ' My professional career and that of Tiger Woods have paralleled one another. At least in respect to service.
 
He left college early to join the PGA Tour in July of 1996. I did the same thing a few months later to join The Golf Channel.
 
Unfortunately, for me, thats the brick end to this comparison. The only thing I have on Tiger is that I eventually obtained a college degree.
 
Over these last nine years, Ive had the opportunity to observe Tiger on a fairly regular basis. And Ive come to respect him more and more.
 
Thursday was another example of why.
 
Throughout the early part of this week, Woods appeared loose and casual, and yet still focused and controlled. More than anything, he appeared ready to win.
 
A victory at the 87th PGA Championship would be monumental. It would be historic.
 
No man has ever won three majors in the same season on multiple occasions. Woods performed the Triple task in 2000. And having already captured this years Masters and Open Championship, he entered Baltusrol with designs on doing it once again.
 
But a 5-over 75 in the first round has him nearer the cut line than the lead, meaning he may be headed back to Orlando long before I return ' not that hes planning on giving me a ride anyway.
 
Woods has only once shot over par in the first round of a major championship and gone on to win, doing so in this years Masters, when he opened in 74.
 
But thats the Masters, a tournament which he had won three times before on the same course. He can afford to give a little rope in the first round and not hang himself. In his six combined victories in the other majors, however, Woods has only once opened in the 70s and has never entered the second round more than four strokes off the lead.
 
Tigers day began with great expectations; his round, though, began with a bogey. It would take 17 holes before he would finally make his first birdie of the day. By that time, he was already 6 over. In response, he made an exaggerated, mock bow to the crowd. They loved it.
 
After putting out on the ninth hole, his 18th, he signed a scorecard with more squares than a room full of Al Gores.
 
But following a very difficult and trying day, he talked. And he smiled. And he politely explained everything that went wrong.
 
He was a professional.
 
And thats one of the reasons I most respect Woods.
 
Woods is the most scrutinized golfer of all time. Everything he does is under a microscope. Everything is examined to extremes. Hes either the super greatest golfer in the history of all of golf. Or hes a bum in a slump.
 
Some adorn their walls with his likeness. Others throw darts at his picture.
 
There seems to be no happy medium in relation to Woods, which makes it all the more difficult for him to remain professional, and not lash out at the public or boycott the media or doing anything to tarnish his image.
 
Everyone has something to say about Tiger, and Tiger always has to have something to say.
 
Woods always has to speak. Always. Hes the only player today who must provide some variance of a press conference before the start of a tournament and at the conclusion of each and every round. It doesnt matter if hes leading or 14 shots back after Saturday. He has to speak.
 
Vijay doesnt have to do it. Phil doesnt have do it. Ernie doesnt have to do it. Retief doesnt have to do it.
 
Woods has to. Whether or not he really wants to. Because he knows that regardless of his score or his position in the tournament he is still either THE story or hes 1B.
 
Singh loves to blame any negative perception cast his way on media bias. And in certain cases he's right in doing so. But after losing this year's Honda Classic in a playoff, he stormed off the course without giving his side. He then did the same the following week when he lost the Bay Hill Invitational on the final hole of regulation.
 
If he doesnt want to talk before a tournament, thats his prerogative. The same for if hes not in contention and doesnt wish to speak. But when he finishes runner-up and is an integral part of the story, he most certainly should. Its the professional thing to do.
 
Tiger talking might not seem like much, but it is. There are over 200 press members in the media center alone, and every publication and every TV show needs a Tiger story.
 
Whether or not you consider yourself a Tiger fan, you want to know how he fared. You want to know what he said.
 
Early in his career, there was almost a certainty that Woods would bypass at least one of these five-to-10-minute media encounters every tournament. Hed shoot something in the 70s or bogey his final hole and hed walk past everyone who had anything that would record sound or video and head straight to the practice range or to his rental car.
 
But somewhere along the line, he learned that dealing with the press is a part of his professional obligations. Its just a part of being Tiger Woods.
 
So even after he shoots 75 in the opening round of a major championship, Woods composes himself, manages a smile, and expresses his thoughts in a concise and relatively genial manner.
 
And even at times like when the entire free world thinks youre a dope for changing your swing, you have to address it, and tell them politely that you disagree with their opinion. Because you know that the more heartfelt your challenge or denial of conversation, the more heated the discussion will grow.
 
Perhaps Im overly impressed with Woods actions. Were roughly the same age, so its possible that I respect his composure because I know how very difficult it would be for me to behave in the same manner.
 
Plus, Im a member of the working media, so it benefits me for him to be somewhat accommodating.
 
I know there are legitimate gripes concerning Woods, like his use of vulgarities during the course of a round.
 
For me to condemn Tiger for his cussing or club slamming on a golf course would be more hypocritical than a politician reprimanding a lawyer for his ethics. So while I agree that he should temper himself in that regard, someone more even-tempered than I should be the one to do it.
 
Winning major championships means the world to Woods. His legacy will be defined by his performance in these four events, and he knows it.
 
Imagine if you had the chance to do something that no one in history had ever done. And then you screwed it up. Would you want to give a press conference and tell everybody why? And if you did, would you be personable and affable in doing so?
 
Woods may not have lost the tournament already, but history is against him. Woods knows history. And he knows his history.
 
Tiger Woods had every reason Thursday to take a cart straight from the scorers tent to the parking lot. He didnt have to stop and stand in the oppressive heat and give his thoughts on a crummy 75.
 
But he did. And by doing so, he said more about his character than he did about his round.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
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    Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

    By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

    The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

    They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

    Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

    Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

    Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

    ''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

    The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

    In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

    Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

    Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.