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.

Getty Images

Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

Getty Images

Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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