Tiger Talk at the US Open

By Mercer BaggsJune 13, 2006, 4:00 pm
U.S. OpenMAMARONECK, N.Y. -- He smiled at the words. The question evoked a response to a seminal time in his life.
I beat Dad when I was 11. I shot 71 to his 72 at the Navy Golf Course, Tiger Woods said, recalling the first time he ever beat his late father Earl in golf.
Then, without prompting, he described how he did so.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods practices his putting Tuesday at Winged Foot.
I birdied 16 and 18, made about a 15-footer (at the last), a little right-to-left. I gave it the fist pump walking off the green and everything. It went in, and we celebrated.
Woods has spent more than a month remembering the wonderful times he had with his father. Mostly, hes done so in private: on the range, on his home course, with his family and friends.
Tuesday, he did so in a public forum, addressing the media for the first time since his father succumbed to cancer on May 3.
More than 100 people crowded the interview room. Cameras clicked at rapid-fire pace before he could even utter a word. Woods normally commands a larger audience than everyone else, but capacity reached a maximum this time because it's the first time he has played an event since the Masters Tournament.
Its been nine weeks since he last competed against his peers, his longest layoff since turning professional. During that time off, he left the clubs alone for more than a month, feeling no urge to use the tools that have made him so famous.
Instead, he spent most of his time thinking about the man who helped make him who he really is ' not the player, but the person.
I really had no desire to get back to the game of golf, he said. I think one of the hardest things for me, in all honesty, was to get back to the game of golf, because a lot of my memories, great memories that I have with my dad are at the golf course.
Following the Masters and prior to his father's passing, he went to New Zealand to be the Best Man at caddie Steve Williams wedding. During that trip, he went bungee jumping and raced cars.
Pops approved.
I asked Dad, Hey, Pop, do you think I should go? He said, Im not going anywhere. Get your ass out of here. Go be with Stevie. Thats where you need to be, he recalled.
In the wake of his fathers death, Woods skipped the Byron Nelson Championship, the Wachovia Championship and the Memorial Tournament, all events he normally plays. He just wasnt ready to return.
I didnt feel that I could be as focused as I could be to win the championship, he said. If youre not 100 percent on winning a championship, theres really no need to go play. So I didnt. I didnt want to come back until I felt I was ready to win a championship.
And even though Pops wasnt there tell him it was OK, he still knew that he would have approved.
Dad was always adamant of whenever youre ready to play, play. If youre not ready, dont play, Tiger said. If youre not mentally ready to play, youre not going to be there.
Now, hes back. Mentally, he feels ready; physically, as well.
Ive had plenty of time to get ready; I just didnt feel that I was ready to deal with all this and also try and prepare for the Open. Id much rather kind of deal with it all at once and get it over with and not have to worry about, What are you going to do for the Open? Well, Im already here, so its kind of sweet, said Woods, who tied for 29th in the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot.
Im very excited the way Ive played at home and even more excited the way Ive played here, he added. Im looking forward to Thursday.
Woods said that it didnt take very long to find his form. There were certainly a couple of rough patches, but he managed to smooth them out in expedient fashion.
Its funny, because every time you come back from a layoff, you always hit it great the first day. You never miss a shot the first day back. The second day, its some idiot with a club. You hit it all over the planet, he explained. But its always the third day ' how are you doing on the third day? I actually hit it pretty good the third day, and then it got progressively better. It was nice to see that, for my game to come back that quick.
Woods has before taken off in the neighborhood of two months. Hes even won upon return. But on those previous occasions, he returned to familiar surroundings, like at Torrey Pines for the Buick Invitational or at Disney, both events that hes won on multiple occasions.
This will be different, far different. This time, he faces the West Course at Winged Foot ' a menacing, formidable U.S. Open set-up.
He got a chance to test out the layout a few weeks ago, and has played here each of the last two days. Accuracy, as always on an Open course, will be important. But he knows that good putting will be paramount, that the tournament will likely be won or lost on the greens.
The last time we saw Woods, he was missing putt after crucial putt at Augusta National. He said that he and his putter are now friends again, and that after doing some slight alterations to his flat stick in anger that everything is back in line and in order.
I had a bad day at the wrong time, Woods said of his final round at the Masters, where he ultimately tied for third. The entire day, on the putting green warming up, I did not have my speed. I did all my little drills to try and get my speed back ' I just didnt have it.
Ive done quite a bit of practicing with my putting and my speed and my line and working on my fundamentals again, just making sure you rolls the ball at the correct pace here, because bad pace here and youre going to be punished because of the slopes of these greens.
On the surface, Woods appears confident and comfortable, ready and prepared to make a run at his third career U.S. Open title.
Whats below the surface, however, only Tiger knows.
Sunday, of course, is Fathers Day. When asked how much it would mean to him to celebrate victory on that day and under these circumstances, Woods politely skirted the question.
Sunday is hopefully a day where I can win the championship, he said. It is what it is.
Players never like to look too far ahead, never thinking about Sunday evening when Thursday morning isnt yet here. And Woods, while in competition, is certainly trying to disconnect himself from any emotion that might hinder him from earning his 11th major championship win.
Hes already received an overwhelming amount of emotional support from family, friends and fans. He got a call from Jack Nicklaus, who also lost his father at the age of 30 ' one that was much appreciated and a conversation that will forever remain between the two legends.
He knows the New York crowd will be vocal in their support, as well, this week.
A lot of times, at a low period, its nice to have the fans out there supporting you and wishing you the best, he said.
This will be an unusual and unique major for Tiger Woods, his first such championship ' his first tournament of any kind ' without his father. And while hes trying not to think about it, hes hoping to make this Fathers Day as special, if not more so, as those in the past.
Fathers Day was actually a pretty cool day, because I would always try and beat my dad on the golf course and then come back home and catch the back nine of the U.S. Open, he recalled.
It was always a great day when I beat my dad, and then wed go home and watch the U.S. Open.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
  • Getty Images

    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

    Getty Images

    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

    Getty Images

    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

    Getty Images

    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry