Keys to Tiger's return (including cutting him some slack)

By Phil BlackmarOctober 24, 2017, 3:22 pm

Like a forecasted volcanic eruption where every seismic tremor is analyzed to try and narrow down the actual eruption, Tiger tremors emanating from posted swing videos are now careening off the internet with a fury only a possible return can generate.

Next comes swing breakdowns ad nauseam where “experts” weigh in to tell us why his swing will not hold up and his back will blow out again. Arguments will erupt on Twitter and potentially on television because of energy created by the frenzy. It’s safe to say 99.9 percent of the golf world wants Tiger Woods to return, not just to play again, but to satisfy our unquenchable thirst to get another glimpse of his greatness. 

What will be the keys to his success should he return? The debate will include his swing, the supposed short game yips, his putting and many will wonder if his failing body can withstand the rigors of practice and competition. While these are all valid considerations, is there more that will determine his success if he is physically able to return?

It’s going to begin with whether he can find a one-way miss. People can argue mechanics until the end of time, but there is a reason most swings in the top 50 in the world rankings don’t fit the perfect mold; there is no mold. Since many consider Ben Hogan the most consistent ball striker of all time, let’s understand what he did. He bent his clubs flat, put a reminder in the grips to keep his grip weak, used stiff shafts and the faces on this clubs sat open.

Why? Because he didn’t want the ball to go left and he wanted a one-way miss. To borrow a phrase from Paul Azinger: “If you know you're not going to miss left, why would you ever miss right?”

The value of FEELING like you will not lose the ball one direction allows for swinging freely and with conviction even if lacking confidence. A one-way miss is a vehicle that can overcome fear and anxiety. There is only one person who knows what he needs to feel for a one-way miss and that’s Tiger. So, break it down all you want but know that no one person can feel for another. 

Next is attitude. No, attitude is not positive-ness. The right attitude, when it comes to competing at Tiger’s level is: optimistic, opportunistic, enthusiastic, strong, resilient, unwavering, fearless, accepting, patient and has a certain look in the eyes accompanied by a certain body language. Many of these attributes require reps to work and find them. It’s an attitude earned that, no matter Tiger’s greatness, cannot be assumed to come back. It will take him time, so cut him some slack. 

Tiger’s greatness was not born merely of being the best and longest ball striker. Tiger had an unworldly grasp on the nuances of trajectory control, distance control, combining modern golf with old-school shots, flighted wedges, impeccable touch and incredible pressure putting. Nuances made Tiger great. Nuances are not found in mechanics; nuances are found in practice with a willingness to look for them. Like the one-way miss, no one can feel what these nuanced shots feel like to Tiger. For this reason, it’s imperative that he takes an approach to coming back that is not founded just in his swing, but allows the freedom for experimentation with these hidden aspects of the game so that he can uncover and master them again. No teacher can do this work for him; this is a journey only Tiger can take.

Then, of course, there is the mind. In his prime, Tiger intentionally created a persona that instilled, at the very least, apprehension, and at full throttle, fear in his fellow competitors. These young guys like Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, along with a cast of others, have won a lot of tournaments in Tiger’s absence and their top-dog servomechanism is off the charts.

It is highly unlikely that Tiger will enjoy this same fearful respect he earned earlier in his career and that puts more pressure on his mental game than he’s ever felt. In his prime, he spoke of using meditation to develop his mental approach. Surely, there are also other mental secrets his father shared or taught Tiger along the way. Whatever processes Tiger may have used in the past to develop his persona, belief and overall mental game, it’s imperative he dedicates himself to these once again if he is to succeed at a level of which he will be proud.

Then there is his legacy, the final aspect of this saga. Already tarnished with injury and off-course struggles, Tiger’s legacy is at further risk if he comes back. He has recently shown an interest in helping the U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams to victory as well as establishing closer bonds with players than he did earlier in his career. Such acts and involvement help to return some of the lost luster. But if he goes out to play, he subjects his legacy to more fallout if he fails. Although we didn’t think so at one time, Tiger is human and at the mercy of many of the same feelings you and I endure. Early in his career, he mastered defeating those feelings. However, with absence of competition and Father Time chasing him down, winning those battles will be tough, even for Tiger. 

Fans want him back. Players want him back. If he decides to put it all on the line, how about we cut him some slack by understanding it’s a process that will take time and will not happen overnight? No matter what you may think, he’s earned that right.

For more from Phil Blackmar's blog, click here.

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon: