Small Stage for Biggest Star

By Rex HoggardMay 5, 2009, 4:00 pm
Bookmark and Share
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' So the man who does bigger better than Donald Trump glanced around the Oval Office and was struck by a undersized thought: Its a little bit smaller than you might think, the First Golfer said of his April 20 meeting with the new President.
 
On Tuesday, about as far away from the White House as one can get without a passport, Woods made his way around the front 9 at TPC Sawgrass and the same thought occurred regarding Pete Dyes swamp monster.
 
Just ask D.A. Points, an endearing Tour journeyman who was making the most of his first Players experience despite his status on the wrong side of the alternate line.
 
Ive lived 2 hours away (in Orlando) for eight years and have never made it up here, Points said. Its not as hard as I thought it would be. I expected driver-4-iron, driver-3-iron, but you find out tee to green its playable.
 
It was Points even-handed way of saying the Stadium is a bit smaller than you might think, and perhaps the best of all theories why after 11 professional attempts The Players remains the lone marquee event Woods hasnt owned. He hasnt even rented the joint, to be honest.
 
Woods TPC line is a 1-for-11 slide ' 2-for-12 if you count that U.S. Amateur title and 17th-green walkoff in 1994 ' that adds up to slump, no matter how you slice it.
 
In many ways golfs fifth major has become something of a fifth wheel for Woods. His current form notwithstanding ' as one scribe mused on Tuesday he seems to be missing with 1/14th of that prolific bag, at Doral it was his putting, ballstriking at the Masters and driving at Quail Hollow ' but this doesnt appear to be a course for this horse.
 
I haven't hit the ball well here, Woods said. The year I did, the last year I played it, I did, but couldn't make a putt. Just kind of typical how this year has been; I haven't really put all the pieces together, and you have to have that in order to win this tournament.
 
For Woods there has been less good (T-10, 2nd, win; 1999-01) and more bad (T-14, T-11, T-16; 2002-04) and ugly (T-53, T-22, T-37; 2005-07) on Floridas First Coast. In his last three Players starts hes ranked inside the top 30 in greens in regulation, fairways hit and putts just once (T-16 GIR in 06) and managed under-par cards in three of his last 12 trips around the flagship TPC.
 
If other venues have visions of Tiger-proofing there layouts, look no further. The Stadium mitigates Woods power advantage ' Phil Mickelson said he will hit driver on just three holes per round this week ' and requires the field to play from the same spot, democratic golf that has produced a diverse list of champions from Mickelson (2007), the bomber, to Fred Funk (2005), the plodder.
 
The Players is to Woods what Roland Garros was to Roger Federer, a statistical anomaly that defies explanation and makes United Kingdom bookmakers rich.
 
Of course it doesnt help that Woods competitive calendar has been slow to take off post-surgery. By his own account, Woods victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was ahead of schedule and his play on Sunday at Augusta National was inspired a little too little, too late. But his 1-for-5 start ' and, make no mistake, champions hardware is all that really counts in Windermere, Fla., bragging circles ' is his worst opening to a season since 2004, when he won just once on Tour all season.
 
The pop may be back in Woods swing, but sporting reality is that the Baltimore Orioles dont head into Fenway looking to end a four-game slide and perhaps it would be the acme of foolishness to think Woods would use The Players to put all the pieces together.
 
The Players is also Woods first back-to-back outing since last spring when he won at Bay Hill and followed with a fifth-place showing at Doral, a physical litmus test that will give Woods and the world a glimpse at how strong that rebuilt left knee really is.
 
Thats the unknown, Woods said. That's one of the challenges we were looking at at the beginning of the year, is how are you going to do back-to-back, because obviously we didn't know. I haven't had any setbacks so far this year. That's a big thing going into my second week playing in a row. You would think that's no big deal, but to me it is
 
But then, maybe the bigger deal is a changing dynamic when it comes to all things Woods, whether they be real or perceived.
 
Last Sunday at Quail Hollow Woods needed to shoot a 2-under 70 to force a playoff with Sean OHair and managed an even-par card. At Augusta National, Woods pars the last two holes to get to 10 under the mystique might bring out a different set of nerves for Angel Cabrera. Instead, OHair and Cabrera forge ahead.
 
Make no mistake, Woods armor is still nickel-plated and four out of five tools is no reason to consider early retirement, but 10 months of near inactivity seems to have forged a different set of rules among the supporting cast.
 
That air of invincibility has not been replaced, but the thought that anything can happen has crept in.
 
There has not been a course built that Woods cant win on, but some ballparks are bigger than others and, like the Oval Office, TPC Sawgrass may be a tad on the small size for the games biggest star.
 

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Players Championship
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

    Getty Images

    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

    Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

    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.