Handle With Care


Tiger Woods

MEA CULPA: Tiger Woods spoke publicly Friday for the first time since his Thanksgiving Day accident, delivering a 13-minute statement at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Woods did not accept questions and was surrounded by some 40 supporters in attendance, including his mother but not his wife, Elin.

BackspinWoods admitted to affairs. He apologized. He took full blame for his actions. He vowed to be a better person. He said all the right things. Some found him sincere, others thought him arrogant. Some believed his words heartfelt, others believed them too scripted. The only two things that no one could argue were: Woods was headed back to rehab and we have no idea when he's returning to golf. Other than that, draw a line, choose a side and come out swinging because it seems there's no middle ground and no shortage of opinions when it comes to Tiger Woods.

Tiger Woods
ALL OR NOTHING:  The Golf Writers' Association of America elected to boycott the Woods statement reading despite being allowed three pool spots. The 27-member board voted not to attend after being informed that no questions would be allowed. [Full disclosure: I am a member but not a member of the voting board.]

BackspinIt seemed like the right move at the time, but after learning that Woods was headed straight back to rehab it felt more like just listening was the proper take. For all I know, the GWAA board still would have boycotted the event, but the Woods camp should have been more forthcoming with all the facts. The time for questioning will come when Woods is done with therapy and is ready to return to competition – whenever that may be. But even then will he answer personal questions when they are asked? Judging by his tone and comments Friday it doesn't seem likely, which only adds to the intrigue, because those questions are locked, loaded and ready to be fired.

Ian Poulter

Ian Poulter earned his first career PGA Tour victory by defeating fellow Englishman Paul Casey, 4 and 2, in the finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Poulter, a three seed, needed 19 holes to escape his opening-round match against Justin Leonard, but found the sledding much smoother further down the road. He smoked Sergio Garcia, 7 and 6, in the semifinals and never trailed after the third hole of the 36-hole final, handing Casey, a two seed, his second consecutive runner-up finish in this event.
Poulter's victory moved him to fifth on the Official World Golf Ranking, giving England three players [Lee Wetwood and Casey] inside the top 6. The format was apropos for his maiden Tour triumph, as he owns a 5-2-0 career Ryder Cup record with a 2-0-0 mark in singles. Colin Montgomerie's European team is looking better and better each week. Instead of a watch, Monty probably wears a clock like this on his wrist. 

PRICKLY SITUATION: Tiger Woods may not have been in the field at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, but players still spent plenty of time being asked about him this past week. Most had little to say, other than offering a little support [Ben Crane] or taking the I'm-not-worried-about-him-I'm-worried-about-me approach [Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia]. Though, some were more critical, like Ernie Els, who called Woods 'selfish' for making his statement during the middle of the event. Though, in Els' defense, he did not know at the time that Woods was headed back to rehab the next day.

BackspinOf course, everyone – from players to communication specialists to celebrities – was asked to weigh in on Woods' statement. As previously mentioned, reactions ranged from overwhelmingly positive to overtly negative. But nothing was more entertaining than listening to two of Woods' alleged mistresses cry over him not apologizing directly to them. These 'ladies' actually believe they deserve sympathy and some form of retribution. There's a better chance of cutting open Rush Limbaugh and actually finding a heart than Woods apologizing to a mistress on camera.
WGC-Accenture Match Play

Per usual, the WGC-Accenture Match Play saw a number of 'upsets' early and often. The top four seeds were bounced after the first two rounds, with the overall No. 1, Steve Stricker, exiting on Day 1 in an overtime loss to Ross McGowan. It was also the first time in the event's 12-year history that no American made it to the semifinals.
Given the volatility of this event and the events that transpired 1,981 miles away in Florida on Friday, the Accenture people have to be satisfied with the outcome of this year's tournament. Stewart Cink and Retief Goosen reached the Elite Eight, while Camilo Villegas, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter all advanced to the Final Four. This was arguably the most collective star power these matches have ever had over the weekend, with the highlight coming in a 24-hole, two-day marathon between Casey and Villegas in the semis.  
Ai Miyazato

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Ai Miyazato won the season-opening Honda PTT LPGA Thailand by one shot over Suzann Pettersen. ... Cameron Beckman won the PGA Tour's opposite-field Mayakoba Golf Classic. ... John Daly made the cut in Mexico and was tied for 17th after three rounds. He finished with a 10-over 81. ... Bernhard Langer birdied the final hole of regulation and then eagled the first hole of sudden death to defeat John Cook at the Champions Tour's Allianz Championship. ... Camilo Villegas defeated Sergio Garcia, 5 and 4, to win the consolation match in the WGC-Accenture Match Play.
Miyazato chipped in on the final hole to complete a closing 9-under 63 and overcome a six-shot Sunday deficit. ... Beckman has three career PGA Tour victories and none have qualified him for the Masters. ... Daly is officially on the board now with $7,308, tied for 211th place on the Tour money list. ... Langer said he was inspired by a Bible verse his daughter gave to him Sunday morning, Psalm 29:11. ... They should do away with the consolation match. It's just two sad saps who don't even care about the $110,000 difference in prize money for which they are lacklusterly playing.