'Vulnerable' WD reveals harsh reality for Tiger

By Randall MellOctober 11, 2016, 12:55 am

Tiger Woods didn’t withdraw from this week’s Safeway Open because his body needs more time to recover.

He said he withdrew because his game is “vulnerable.”

As reasons for WDs go, that’s a stunner from Woods, and maybe the first time he has ever used the word to describe himself.

Has anyone ever given “vulnerable” as a reason for a WD from a PGA Tour event before?

It’s revealing on more than one level.

Woods said he doesn’t feel “ready” to play, and he could have left it at that, but he added “vulnerable,” and there’s gravitas to that word that speaks volumes about where Woods’ head and heart are in his attempt to come back from injury.

Yes, this is a classic case of the kind of hyper-analysis that drives Woods crazy, but this isn’t criticism.

There’s a certain resignation to the word “vulnerable” that we still don’t expect from Woods, even though he is becoming so much more candid than he has ever been. It’s refreshing, this less guarded Tiger, but while this candor makes him more human, more likeable, more real, it also makes him seem less determined, less resolute.

That’s no indictment of Tiger, just acknowledgment of the harsh reality he’s dealing with.

For more than a year now, Woods has been allowing us to hear him come to grips with that reality.

His using the word “vulnerable” is yet another sign that his struggle with uncertainty is growing. Why commit to the tournament Friday if there was any doubt?

Woods WD is really bad form, hurting a tournament and all the fans invested in the excitement he created committing, but it’s also a revelation as to how deep his doubts really go. To WD this late knowing the backlash it creates against him says a lot about how his psyche is more tender than his back now.  

Uncertainty is the only foe Woods has battled the last 14 months, since he last teed it up at the Wyndham Championship. He has given us rare access to the demon doubt haunting him during his time away, since the first of his three back surgeries over the last 20 months.

Late last year, at the Hero World Challenge, Woods said anything he manages to achieve beyond his 14 major championship victories and 79 PGA Tour titles “will be gravy,” adding, “If that’s all it entails then I’ve had a pretty good run.”

Around the same time, when he was asked if his career might already be complete, Woods told Time Magazine he didn’t want it to be, but “I’ve reconciled myself to it.”

We’ve seen Woods in a light we’ve never seen him the last 20 months. We’ve listened to him tell us his breakup with Lindsey Vonn was “brutal.” We’ve seen photos of him appearing at career day in his daughter Sam’s third-grade classroom. We watched him hit three balls in the water at Congressional during the Quicken Loans National media day. And we saw him walking Ryder Cup fairways just last week, opening up and sharing his wisdom with his “pod” at Hazeltine, where we also saw him comically kicked out of a players’ only team photograph there.

We’ve been seeing a guy we shouldn’t be surprised to hear feels “vulnerable” about his game.

While there was disappointment in Woods’ withdrawal from Safeway on Monday, we should probably “reconcile” ourselves to the fact that more disappointment is coming. While Woods may well overcome those challenges, we should all understand anything he achieves beyond today is “gravy.” We’re all “vulnerable” if we’re expecting more.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."