Compassion vs The Cynic

By Rex HoggardFebruary 25, 2010, 4:50 am

As mea culpas go, Tiger Woods’ odd 13 minutes at the Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. podium last Friday covered a lot ground, from domestic abuse to performance-enhancing drugs to therapy.

Not exactly light reading even for a Stanford alum, so if Woods’ delivery seemed a bit scripted one should consider the content.

There is no playbook for public apologies, but if there were Ari Fleischer, the former White House press officer turned sports image healer, would have penned it. A request to Fleischer’s New York-based office for an interview was not returned, but there was a line on his Web site that seemed apropos: “Ari Fleischer Sports Communication can help you handle the bad news and take advantage of the good.”

First the good news, Woods said he will return to golf one day. And the bad, he’s not sure when that day will be.

Everything in between that buried lede is open for debate, dissection and double-guessing.

Woods is not the first public figure to run afoul of an adoring public, and a closer inspection of other mea culpas suggests that his apology was a success in form if not function.

Consider the public apologies issued former President Bill Clinton, Alex Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant and Mark McGwire.

To be clear, the other mea culpas were results of broken laws (Bryant), broken league rules (McGwire and Rodriguez) and broken oaths of office (Clinton). Woods betrayed his wife and kids and no one else despite the incessant pleas from blog-dom. His crimes are of his own making, but he must answer only to himself and those closest to him.

As for McGwire, who enlisted the services of Fleischer last year when he finally decided to come clean, his apology was concise (463 words) and contrite with just a hint of an excuse, “I wish I had never played during the steroid era.”

We can only assume Barney Frank regrets living in the junk bond era, but that’s a different column.

McGwire closed his statement with a familiar theme in the public apologies we examined – a plea to friends and fans for forgiveness.

“I've always appreciated their support and I intend to earn it again,” McGwire said.

Rodriguez went with a personal touch, foregoing a release and instead sitting down with ESPN’s Peter Gammons in the wake of a Sports Illustrated story about his use of performance-enhancing drugs.

A-Rod offered similar excuses – “When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure,” he said. – contrition, offering five “sorrys” in his first three sentences, and an appeal for forgiveness.

Woods followed a like path, from “good morning” to “thank you,” Woods’ mea culpa went about 1,500 words, included six “thank yous,” three “sorrys” – the same number of times, by the by, he used the word “private” – four “friends,” nine “Elins” and, perhaps most interesting, just two “golfs.”

If this was a step in a rehabilitation process, which many seem to think it was, than golf, rightfully so, is an afterthought.

Instead, Woods – like those who preceded him at that uncomfortable podium – fixed his steely glare on the future, but not before addressing the sordid reality of the present.

“It is private, and I intend to reclaim my family life for my family. It's nobody's business but ours.”

No, that line was not delivered by Woods on Friday, but one would be forgiven if those words were attributed to the world No. 1. Actually, that was part of Clinton’s four-minute speech delivered in 1998 in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Woods took a slightly more indignant road then the embattled Chief Executive, saying: “My behavior doesn't make it right for the media to follow my 2 1/2-year-old daughter to school and report the school's location.”

It’s an understandable plea but one that will be equally ignored. Sadly, it is the ugly cost of fame and untold fortunes whether Woods chooses to believe it or not.

In all cases, these mea culpas were humbling, particularly for men whose uber-confidence had likely driven them to distraction and destruction.

Dr. Phil calls it owning it, and it may have been the hardest part for all of the tarnished stars.

“I'm pretty tired of being stupid and selfish, you know, about myself. The truth needed to come out a long time ago,” Rodriguez told Gammons.

Woods’ reasoning was even more telling for a player who was once compared to Gandhi and Buddha by his father, Earl, an outrageously lofty claim that was always going to be a tough two-ball opponent for the young man.

“I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have to go far to find them,” Woods said.

Clinton, Rodriguez & Co. were not fresh from therapy when they made their public apologies, but the central theme of each speech and statement was the same – forgiveness.

Bryant’s appeal went directly to the woman he was accused of raping: “I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year.”

While Woods closed with an emotional: “Today I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again.”

There are no report cards capable of grading these types of apologies. A cynic will dismiss the well-crafted statements as simply words, while the more compassionate will applaud the painful honestly. Either way you may disagree with the messenger, but not the message.

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”

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Joh on St. Patrick's ace: Go broke buying green beers

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:57 am

PHOENIX – Tiffany Joh was thrilled making a run into contention to win her first LPGA title Saturday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she comically cracked that her hole-in-one might have been ill-timed.

It came on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is like the worst holiday to be making a hole-in-one on,” Joh said. “You'll go broke buying everyone green beers.”

Joh aced the fifth hole with a 5-iron from 166 yards on her way to an 8-under-par 64. It left her four shots behind the leader, Inbee Park (63).

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

One of the more colorful players on tour, Joh said she made the most of her hole-in-one celebration with playing partner Jane Park.

“First I ran and tackled Jane, then I high-fived like every single person walking to the green,” Joh said.

Joh may be the LPGA’s resident comedian, but she faced a serious challenge on tour last year.  Fourteen months ago, she had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma. She won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for the way she handled her comeback.

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Davies, 54, still thinks she can win, dreams of HOF

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 12:22 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies limped around Wildfire Golf Club Saturday with an ache radiating from her left Achilles up into her calf muscle at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Every step is just misery,” Davies said after. “It’s just getting older. Don’t get old.”

She’s 54, but she played the third round as if she were 32 again.

That’s how old she was when she was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year and won two major championships.

With every sweet swing Saturday, Davies peeled back the years, turning back the clock.

Rolling in a 6-foot birdie at the 17th, Davies moved into a tie for the lead with Inbee Park, a lead that wouldn’t last long with so many players still on the course when she finished. Still, with a 9-under-par 63, Davies moved into contention to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA history.

Davies has won 20 LPGA titles, 45 Ladies European Tour titles, but she hasn’t won an LPGA event in 17 years, since taking the Wegmans Rochester International.

Can she can surpass the mark Beth Daniel set winning at 46?

“I still think I can win,” Davies said. “This just backs that up for me. Other people, I don’t know, they’re always asking me now when I’m going to retire. I always say I’m still playing good golf, and now here’s the proof of it.”

Davies knows it will take a special day with the kind of final-round pressure building that she hasn’t experienced in awhile.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The pressure will be a lot more tomorrow,” she said. “We'll see, won’t sleep that well tonight. The good news is that I’ll probably be four or five behind by the end of the day, so the pressure won’t be there as much.”

Davies acknowledged confidence is harder to garner, as disappointments and missed cuts pile up, but she’s holding on to her belief she can still win.

“I said to my caddie, `Jeez, I haven't been on top of the leaderboard for a long time,’” Davies said. “That's nice, obviously, but you’ve got to stay there. That's the biggest challenge.”

About that aching left leg, Davies was asked if it could prevent her from challenging on Sunday.

“I’ll crawl around if I have to,” she said.

Saturday’s 63 was Davies’ lowest round in an LPGA event since she shot 63 at the Wendy’s Championship a dozen years ago.

While Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in ’01. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Davies said she still dreams about qualifying.

“You never know,” she said.