Bounce in Tiger's step

By Rex HoggardAugust 10, 2011, 6:08 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – “Our anniversary on Tuesday,” Sean Foley smiled. Not that it’s felt like a year since the affable Canadian joined Team Tiger.

For those searching for perspective, or context, in Tiger Woods’ last calendar there is little of either to be found, the byproduct of a fits-and-spurts existence that has been slowed by injury and defined by a scorecard that is best dubbed incomplete.

For the record, Woods has played 11 official PGA Tour events on Foley’s watch. That’s not even a good spring for most players.

Some critics say Woods is still searching for answers, but the truth is he probably couldn’t even start asking the right questions until three weeks ago when doctors cleared him to start hitting full shots. Other athletes play through pain. Woods himself limped his way to U.S. Open glory in ’08 at Torrey Pines, but this time was different. The mind was willing, the ailing Achilles tendon was willful.

“I was trying to block out pain,” Woods said on Wednesday at Atlanta Athletic Club. “That’s not a lot of fun to play through. It’s nice to have a kind of bounce in my step again and walk around these hills and not have to worry about hills.”

For a dozen odd years Woods’ only competitive focus was history. For the last dozen odd months “public enemy No. 1” has been hills, a truth that may also explain the bounce in Foley’s step this week.

A punchbowl existence was always part of the job description, an occupational reality when one has been entrusted with what may become the game’s most-prolific action. A 35-year-old left leg that has more scar tissue than a cadaver simply compounded that reality.

“What we have now is Tiger’s blueprint and getting his swing in the position where he can be himself, a creative, artistic feel player,” Foley said following his morning session on Wednesday with Woods at the PGA Championship.

“It’s all about the shot right now. I think that’s really cool that he’s into his target and not his technique.”

Foley sees a player who is no longer painting by numbers. A player who is seeing and executing shots, not drills. Whether that produces his first Tour title since that historic victory at Torrey Pines in ’08 remains to be seen. What is certain is that both Woods and Foley are finally asking, and answering, the right questions.

“This is the fun part,” Woods said of this week’s PGA, triple-digit heat index and all. It’s an interesting take for Woods considering that everything up to now has felt like work, that as recently as the Masters he was “frustrated.” Pain will do that. A body that no longer seemed to be playing for the same team will do that.

In hindsight the long drive back to central Florida after his front-nine 42 and early exit at TPC Sawgrass may have been every bit the epiphany moment at the metaphorical crossroads.

Skeptics considered Woods’ most-recent hiatus another speed bump on a road that’s become littered with them. In retrospect this trip to the “DL” may end up being a crucial turning point in his quest for Jack Nicklaus’ historic haul of 18 grand slam titles.

Consider that after Torrey Pines he really had no other choice than the surgeon’s knife, but this time he could have limped along almost indefinitely, clinging to the outdated notion that injury and pain are part of the process. Instead, he listened to doctors and went on the shelf.

“For him to take three months off to assure the big picture is huge,” Foley said.

Three months on the couch also seemed to instill a measure of perspective into Woods, who has eschewed the long view for competitive blinders for much of his career. If ever he needed a dollop of patience it is now, fresh off the “DL” with a new swing that still has that new-car smell and a stand-in caddie on what may end up being the year’s toughest test.

“I came off of (knee surgery) in ’08 going into ’09, I was still under the same coach, same theories, same everything. I just had to get back to it,” Woods said. “Down the road if I would have gotten hurt and still been under Sean’s tutelage for years then that’s a different story. I could pick up from there. Here I’m still learning things.”

Woods doesn’t play the “what if” game often, but it was an assessment that must have been music to Foley’s ears. It’s a chicken or fried egg scenario, there was never going to be a full understanding of Woods’ new action without a left leg that was ready for prime time.

“The lead leg is the post,” Foley said of the knee and Achilles’ tendon injury that has sidelined Woods. “Just like in pitching and for a quarterback. Quarterbacks don’t have much success throwing off their back foot.”

On Wednesday Woods offered a quick assessment of his medical status, “pain free.” Good news for Foley and golf and the answer to the age-old question: What do you get a swing coach on your one-year anniversary? For Foley, a healthy left leg will do.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.