Woods' invincibility never seemed so far away

By Rex HoggardJune 16, 2015, 8:37 pm

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – For nostalgic types, today is an anniversary worth noting.

Seven years ago today, Tiger Woods beat a guy named Rocco to win his 14th major and third U.S. Open title. Maybe it’s more compelling that Tiger’s one-legged effort at Torrey Pines was also the last time he hoisted Grand Slam glory, as well as the last time the U.S. Golf Association held its national championship on a seaside West Coast municipal layout.

Not that Woods was in a nostalgic mood when he spoke with the media on Tuesday at Chambers Bay.

Through all the trials and few triumphs in recent years, Woods has maintained a singular ideology. On Tuesday, the edges may have changed but the message remained familiar when he was asked what he still had to accomplish in his career.

“More wins,” he said. “That’s why I’m still playing.”

You can question Woods’ methods and medical records, but his motivation has never been up for debate. That, however, seems to be the only similarities between the guy who will tee off on Thursday on the shores of the Puget Sound and the version who needed overtime at the 2008 U.S. Open to sidestep Rocco Mediate along the Pacific Ocean.

Gone is the sense of invincibility that permeated Woods’ halcyon years when even a pronounced limp couldn’t dull his perceived advantage. In its place is a player who hasn’t posted a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour in nearly two years and who seems as fragile as that left knee seven years ago at Torrey Pines.

On Tuesday there was talk of progress and purpose as well as veiled references to significant “base-line shifts” that have been made, leaving only small amounts of tinkering in his journey to a better golf swing.

“You saw what I did at Torrey [withdrawal] and Phoenix [missed cut]. The fact that I came back and did what I did at Augusta [T-17], I was very proud of that,” Woods said. “I'm sure most people have thought I was probably crazy to think I could probably win the Masters. But I really felt like I could. I had a chance, I just didn't get it done.”

First-round tee times: 115th U.S. Open

Missing from that timeline was a third-round 85, his highest 18-hole score on Tour as a professional, and his 302 total, his highest 72-hole total, in his last start at the Memorial.

When Woods hobbled away from Torrey Pines seven years ago today, it was unthinkable - even in his physical state - to consider that the greatest player of his generation would go 0-for-21 in his quest to win major No. 15.

Or that 20 different players would get on the Grand Slam board before Woods, or that he would begin the week at Chambers Bay 195th in the World Golf Ranking.

While Woods talked of a game that is “getting better every day” and a newfound confidence in his swing, the facts do little to support that optimism - particularly when your paradigm of hope is a tie for 17th place in April at Augusta National, and every major statistical category suggests otherwise.

Whether “swing consultant” Chris Como is your brand of vodka really doesn’t matter at this juncture. Woods has made it clear he is all in when it comes to his new action and that he has been through these types of peaks and valleys before.

“Sometimes you have to make a shift, and I did. Short-term suffering for long-term gain,” he explained. “I've done this before when I've made changes in the past I've struggled through it. I've come out on the good side. But I had to make those, it's more of a commitment than anything else. I had to make a commitment, and I have.”

Perhaps, but it’s hard to remember any of those other transitions - from Butch Harmon to Hank Haney and Sean Foley - when the oddsmakers felt better about Sergio Garcia’s chances of winning his first major (33 to 1) than they do about Tiger winning his 15th (50 to 1).

It’s a reality that Woods has, if not embraced, then at least made peace with.

“This year certainly has been a struggle,” he said.

An entire generation of players now considers that 2008 Open Woods’ seminal moment. On Tuesday, Cole Hammer, the 15-year-old high school sophomore who will be the third-youngest player to participate in the U.S. Open, was asked his earliest golf memories and his young mind quickly raced back to that Torrey Pines highlight reel.

“When he did that fist pump on the 18th green [72nd hole]. I've been watching the U.S. Open since then,” Hammer said, as if he were talking about a chapter from a dusty history book.

Never before has Torrey Pines and that ’08 masterpiece seemed so far away, not in months or metaphorical meaning.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.