Tiger's focus returns to pain relief, not golf

By Will GrayApril 21, 2017, 1:43 am

A year that began with such promise for Tiger Woods has been reduced to another lost cause.

When Woods announced Thursday that he had undergone his fourth back surgery in the last three years, it was not met with the surprise or shock of his previous declarations.

It has been clear for weeks, despite consistent claims that he was close, or progressing, or grinding, that something was amiss.

The back spasms that caused him to withdraw from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February were supposed to last days, and instead bled into weeks and now months. With no end in sight, Woods has essentially pulled the plug on any hopes of playing the rest of the year and delivered another significant blow to the notion that golf fans will ever see him on top of his game again.

At age 41, after a number of reinventions and having spent more time on the disabled list than inside the ropes since 2014, Woods has arrived at another crossroads. While the glimmer that he’ll return to form still shines among his most ardent supporters, a more objective view indicates that we have likely seen the last of a once-great player.

From here on out, it’s all a bonus.

Woods alluded to as much during his funereal news conference at the 2015 Hero World Challenge, although at that point most people in the room – and perhaps Woods himself – assumed he was talking about wins, maybe contending in majors.

But given his latest plight, each competitive start he manages from this point forward should be viewed as an unexpected gift for fans to treasure.

Timeline: Look back at Woods' injuries

“The purpose of this surgery is to eliminate the bad days,” Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent, told GolfChannel.com. “He knows he’s got a long road, but there’s a huge sense of relief right now.”

Although the news release about the surgery on his website included only a single quote from Woods, it was a telling one.

“The surgery went well, and I’m optimistic this will relieve my back spasms and pain,” Woods said. “When healed, I look forward to getting back to a normal life, playing with my kids, competing in professional golf and living without the pain I have been battling so long.”

In previous iterations, the part about competing professionally might have been placed a bit higher. But Woods’ quote seems like an accurate reflection of where he now stands. His body is broken, and this time the top priority, according to Steinberg, is to regain a “healthy, active lifestyle.”

Right now, that might mean spending time with children Charlie and Sam in the backyard more than plotting a path to major No. 15.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Woods is firmly entrenched in middle age, with two kids by his side who clearly serve as a beacon of positivity in his life.

But it’s a far cry from the on-course goals he set months ago, when he carved out an ambitious schedule that included four worldwide starts in a five-week span.

After so many rushed returns from injury and aborted comeback attempts, it seemed Woods had finally taken the conservative path by sitting out nearly all of 2016. When he returned in the Bahamas in December, his game showed signs of progress and he sounded as optimistic as he had in years.

But that optimism lasted all of three rounds, as he limped away from Dubai just as he had at Torrey Pines, or PGA National, or Firestone in recent memory.

And now he’s back to square one.

Steinberg explained that Woods has been consulting with various doctors “over the past several weeks,” and that once he lost hope of a return at the Masters he zeroed in on this latest procedure as his best, long-term solution.

“His entire emphasis is on quality of life,” Steinberg said. “That includes living day-to-day pain-free, playing with his kids, playing competitive golf, going out in the backyard and having fun with his friends. Getting on his boat and doing what he wants in the water. It’s all of that.”

Woods is no longer a former champion trying to find his way back to the top of the mountain. Those days of reps, feels and release patterns are in the rear-view mirror.

Instead, he’s a man – one whose body has ached for far too long, one who has spent months seeking treatment without discernible improvement. He is a father who wants to be able to play with his kids for the next decade and beyond.

At some point in the grand scheme of things, thoughts of golf and competitive glory can re-enter the picture. But after this latest setback, that day seems farther away than ever.

Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.