Player Reaction to Tiger

By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2010, 11:47 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureMARANA, Ariz. – Just past 9 a.m. (MT), adjacent the Dove Mountain men’s locker room, a room full of reporters, caddies and PGA Tour officials gathered in a posh enclave complete with three flat-screens and three pots of coffee.

As if on cue, Tim Clark ambled by just as Tiger Woods launched into his much-anticipated mea culpa with the words, “I’m really sorry.” With that the most curious year in golf history came full circle.

From the match play giant slayer straight to the metaphorical slain giant.

It was 12 months ago Woods ignited the Dove Mountain pre-dawn practice tee when he returned from eight-months of physical rehabilitation. On Friday it was a rehab of a different sort he was emerging from and a buzz of an entirely different genre.

Forty-five minutes after Clark, who put a premature end to Woods’ storybook comeback last year with his second-round upset of the world No. 1, strolled back through the TV room, fresh from the physio table and, as hard as it may have been to believe, oblivious to the goings on offered, “Is it on again?” as the taped event was replayed.

It will be “on” for some time, because for all the questions Woods answered on Friday there still remain many left unanswered.

From performance-enhancing drugs to domestic abuse, Woods covered a lot of ground in his 13 odd minutes at the podium.

Talking point No. 1, given the venue, was why Woods had to make this announcement on Friday of WGC-Match Play week, curious timing given his broken relationship with Accenture that drew the ire of some players.

The answer: After 45 days of in-patient therapy Woods admitted he had to talk on Friday because he was returning to therapy on Saturday. “I have a long way to go,” Woods said.

“I thought Tiger was very humble,” Ben Crane said. “We all love him and want to see what’s best for him.”

Players, many of whom are closet golf fans, also wanted to know when, or if, Woods will return to the Tour fray. For that Woods offered only an ambiguous, “I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don’t know when that day will be.”

Butch Harmon, the Tour swing coach who worked with Woods earlier in his career, was not confident that “that day” would be this year.

“He did say he’d like to play this year,” Harmon said. “That leads me to believe he probably won’t be back this year.”

For Stewart Cink the question is an exercise in futility: “For me to try to get inside his head and figure out when he’s coming back is impossible. I can’t do that. I’ve tried to do that on the golf course many times.”

And of course Woods made a plea for privacy, saying, “I understand people have questions. I understand the press wants to ask me details. Every one of these questions and answers are between me and my wife.”

Harmon, however, was more realistic.

“The idea he’s going to stand there and not get questions asked is a little ridiculous,” Harmon said.

The rest, at least for a circuit gutted by the distraction that began with a simple fender-bender outside Woods’ Isleworth home, is window dressing, at least to Tour types.

Perhaps the most telling moment occurred after Woods had completed his prepared statement and following an emotional embrace of his mother when he offered Tour commissioner Tim Finchem a handshake and the stunned commish remained seated before offering what appeared to be a confused hand.

“I do plan to return to golf one day,” can’t be what Finchem envisioned when he offered the use of the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse just as things were getting interesting at what is billed as one of the Tour’s marquee events.

But then therapy, a true sign more so than all his words of Woods’ humanity, is as good a reason as any to supplant the WGC spotlight, and maybe Ernie Els’ pointed comments regarding the timing of the event were overly harsh given the uncertainty of it all.

“It's selfish,” Els said on Wednesday. “You can write that. I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament.”

On Friday he wasn’t around Dove Mountain, having lost his second-round match on Thursday to Retief Goosen, but it is a safe bet he was watching. Just as Clark was watching. And what they saw was a different Tiger. A Tiger that was contrite and emotional and sincere. It was a far cry from the cold, on-course assassin we are used to seeing.

“He tried to be as sincere as Tiger Woods can be,” Harmon said.

And at an event that had the feel of an early step in a 12-step program, that’s a good start.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.