What to Believe

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 19, 2010, 11:00 pm
I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Not from Tiger Woods. From the talking heads while roaming from network to network. Tiger Woods sincere? Honest? Humble?

“One of the most remarkable public apologies ever by a public figure,” according to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Do ... he ... what ... said ... I couldn't form a complete sentence after having that load shoveld on me.

Did I watch a different news conference? Well, not a news conference, since there were no questions allowed. Let’s call it a scripted performance. One with fervor of Ben Stein proportions.

As I sat at home I could not believe what I was listening to. First from Woods, who in no way seemed like a changed man, but the same person we always thought we knew simply reading a very carefully prepared statement. And then from reporters, analysts, players and pundits who just wanted to give him a hug and a pat on the back.

I saw no emotion, just choreographed motions. Rehearsed deep breaths and stern looks at the cameras. William Hurt was more heartfelt in “Broadcast News.”

Woods didn’t need to cry Friday in order to appear sincere, but how do you not at least get choked up when you speak of letting down your children?

Fifteen feet from my girls’ bedroom, as they lay asleep for their morning nap, I listened to Woods for 13 minutes. Never before, not even when lurid details emerged from his private life over the last three months have I been more disappointed in this man.

Forget about the fact that this was not a Q&A. Forget about the fact that most of the roughly 40 people in attendance were hand selected for support. This was a chance for Woods to win over the millions watching on TV. And that’s what he wanted – or at least wanted us to believe he wanted – closing his speech with, “I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again.”

To believe that he was a different person than the one we had come to know recently and closer to the one we thought he was before last Thanksgiving.

If first impressions leave a lasting impression, then that's going to be a tough sell – at least for me.

For 13 minutes, Woods took time to apologize to his family, his fans, his business partners and “kids all around the world.” He denied accusations of domestic violence, praised his wife, chastised the media and made no assertions as to when he would return to competition.

He admitted “irresponsible behavior,” infidelity and multiple affairs. He called himself a cheater. He blamed only himself.

He vowed to return to his Buddhist roots, to become more spiritual, and, above all else, to become a better man.

For the most part, he said the right things. It was just the manner in which he said them.

For 13 minutes Woods talked and never did it seem as if it came from his heart, but rather from his well-paid “people.” He was robotic. He was calculating.

He was who he has always been.

He was Tiger Woods, the professional. The man who calmly and icily stares down an opponent until he blinks, whether that opponent be man or addiction – not that he ever did use the word addiction or say for what he was in rehab for 45 days.

It would have been nice to see Tiger Woods, the human, because this isn’t just a golf story; it’s a human-interest story – one that reaches far beyond this sport.

But, as we were reminded, when Woods is in control he lets you know what he wants you to know, see what he wants you to see, and hear what he wants you to hear.

That hasn’t changed. And I believe, deep down, neither has Tiger.
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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.