Tiger's news conference reveals a changed player

By Rex HoggardJune 24, 2014, 4:53 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – This is not going to play well on message boards and across the social media universe, but when it comes to Tiger Woods everything has changed.

Don’t take our word for it, let the man himself explain.

Remember that old fallback, “Second sucks”? There is no doubt that bridesmaid finishes are still best avoided, but after another extended stay on the DL and more time under a surgeon’s knife, the former world No. 1 has embraced the long view.

“Expectations don’t change. That’s the ultimate goal (to win),” Woods explained on Tuesday at the Quicken Loans National, his first scheduled PGA Tour start since he signed for a 78 on March 3 at Doral. “It’s just that it’s going to be a little bit harder this time. I just haven’t had the amount of prep and reps that I would like.”

Things have changed, like at 38 years old, it’s time to listen to his body and the team of medial minds he has on retainer. That hasn’t always been the case (see Open, U.S. 2008).

“That’s one thing I have learned – stubbornly,” he conceded.

That luck may favor the prepared – for the better part of his Hall of Fame decade and a half it was all the things the public didn’t see, the countless hours perfecting his craft on the practice tee at Isleworth, that separated him so drastically from the pack – but some stop signs are best obeyed.

The microdiscectomy procedure he had on March 31 to remedy a pinched nerve has taught him that. More than a year and a half of debilitating back pain has dictated that.

“I’m not able to do the work I’m accustomed to doing,” he said before heading out for a session on the range at Congressional.

That he’s playing this week, with his doctor’s blessing, in large part because the Quicken Loans event benefits his Tiger Woods Foundation.

“If this wasn’t the foundation and our goal we have with the kids I probably would not (have played this week),” Woods said.

That he’s thrust himself back into breach with something less than his best stuff.

“It still hasn’t happened,” he said when asked if his “explosiveness” had returned. “Not to the level that I’m used to, not to the level that I’m used to being that explosive. That’s going to come in time.”

That there is a time and a place for an 80-percent Tiger if it means he can avoid the MRI machine.

“I probably may not go at it as hard on all shots,” he allowed.

With age and an endless list of medial maladies have come perspective and patience, the ability to endure months of “tedious” therapy in his return to competitive golf.

When Woods last spoke publically at Congressional during the Quicken Loans National media day on May 18 he was not hitting full shots. Since then he’s slowly worked his way through his bag, hitting each club farther and farther in 10-yard increments until he worked his way up to hitting his driver “a couple weeks ago.”

Because he couldn’t bend over immediately following surgery, he filled in the holes on his practice green in South Florida with sand. Now he’s filling in the blanks.

Of all of Woods’ various injuries – ruptured ACL (2007), torn Achilles’ tendon (2008), stress fracture in his tibia (2008), inflamed facet joint (2010) – this one was different.

“Pre-procedure, right before I went in, I wasn’t able to function. I couldn’t get out of bed,” Woods said. “I just couldn’t do any normal activities. When I blew out my knee and even had my Achilles problems I could still do things.”

And post-procedure? “Like you get your life back,” he said.

His competitive life begins a new chapter on Thursday at 8:12 a.m., under a vastly different backdrop. Gone, it seems, are the days of defying doctors and the determined march of time.

There will be no more 30-mile runs and endless hours in the gym or on the practice tee. There is no more room for misplaced machismo in what Justin Rose dubbed his race to 18 major championships, and definitely no place for unrealistic expectations.

In many ways, this week’s Quicken Loans National is akin to a rehab start, think a hard-throwing right-hander knocking the rust off in Pawtucket before joining the big club for a weekend series in Boston.

It was important for Woods to be at the Quicken Loans National, where he has missed two of the last three tournaments, and there was no small amount of optimism in the fact that his recovery is ahead of schedule (his original plan was to return in time for next month’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool).

“No matter who you are, there’s an element of getting the rust off and if I was Tiger Woods I would probably be looking at the Open Championship and the decision to play here is because he doesn’t want to be rusty at the Open,” Rose said.

But that reality was tempered by a man who after nearly a decade of overcoming physical barriers is at ease with the fact that recovery from injuries is not a race.

Perhaps tune-up starts have never really been in Woods’ repertoire, but then things change. If Tuesday’s Q&A was any indication, everything has changed.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.