Woods optimistic about upcoming season

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2012, 12:23 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – “I started from the green back.”

That’s the way it works when you’re rebuilding, from the green back, from the ground up, from this point forward.

Tiger Woods was talking about his seven-week off-season and how he prepared for 2012 and this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship – two weeks on hiatus and then onward and upward. From the green back.

For those who take the long view, Woods’ assessment is part metaphor, part method. From the competitive and emotional depths of 2010 Woods has rebuilt, some may even say reinvented, seemingly every part of the product.

In order, Woods has rebuilt with a new swing coach (Sean Foley), a new caddie (Joe LaCava), a new home (South Florida) and, finally, a new start (Abu Dhabi).

Critics will say it was a fat appearance fee that lured Woods to this Middle Eastern playground. Perhaps but even in a down economy there is something to be said for the cathartic benefits of a fresh start.

“My first time in Abu Dhabi,” Woods smiled on Tuesday. “I hear nothing but positive things of the golf course.”

The same could not be said of Woods’ first news conference of 2012. The 30-minute Q&A was dotted with six questions regarding Hank Haney’s new book “The Big Miss,” which is due out the week before the Masters.

Woods reiterated his disappointment in what he views as a violation of trust, although it must be pointed out that Haney seems to be one of the few members of Team Tiger that was never asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement, and, in a telling exchange, offered a rare glimpse into how stardom complicates relationships.

Woods was asked if it was difficult, given his comments about Haney’s book and his unsavory split with caddie Steve Williams, to trust people who are close to him. “One might say that,” Woods allowed.

One might also say that despite the distractions, or maybe because of them, Woods begins his 16th year as a professional with more optimism than he has exhibited in some time, the byproduct of improved health and a better understanding of what Foley wants him to do.

It’s also the first time in two seasons he has a bit of history on his side following his victory at the Chevron World Challenge in December and solid showings at the Australian Open and Presidents Cup.

“I missed most of the year (2011), and to finally be able to get ready for a tournament properly and to do the type of lifting that I think I need to do to be ready, I was finally able to do that and my game came around,” Woods said.

Left unsaid was a competitive psyche that also reset in a familiar way at Sherwood Country Club. Before the Chevron some wondered if Woods needed to learn how to win again. Birdies at Nos. 17 and 18 to clip Zach Johnson by a stroke proved it was still familiar curriculum despite a two-year victory drought.

“I know how to get it done,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I’ve been there before and it shouldn’t feel any different. They asked the same question of Jack (Nicklaus) in ’86 (at the Masters). Did if feel any different out there? It didn’t.”

Maybe the most telling sign of how far Woods has come will arrive on Thursday when he tees off with world No. 1 Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy in Abu Dhabi. Last year at the Dubai Desert Classic, Woods’ one-dimensional swing was blown off course by a fierce Sunday storm, he signed for a 75 and tied for 20th.

“I got exposed again because the wind was right to left and I couldn't cut the golf ball into it,” Woods said in December.

Just past noon on Tuesday Woods carved a drive into a similar right-to-left gale and smiled faintly as his golf ball bounded safely along the first fairway.

From the green back, from the bottom up, from this point forward, that’s how Woods began his climb back from the abyss that was 2010 and why it’s taken longer than many thought it would to turn the tide. And why he’s starting to sound like a man who knows where he and his golf ball are going.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.