Another day reveals something more about Tiger

By Associated PressJune 18, 2010, 3:20 pm

2010 U.S. Open

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – There’s a lot left to find out about Tiger Woods, a lot more we want to know.

He remains an enigma on spikes, stubbornly private through times both spectacular and scandalous. The tabloids still can’t find out if he’s getting divorced, and sports writers might as well read tea leaves as ask him about the state of his game.

But a few things did become clear about Woods as he made his way around Pebble Beach on a gorgeous afternoon on the edge of the Pacific.

His game, like his life, is different now. And he’s not going to win this U.S. Open by 15 shots.

May not win it at all, though he fared better in his opening effort than his co-favorite, a certain Lefty who made his mark at the Masters as the anti-Tiger. Phil Mickelson hit two balls into the Pacific, couldn’t sniff a birdie putt, and staggered in with a first-round 75 that will take some work to recover from.

Woods, meanwhile, was simply mediocre. That’s not necessarily a bad thing at the Open, but it is if your name is Tiger Woods and the course is Pebble Beach.

It was here 10 years ago that he shot 65 in the opening round to make a statement that the Open was his. It was here that he ran away with the national championship by 15 shots in an epic performance that will live long in golf lore.

And it’s here that he came this week with hopes of finally escaping from the funk on the golf course that started with the infamous funk in his personal life.

It didn’t happen Thursday, when a promising start from tee and fairway was negated by a dismal day on the greens. And it’s not likely to happen this week if Woods continues to fritter away chances like he did in an opening round when he didn’t make even one birdie and finished with a 74.

Surely it won’t happen if he continues to mangle the par-5s he used to own.

“That’s just the way it is,” Woods said. “It’s a U.S. Open. It’s going to be difficult.”

For everyone else, yes. But from Woods we’ve come to expect far more, especially at Pebble Beach.

He was 24 when the Open was played here last, already anointed as the Chosen One and ready to embark on a run that showed the doubters just how great he could be. Twenty pounds lighter, with no baggage and a much different swing, he romped to the first of four straight major championships, a feat most thought impossible.

No one had ever finished a U.S. Open in double digits under par. No one had come close to winning any major by 15 shots.

No one has since, either, and not even the most ardent Tiger fans expected him to do it again this year. Still, there was a feeling that his game was finally coming around and that this would be the perfect spot for Woods to regain his old swagger.

The early holes were promising, even though the putts didn’t fall. Woods was hitting fairways and greens – none of those wild shots that had crept into his game the last two months – and was even par through eight holes on a day where no one would finish better than 2-under.

Then came the heckler on the ninth tee, playing off of Woods’ claim that the state of his marriage was no one’s business.

“It is our business,” he yelled. “You made it our business.”

Woods acknowledged he heard what was said. But he said it didn’t cause his three-putt on the ninth green, or his spotty play coming in.

“No, God no,” he said.

On that point, Woods was probably telling the truth. He’s always had the ability to compartmentalize things, and he’s famous for the focus he brings to every shot.

The heckler was one thing, the tricky greens quite another.

Woods complained that they had gotten bumpy later in the day, as poa annua greens tend to do, and he said it was no coincidence that the best scores came from the morning starters.

Actually, though, the leaders, like Woods, played in the afternoon, and when someone asked if he found that bit of information interesting, he responded with only a curt “No.”

Hard to blame Woods for being a bit testy. Someone yelled at him, he couldn’t make putts, and an 18-year-old and an amateur posted better scores.

Then he topped it all off by making an ugly 6 on the 18th hole from the middle of the fairway.

Ten years ago he left a foggy Pebble Beach after the first round with the lead, secure in the knowledge he could make putts whenever he needed them. On this brilliantly sunny day he went home five behind and with no clue how to get the ball into the hole.

Back then he was confident about winning, confident no one could challenge him. Now he talked about grinding it out and trying to remain in contention.

“There’s a long way to go. Just keep plugging along and see where I come Sunday afternoon,” Woods said.

Where he’s come now is a long way from where he once was. Now at least it’s a fair fight against players who no longer feel compelled to bow before him.

Unfortunately for Woods, there’s no guarantee anymore that he’ll be the last one standing.

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Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”

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Spieth admits '16 Masters 'kind of haunted me'

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:38 pm

Two years ago, Jordan Spieth arrived at Colonial Country Club and promptly exorcised some demons.

He was only a month removed from blowing the 2016 Masters, turning a five-shot lead with nine holes to play into a shocking runner-up finish behind Danny Willett. Still with lingering questions buzzing about his ability to close, he finished with a back-nine 30 on Sunday, including birdies on Nos. 16-18, to seal his first win since his Augusta National debacle.

Returning this week to the Fort Worth Invitational, Spieth was asked about the highs and lows he's already experienced in his five-year pro career and candidly pointed to the 2016 Masters as a "low point" that had a lingering effect.

"Even though it was still a tremendous week and still was a really good year in 2016, that kind of haunted me and all the questioning and everything," Spieth told reporters. "I let it tear me down a little bit. I kind of lost a little bit of my own freedom, thoughts on who I am as a person and as a golfer."

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Spieth went on to win the Australian Open in the fall of 2016, and last year he added three more victories including a third major title at Royal Birkdale. Given more than two years to reflect - and after nearly nabbing a second green jacket last month - he admitted that the trials and tribulations of 2016 had a lasting impact on how he perceives the daily grind on Tour.

"I guess to sum it up, I've just tried to really be selfish in the way that I think and focus on being as happy as I possibly can playing the game I love. Not getting caught up in the noise, good or bad," Spieth said. "Because what I hear from the outside, the highs are too high from the outside and the lows are too low from the outside from my real experience of them. So trying to stay pretty neutral and just look at the big picture things, and try and wake up every single day loving what I do."

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Spieth offers Owen advice ahead of debut

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:22 pm

As country music sensation Jake Owen gets set to make his Tour debut, Jordan Spieth had a few pieces of advice for his former pro-am partner.

Owen played as a 1-handicap alongside Spieth at this year's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and this week he is playing his own ball on a sponsor invite at the Nashville Open. Owen joked with a Tour reporter that Spieth "shined" him by not answering his text earlier in the week, but Spieth explained to reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the two have since connected.

"We texted a bit yesterday. I was just asking how things were going," Spieth said. "I kind of asked him the state of his game. He said he's been practicing a lot. He said the course is really hard. I mean, going into it with that mindset, maybe he'll kind of play more conservative."

Owen is in the field this week on the same type of unrestricted sponsor exemption that NBA superstar Steph Curry used at the's Ellie Mae Classic in August. As Owen gets set to make his debut against a field full of professionals, Spieth noted that it might be for the best that he's focused on a tournament a few hundred miles away instead of walking alongside the singer as he does each year on the Monterey Peninsula.

"Fortunately I'm not there with him, because whenever I'm his partner I'm telling him to hit driver everywhere, even though he's talented enough to play the golf course the way it needs to be played," Spieth said. "So I think he'll get some knowledge on the golf course and play it a little better than he plays Pebble Beach. He's certainly got the talent to be able to shoot a good round."

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Presidents Cup changes aim to help Int'l. side

By Rex HoggardMay 23, 2018, 6:20 pm

In March when the PGA Tour announced the captains for next year’s Presidents Cup there was an understandable monsoon of attention for one element of that press conference.

Tiger Woods being named the captain for the U.S. team that will travel to Australia late next year was just not news, it was a monumental shift in how many view the 14-time major champion.

Although he’s slowly played his way back to competitive relevance, his decision to lead the red, white and blue side was the most glaring example to date that Woods is beginning to embrace a new role as a leader and a veteran.

Newsy stuff.

In that blur of possibility, however, were a few other nuggets that largely went overlooked but may end up impacting the biennial team event much more than the two high-profile captains (Ernie Els was named the International side’s front man for 2019).

Among these subtle changes is a new rule that requires every team member to play at least one match prior to Sunday’s singles session, instead of the two-match minimum in previous years. In theory, this would allow a captain to “hide” a player who might not be at the top of his form.

The Tour also announced each captain will have four, up from two, captain’s picks and they will make those selections much later than in previous years.

Officials would understandably be reluctant to admit it, but these changes are designed to give Els and Co. a chance, any chance, to make the ’19 matches competitive.

Following last year’s boat race of the International team at Liberty National in New Jersey – a lopsided rout that nearly ended late Saturday when the U.S. team came up just a single point short of clinching the cup before the 12 singles matches – most observers agreed that something had to change.

The International team has won just one of the dozen Presidents Cups that have been played, and that was way back in 1998, and has lost the last five matches by a combined 20 points.

Giving Els and Woods more time to make their captain’s picks is a byproduct of the timing of next year’s event, which will be played in Australia in December; but giving both captains a little more flexibility with the addition of two picks should, in theory, help the International side.

The Tour also altered how the points list is compiled for the International team, with a move to a 12-month cycle that’s based on the amount of World Ranking points that are earned. The previous selection criteria used a two-year cycle.

“That was a change that was important to Ernie Els to make sure that he feels like he has his most competitive team possible,” said Andy Pazder, the Tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations. “That in conjunction with having four captain’s picks instead of two, which had been the case prior to 2019, he feels that’s going to give him his best chance to bring his strongest, most competitive team to Australia.”

The 12-month cycle will start this August at the Dell Technologies Championship and end at the 2019 Tour Championship, and puts more importance on recent form although had the new selection criteria been used for the 2017 team, there would have been just one player who wouldn’t have automatically qualified for the team. That’s not exactly a wholesale makeover.

“It didn’t seem to be a dramatic change in the makeup of the team,” Pazder conceded.

Still, a change, any change, is refreshing considering the one-sided nature of the Presidents Cup the last two decades. Of course, if the circuit really wanted to shake things up they would have reduced the total number of points available from 30 to 28, which is the format used at the Ryder Cup and as a general rule that event seems to avoid prolonged bouts of competitive irrelevance.

Perhaps these most recent nip/tucks will be enough to break the International team out of a losing cycle that doesn’t help bring attention to the event or motivate players.

There’s no mystery to what makes for a compelling competition, look no further than the Ryder Cup for the secret sauce. History makes fans, and players, care about the outcome and parity makes it compelling. What history the Presidents Cup has is largely one-sided and if last year’s loss is any indication the event is no closer to parity now than it was when it was started in 1994.

Els has been a part of every International team since 1996 and if anyone can pull the side from its current funk it would be the South African, but history suggests he might need a little more help from the Tour to shift the competitive winds.