Lets All Take a Deep Breath

By Randall MellMay 7, 2010, 5:05 am

The Players ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods joked about that infield pop-up he hit off the seventh tee.

The one that barely reached the fairway in the first round of The Players Championship.

The chop that looked more like a man trying to kill a cockroach with a shovel than the swing of the world’s No. 1 player.

“Hit it straight up in the air,” Woods said. “Probably could have caught it.”

The shot didn’t even cover 200 yards, requiring Woods to hit another wood to reach a relatively short par 4, by a PGA Tour pro’s standard.

“Do you recall the last time you had to hit two woods on a par 4?” he was asked.

Woods laughed.

“Last week,” he said of his missed cut at Quail Hollow. “Hit some bad shots last week.”

The message came through loud and clear after Woods signed for a 2-under-par 70, tying him for 37th at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course. If Woods isn’t fretting about his swing and the state of his game, why is everyone else? And it must seem like everyone if you’re in Woods’ camp.

The day before this championship, NBC analyst Johnny Miller made news saying Woods needed to dump his swing coach, Hank Haney, and return to the swing that won him those four consecutive majors almost 10 years ago. Later in the day, Butch Harmon, who oversaw that swing, said he watched Woods hit balls on the range Wednesday and that it was clear his game was in disarray. He said if he were still part of Woods’ team, he would advise Woods to get some professional help to get his head straight before he worked on fixing his swing.

It’s enough to make a player wonder if he ought to be playing for strait jackets instead of green jackets.

Everyone take a deep breath. Everyone calm down.

Woods didn’t use those words, but his demeanor and mood suggested as much.

Woods was pleased with his round, decidedly encouraged.

After missing the cut last week at the Quail Hollow Championship, this was progress he was happy about.

“This is a huge event,” Woods said. “I’ve felt like I’ve done some good work this week, even though reports were that I was hitting it all over the lot. I was working on a few things. I was very comfortable with what I was working toward, and I was very excited about what was happening. It was just a matter of doing it in competition, and I did it today.”

Woods, after all, has never looked better than he did Thursday.

Never in the first round of The Players Championship.

His score equaled his lowest to start this event.

Woods wasn’t perfect, but he hit nine fairways and 14 greens in regulation. Yeah, the course didn’t play as wickedly difficult as it can. The first-round scoring average was the lowest in almost two decades. This is architect Pete Dye’s handiwork, and it will expose whatever’s wrong with a player’s game. Thursday might have set up as a day where a player could almost fake it around here, but there’s no faking it for 72 holes, not even 36.

Pat Perez said Woods found a fix at the back of the driving range after his practice round Tuesday. It didn’t look like it when Woods pulled his opening drive Thursday dead left into the trees. Or when he popped up that drive at the seventh. Or when he pulled his final tee shot left into the water to spoil his chances at his first bogey-free round on this track . . . OK, Woods isn’t sharp with his swing. He might not be able to win yet with this swing, but he’s back to the mindset that’s always got him there. Whenever he’s struggled in the past, he’s religiously insisted that he’s close, that he’s right there on the edge of finding his best form. We aren’t hearing that yet, but . . .

“I’ve played six competitive rounds in about seven months, so it’s one of those things where it takes time to get into the rhythm of competing and it takes tournaments,” Woods said. “And I haven’t had a lot of tournaments under my belt.”

Woods could lose his No. 1 ranking this week if Phil Mickelson wins, but it should be noted that Woods hasn’t really played much in the two-year rolling period that constitutes the ranking. He’s been inactive for 15 months, but he’s active now.

“I was building toward this,” Woods said of his recent work. “Felt like I was headed in the right direction for today.”

So let’s all take a deep breath.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.

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Wie takes shot at LPGA dress code in crop top

By Grill Room TeamDecember 10, 2017, 5:33 pm

The new LPGA dress code got mixed reviews when it was announced in July, and Michelle Wie is taking full advantage of her offseason with no restrictions.

The 28-year-old former U.S. Women's Open champion is keeping her game sharp while back in her home state of Hawaii, but couldn't help taking a shot at the rules while doing it, posting a photo to Instagram of her playing golf in a crop top with the caption, "Offseason = No dress code fine."

Offseason = No dress code fines #croptopdroptop

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Wie isn't the first to voice her displeasure with the rules. Lexi Thompson posted a similar photo and caption to Instagram shortly after the policy was announced.