Not Out of the Woods

By Rex HoggardMay 31, 2011, 7:28 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – From Jack Nicklaus’ vantage point there is, at least as it applies to Tiger Woods’ dogged pursuit of his major championship record, nothing to see here.

On Tuesday during his annual, and infinitely informal, “State of the Golden Bear” address to the media, the Memorial host, homebody and historic benchmark was asked if he thought the fans were writing Woods off too early.

“That’s ridiculous,” he grimaced. “The fans aren’t, it’s the media. The guy is injured. He’s hurt and hasn’t been able to play. It all gets pushed so far.”

If the media, and maybe the game in general, has taken to feeling like the sky is falling when it comes to Woods, consider Nicklaus a sunny optimist, a man who lives in a place, Columbus, Ohio, where the sky may actually be falling following a particularly wet spring and the Monday resignation of Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel.

From Nicklaus’ perspective, and based on each players’ major milestones, Woods is right on track to match and perhaps surpass the Golden Bear’s record of 18 major championships.

Nicklaus won his first major at 22, his last at 46 – the golden years, if you will – and when he was 35 years old, Woods’ current age, he had won 14 Grand Tilts, the same number that Woods currently holds.

The difference, of course, is that Nicklaus was considered a “young” 35, while Woods has looked AARP-ready in recent years. Earlier this month he limped to a front-nine 42 and withdrew from The Players Championship a year after bolting early from TPC Sawgrass with a neck ailment.

By comparison, Nicklaus said he withdrew from two PGA Tour events – the 1980 World Series of Golf and 1983 Masters – because of injury his entire career. Woods has had four surgeries on his left knee, while Nicklaus avoided the scalpel until he was 44, to repair a tennis-damaged left knee, no less.

They may be at similar sign posts on the road to 18, but there is no escaping the fact that Nicklaus was healthy and happy, by nearly all accounts, for the downwind run of his Hall of Fame career.

Nicklaus won two majors in 1975, the year he turned 35, but, as Woods is learning, the last four are always the hardest. Nicklaus needed 40 more Grand Slam starts to land his last major at the 1986 Masters.

In fact, Nicklaus was stuck on 17 for 20 majors, from the 1980 PGA to the ’86 Masters, the second longest Grand Slam drought of his career after a 12-major slide that ended at the 1970 British Open. Woods’ longest is his current 0-for-10 slide that started after the 2008 U.S. Open – even though he did not play in the '08 British Open and PGA Championship due to injury.

So if Nicklaus sounds more bullish on Woods’ chances than the mainstream consider it the voice of a singular perspective. The ground the two cover is exclusive territory, and no one knows it better than Nicklaus.

Yet the optimist is also every bit the realist. Nicklaus quickly admits he was “lucky” in his career at avoiding the DL, but he had a different swing during a different time.

“My swing never caused an injury for me. I think Tiger's swing, and I think a lot of the swings of today, are far more violent at the ball than some of the old swings,” Nicklaus said. “The game today is far more an upper body game, and we used to play more from the ground up.”

Following Woods’ ’08 Open victory at Torrey Pines and subsequent knee surgery Nicklaus offered him some unsolicited advice, “I thought he was having a problem getting his weight to his right side.”

A year later Nicklaus was paired with Woods during a Wednesday Skins Game at Muirfield Village and “It was the best I’d ever seen him swing. He was getting to his right side.” Woods won his fourth Memorial title that week with a tee-to-green clinic, hitting 49 of 56 fairways and 53 of 72 greens in regulation on the season’s third-toughest non-major course.

Maybe it’s an intimate knowledge of the subject matter, or the man. Either way, the only player who knows what it takes to get to 18 majors has little interest in declaring the game’s most meaningful benchmark safe. And why should he?

It’s what Woods – who will have 42 majors, not counting next month’s U.S. Open, to play before his 47th birthday – alluded to last week when asked his chances of catching Nicklaus.

“It took Jack over what, 24 years, 23 years to do what he did. It takes time. I still have plenty of time, and I feel that going forward I'm excited about playing major championships and playing golf again,” Woods said.

Maybe adversity is part of the process. Is it storybook or historic if the walk appears, at least outwardly, effortless?

Nicklaus may have avoided major injury in his historic career, but he did deal with his share of adversity. There were the chipping yips in 1979 and, even worse, a loss of motivation at 39. Each time he changed his technique and his take on life and each time he overcame. Maybe that’s what Nicklaus sees in Woods, a kindred competitor who craves the moment more than the mementos.

“I told Tiger, which is the same thing I've said to him a thousand times, ‘Tiger, nobody ever wants records to be broken. That's obvious. I don't care who it is,’” Nicklaus said. “But I certainly don't want you not to be healthy and not have the opportunity to play to break records. I want you to get yourself healthy, do what you have to do to go play, get your golf game back in shape, and I wish you well.”

So if Nicklaus seems overly optimistic consider the source. The only man who can relate to Woods’ plight has no interest in seeing the outcome influenced by the technicality of injury.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm