When Tiger Returns

By Rich LernerMarch 13, 2010, 11:10 pm
When Tiger Woods does come back, it will be another moment where most of America stops what it is doing to watch, very much like the day he apologized. That lasted nearly 14 minutes.

This will be up to six hours, from the time he gets out of his car, to his warm up on the practice tee, to his four-and-a-half hour round, to the post-round interview, presuming there is one.
Tiger Woods
Plenty of questions will still remain after Tiger Woods returns. (Getty Images)
During those six hours, we’ll watch how he interacts with his fellow players. Do they embrace or just shake hands? Are there smiles, maybe laughs or is it very serious?

What kind of applause will he get on the first tee? Will he be heckled? If so how will he handle it?

The Masters minimizes that possibility because its patrons are the most golf knowledgeable, most respectful of any tournament in the world. Decorum is paramount on the grounds of Augusta National.

Wherever he plays, security will be heavy. If before Tiger had a few officers inside the ropes and a few plain clothes types outside, that number could triple with hecklers identified and removed.

As for the media, Woods has reportedly hired former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer. Conveniently for Fleisher and his fledgling enterprise that fact appeared to be leaked. But Fleisher’s record with President Bush and more recently disgraced St. Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire is spotty. McGwire made the puzzling statement that steroids didn’t really help him, instantly losing credibility.

Look, the public forgives and the public in Tiger’s case wants to see him play golf because he’s been beyond good. But the public doesn’t want spin.

Vulnerability’s not bad, even if it runs counter to everything Tiger’s ever done before. Nothing rattled this guy. He was unbreakable. Go to the gym, put on the red shirt and then crush everyone in his path.

Tiger can engender more understanding and even empathy if he explains that he didn’t have the tools to deal with life on life’s terms – fame, his father’s death, loneliness on the road and temptation. In the language of recovery, now he has the tools but he’s far from being a master craftsman.

Tiger certainly need not share salacious details and he won’t. But for now it’s okay to not be so perfect or tightly managed. Adding Fleischer to the team suggests that he’ll be tightly managed.  

Keep in mind, too, that Woods is in the early stages of his recovery. There are absolutely no guarantees. Relapse rates, whatever the addiction, are alarmingly high.

As to whether he’ll be as good as he has always been, there seem to be two schools of thought. First, he hasn’t suffered a physical setback, he’s 34 and in the prime of his career. And, as NBC’s Gary Koch said to me recently, if he could win six tournaments a year living two different lives, imagine how good he’ll be living just one life with a clean conscience.

On the other hand, part of what made him so intimidating was that players viewed him as the guy with no weaknesses. Now that they know he’s flawed, maybe they’ll be able to remove their own psychological barriers in getting past him. Remember, too, that in recent years, though Woods was winning, he wasn’t winning by as much as he had been 10 years ago.  

Still, winning by one or 12, Woods has always been cold blooded and ruthless on the golf course. Will the humility that you must have in order to be successful in any program of recovery soften that killer instinct?  

Perhaps, but if Tiger is at peace with himself and the world around him, then he might find that is a state of being from which to play brilliant golf as well.
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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."