Woods in mix despite obvious pain in left arm

By Ryan LavnerJune 14, 2013, 7:55 pm

ARDMORE, Pa. – Is anyone else having a flashback? 

Five years ago this week, Tiger Woods hobbled his way to a thrilling U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines. That was his last major title, No. 14, and perhaps his most memorable.  

That week, his knee would occasionally buckle mid-swing. He would stagger off the tee box and limp down the fairway. His face would twist in pain. But Woods would always downplay the pain publicly, even saying in his winner’s news conference, “It’s a bit sore. I need to take a little bit of a break.” 

That “break” turned out to be the rest of the year. A few days after that Open, he revealed that he was undergoing season-ending surgery. He had been playing 10 months with a torn ligament in his left knee, and for two weeks with a double stress fracture in his left leg. 

Watching Woods on Friday afternoon – when he gritted out an even-par 70 to sit four shots off the clubhouse lead at the U.S. Open – did anyone else have a flashback? 

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This time, the injury in question was his left arm. On at least four occasions Thursday, Woods shook his wrist and elbow and grimaced, turning his face away from the camera to shield his discomfort. But when he was asked by a USGA official about the injury, Woods replied: “It’s fine.” 

When play resumed Friday morning, and Woods signed for an opening-round 73, he was a bit more forthcoming. Well, kind of. “It is what it is,” he said of the pain, “and you move on.” 

Ever the thespian, Woods flinched only when hacking out of the 5- and 6-inch rough, which wasn’t all that often, since he has dialed back off the tee with plenty of irons and fairway woods. 

The exception during the second round was the par-4 eighth hole – his 16th of the day – when Woods’ tee shot with an iron sent a jolt up his left arm. It didn’t help that his ball trickled a few feet into the juicy rough. From there, he thrashed out with a wedge, but immediately after impact he took his left hand off the club and wrapped it around his back, shook his head and even grunted something, the most demonstrative of his reactions through two rounds. A few minutes later, he curled in a 12-foot par putt. 

Afterward, the years-long chess match between him and the press resumed. Clearly Woods was dealing with a left-arm injury, the extent of which only he knew. But he was in no mood to reveal any details, as is his wont, guarding his ailments as if showing up on the injury report would alter his opponents’ game plan this weekend. 

Anyway, the exchange in the interview area Friday afternoon unfolded like this: 

You were clearly in a lot of pain yesterday. When did you first hurt it?

“A few weeks ago.” 

Does it feel better or worse after your first round? 

“Well, it is what it is.” 

How did you hurt yourself? 

“Playing golf at The Players.” 

That was odd. Woods, of course, had showed no ill effects en route to his impressive victory at TPC Sawgrass, his fourth win of the season.

And clearly, he didn’t consider the injury too serious or he wouldn’t have competed three weeks later at the Memorial. He didn’t appear to show any discomfort there either, though he was out of sorts with his game all week and finished T-65. 

Because that was such a curious response, the digging continued. 

Asked when he hurt himself at The Players, he replied: “One of the rounds.” 

Only Tiger could make Bill Belichick and Gregg Popovich seem glib and analytical. 

In truth, Woods’ sub-par short game is harming his U.S. Open chances more than any elbow inflammation. The same issues that plagued him at Muirfield Village have resurfaced here, even though when Woods finished his round at 3-over 143 he was only four shots off the clubhouse lead, with Merion’s baby teeth slowly aging into full-blown fangs.

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Throughout his second round Woods made a few crucial par saves, most notably on Nos. 17, 5 and 8 (the latter two from 12-plus feet), but he can’t rely on that kind of clutch putting all week. His chips and pitches haven’t been nearly as precise as an Open venue demands. 

Most glaring was the par-4 seventh, measuring just 368 yards for Round 2. Creeping toward the top of the leaderboard, Woods tugged his wedge shot barely left of the green, into a dastardly spot on the short side. He flubbed his first pitch, advancing the ball only a few feet, and stubbed the next, too. He sank a 5-footer for bogey. 

For Woods, this was a long, arduous day, one that began with a range session before 6 a.m. ET and ended before 4 p.m.. This was 25 1/2 holes – which he played collectively in 1 over par – and the hard day’s work showed not just on his mud-splattered white shoes but also his weary face. 

“Absolutely, absolutely,” Woods said, when asked if fatigue was a factor on a day such as this. “And it’s not exactly like we’re playing fast out there. They’re just slow rounds. It takes its toll on you.” 

How much of a toll physically, well, we’re left to wonder. 

Woods knows he has been injured (far more seriously) and won an Open before. He knows more 6-inch rough awaits, eager to swallow up an errant shot and dole out more punishment. But Woods didn’t flinch when asked if he liked his chances heading into the weekend at Merion: 

“Yes,” he replied, and didn’t elaborate. 

That part sounds familiar, too. Is anyone else having a flashback?

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.