Reflective Woods looks back and ahead

By Randall MellAugust 11, 2015, 8:48 pm

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – This could be goodbye.

Not goodbye, as in retirement, as in Tiger Woods walking away from the game, but this could be his farewell appearance for the season.

This week’s PGA Championship could be the end of his 2014-15 PGA Tour campaign.

If you were looking for a sense of urgency in Woods in his news conference Tuesday at Whistling Straits, you didn’t see it. If you were looking for a stubborn resolve, a back-against-the-wall determination to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs, to salvage something meaningful from this frustrating year, you didn’t see that, either.

In fact, you almost sensed resignation in a man who wouldn’t be sorry to see this miserable season finally end.

Woods just isn’t looking at this week as vital to turning around his year.

“As far as my tournament future, if I play well, I play well, and I’ll play in more events,” Woods said. “If I don’t, then I have more time to practice and get ready for the following events, for next season, and obviously some of the things I do on a global level.”

Woods is sounding more and more like a man coming to new terms with time’s ruthless pull. He’s sounding like he’s beginning to feel old. He talked two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans about how young the faces are on Tour today.

“I’m kind of caught right in between,” Woods said. “This is the generation that grew up watching me play and win tournaments, and the guys that I used to play practice rounds with are all gone. They’re all on the senior tour.

PGA Championship: Full-field tee times

“You see all these new fresh faces, and you look down the range, you don’t recognize a lot of the guys. But I go watch a Champions Tour event, I know every guy.”

There was a downright nostalgic tone to Woods’ news conference at Whistling Straits. We saw a softer side of Woods at the Masters in his news conference earlier this year, and we saw a wistful side of him here Tuesday at the PGA Championship. He unabashedly reminisced here and there in answers to questions.

From his remembrance teeing it up for the first time as a pro in nearby Milwaukee almost 20 years ago, to the importance of his first PGA Championship victory at Medinah in 1999, to the joy his father brought to the development of his competitive instincts when he was a child, Woods looked back at his career in more sentimental ways than we’re used to hearing.

Asked by Wisconsin media about making his debut in Milwaukee in 1996, Woods warmed to the memory.

“It feels like forever ago,” he said. “It really does. My buddies always kid me, I live in dog years. It just seems like forever.”

He shared remembering how nerves hit him all at once on his backswing hitting his first tee shot as a pro there.

“I was like, `Oh God, I’m so nervous,’” Woods said.

Woods said his first PGA Championship victory at Medinah in Chicago in 1999 was important because it affirmed his major swing overhaul under Butch Harmon.

“To go on and beat Sergio [Garcia] really propelled me into the 2000s and my early part of my career,” he said.

When asked if the game was still fun today, Woods relayed how he learned to love the game as a child playing with his father, Earl.

“I got good enough to where I was about a 1 or a 2 [handicap],” Woods said. “Then he got his game better. I pushed him to get better. He got down to a 1 for the very first time. Then we had some really good matches.

“That’s what I remember of my childhood. It was just so much fun to go out with my dad and play.”

If Woods is going to keep his season going and make the FedEx Cup Playoffs, he needs a victory or second-place finish this week. Or he needs a top-10 finish and then another really strong finish at the Wyndham Championship next week, the last event before the playoffs begin. Woods says whether he even plays Wyndham depends on how he’s faring come Friday this week, the deadline for committing to play next week.

Still, Woods is feeling no pressure to keep this season going.

“I’m not looking at it like that at all,” Woods said. “I’m just trying to get my game better for years to come.”

Woods still has time, but not as much of it. Even he seems to be beginning to be grapple with the inevitability of goodbyes.

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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.