Woods finds himself in uncharted waters

By Rex HoggardSeptember 3, 2010, 12:43 am

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NORTON, Mass. – TPC Boston is familiar ground for Tiger Woods. He won here in 2006, finished runner-up to Phil Mickelson in a clash of the titans in 2007 and proceeds from the event benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation.

But on Thursday under sweltering skies and the threat of a hurricane named Earl everything must have seemed as new as freshly fallen snow. Make no mistake, the world No. 1 is entering uncharted waters, like Indian summers in New England and a Red Sox pennant bid that wanes long before October.

Never before has Woods started a tournament under the looming reality that if he doesn’t play well at the Deutsche Bank Championship he won’t be playing at all for the rest of the Playoffs.

Not in this lifetime has his Ryder Cup fate depended on the hospitality of a captain’s pick.

Only in Bizarro World would Woods have imagined that he would have the same number of victories in September that he had in January. And only in his nightmares would he have envisioned an empty house and broken family back home in central Florida.

But times have indeed changed.

In very practical terms, the season of change is on display this week south of Boston, and central to this competitive paradigm shift is a cerebral Canadian whose father was a chemist and whose mind never stops.

Post-Nov. 26 there are few, if any, questions Tiger Woods is not prepared for, but on Thursday on the eve of the Deutsche Bank Championship he was asked what were the fundamental swing differences between Butch Harmon, his original instructor when he turned pro, Hank Haney, who took over for Harmon in March 2004, and Sean Foley, the newest edition to Team Tiger who started publically working with Woods at last month’s PGA Championship.

“Well,” Woods paused, “they are three different philosophies, three different ways to hit a golf ball.

“There’s a lot of learning to different philosophies, and that’s probably the biggest thing is you first have to understand the philosophy in order to buy into it and then be committed to it. That’s been kind of where I was at.”

If that doesn’t exactly answer the question it at least walks us through the process by which Woods arrives at his fourth professional crossroads.

Unlike journalist and police investigators, Woods has little interest in the when and where. In this case it is only the why and the how that matter. Whatever the differences between the Tiger triumvirate, for Woods the road ahead is all that interests him.

Instead, we tracked down Foley, who was busy most of Thursday afternoon working with Woods and the rest of his stable on the TPC Boston practice ground, and asked how his philosophy differs from that of Harmon and Haney.

“There’s a difference in the generation,” Foley said. “There’s been a whole lot more information.”

Know this about Foley, his Tour-issued credential may read “instructor,” but he is a student of the golf swing by any measure. If Woods wants to know why the golf club continues to get “stuck” behind him on the downswing, a common culprit particularly with the driver, Foley will explain the complexities of biomechanics, physics and the principles of motivation, a detailed intellectual style that likely separates him from Haney and Harmon.

That’s not to say Foley, who at 35 is much younger than his forerunners, is unfamiliar with Harmon and Haney’s teachings.

“Those are predecessors, right? Butch (Harmon), Lead (David Leadbetter), all those guys and obviously I’ve read all their stuff. Worked on all their stuff,” Foley said.

But the die was cast at an early age when the uber-analytical student tried to comprehend a game dominated by dogma and disconnected philosophies.

“I was very scientific minded and found that things were too golf-y,” Foley said. “I found there was too much pseudo-semantics to the golf swing. This plane and that plane, but as I started reading more. I read this is a horizontal swing plane, what is that? That’s the face position at impact. I start thinking about every dimension of movement.”

What followed was a single-minded pursuit of answers. Cause and effect dominate much of the conversation when Foley is talking swing.

Foley’s swing philosophies hardly dovetail with his predecessors. But what all three seem to have in common is a reluctance to teach a single method.

There is little chance Woods’ swing will begin to mirror that of Hunter Mahan, a two-time Tour winner this year and a member of Foley’s stable, but, “(Woods) will look like him at impact.”

For Woods, whose previous swing changes took anywhere from 18 months to two years to incubate, the results have come surprisingly fast. His tie for 12th last week at The Barclays may have been his best ballstriking week of the year and he did little to hide his budding confidence on Thursday.

“I’m starting to see some progress, which is nice,” Woods said. “It’s nice to see that the things that I was trying to do earlier at the PGA I’m trying to do now.”

Although his quick turnaround may be a bit of a surprise, to say nothing of the concerns that accompany unrealistic expectations, Foley figured the best player of his generation would be a quick study and he has not disappointed.

“He’s picked everything up very fast. I would think that the greatest players would be fast learners in any sport,” Foley said. “To finish first last week (in fairways hit), I don’t care if he was hitting 3-wood. He hits his 3-wood 280 (yards).”

With that, Foley inadvertently unearths something that hasn’t changed, Woods’ ability to amaze. Over the last 10 months it has been put to the test, questioned, even dismissed in some circles, but he can still impress.

And amid the sea of change that has become Woods’s life, that’s a start.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.