Ran into Rory McIlroy in the lobby at Doral. I asked him if he'd played much with countryman Darren Clarke. 'Matter of fact I just played a practice round with him,' he said. 'He took a little money off me. Clarkey's a pretty good player on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.' We knew this kid can hit some shots, but I didn't know he was this good!
Robert Karlsson's paired with Tiger the first two days along with Mike Weir. Karlsson played with Tiger Saturday at The U.S. Open. 'Freaky,' explained Karlsson. 'I just knew he was going to make the putt at 13, and at 18 as that putt reached the crest I turned to my caddie and said, 'get ready for the roar because this one's going too.''
Last year K.J. Choi told Y.E. Yang that he'd never win in America with his radically strong grip. Choi told Yang that it might continue to work in Asia with slower greens, but that on the PGA Tour you need to hit high, soft long irons into firmer greens. Yang went cold turkey to an orthodox grip in August, moving his right hand about 30% and left hand15% towards a more neutral position. After hitting rock bottom Yang went to Orlando swing coach Brian Mogg and began putting his game back together with the new grip. You know what happened last week.
Spent Wednesday with Greg Norman and Chris Evert for a future story. Norman's taken up tennis in the last two years and is already very good, holding his own with the 18-time Grand Slam champion on the other side of the net. When they were finished, I said to Greg, 'Hey you're pretty good and you have a fairly good teacher as well.' With his arm around Chrissy he cracked, 'Not only do I have a great instructor, but I get to sleep with her when the lesson's over!'
These numbers just blow me away. Tiger's won 27 percent of the starts in his career. Vijay's won eight percent, Phil nine and if you win five percent for your career you're likely in the Hall of Fame. John Hawkins and I were trying to put perspective to it on Tuesday. 'That's like hitting what in baseball, Hawk, and I'm talking lifetime?' Hawk's unscientific reply, 'I don't know it's close to .500, it's ridiculous.'
McIlroy's not only loose, but grounded as well. He told me he's not going to over-reach with sponsors even though he's red hot. 'There'll be plenty of time for all that,' he said. 'Right now I just want to concentrate on golf. I have a house, a car and enough money.'
Steve Bann, the Aussie coach who works with KJ and Stuart Appelby, gave Geoff Ogilvy his first lesson when Geoff was 13. Of Ogilvy's famously placid demeanor, Bann explained that Ogilvy's worked hard to quell the rage which used to throw him off. 'I'm not saying it's manufactured, but Geoff knows he has to stay in that calm space with the slow walk or the beast will come out.'
Greg and Chris are trying hard to go to Augusta with very reasonable expectations. Making the cut, not making Hollywood fantasy, seems to be the goal for now.
Karlsson says he tries not to watch Tiger swing when they're paired. 'It can affect my own rhtyhym and tempo,' he said.
Bann believes Ogivly will win four to five majors, believing his game is especially well suited for the Masters. 'Hits high, long irons and is a silky putter, perfect for fast, slopy greens. He grew up at Victoria Golf Club in Australia right across the street from Royal Melbourne, so he's comfortable on greens running 13 on the stimp(meter).'
No one's really buying Sergio as number one, though he'll be just that should he win and Tiger finish 27th or worse. That said, Sergio could make a compelling case that he's ready to challenge by beating Tiger in a stretch-run duel similar to the one we saw between Tiger and Phil here in 2005.
Karlsson on why Tiger's the best: 'His short game plus his speed and power.' On the second point, Karlsson offered an anecdote from his 2006 singles match at The Ryder Cup against Tiger, won by Tiger. 'He was on the other side of the hole in some deep rough more than 200 yards from the green. I looked up and saw he had a high iron. I told my caddie he must be laying up. And then I saw him take this incredible swing ' hard and fast. He knocked it on. Those are the shots that really only he can play.'