Can Woods ever be the same on the course

By Associated PressMay 9, 2010, 1:59 am

The Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Hank Haney spent Friday in Las Vegas, teaching a comedian how to play golf.

Across the country his star pupil wasn’t finding much to laugh about as he made his way around TPC Sawgrass just trying to make the cut.

Why Haney was taping a reality show with Ray Romano instead of working with Tiger Woods wasn’t exactly clear, especially when Woods’ swing is clearly a mess. Contrary to the rumors sweeping around the state of Florida, though, Woods said the swing coach was still solidly in his employ.

“Hank and I talk every day, so nothing’s changed,” Woods said.

What has changed is this: Three tournaments into his latest comeback, Woods is finding that regaining his dominance on the golf course will be far more difficult than he or anyone else may have ever imagined.

If he needed any reminder, a young kid standing around after Woods signed his scorecard Saturday gave it to him.

“Tiger, say so long to No. I,” he yelled out. “Kiss it goodbye.”

Not so fast, kid. This thing’s not over just quite yet.

Still, the plight of the world’s best golfer is on public display at The Players Championship, where Woods will be long gone by the time they crown a new champion late Sunday afternoon.

So many questions. Not a lot of real answers.

Was the Masters an aberration? Is his personal life so fragile he can’t concentrate? Does forcing himself to acknowledge the existence of fans throw him off stride?

Or is his game just history, done in by a scandal he may never recover from.

Inquiring minds want to know, and for that at least Woods can be grateful. He’s playing so bad right now that even the tabloids can’t dig up enough new dirt to shift the conversation away from golf.

Woods himself blames rust, though that never seemed to stop him before. Remember that he was off just as long recovering from knee surgery last year and still won his third tournament back, the first of what would be six PGA Tour wins.

Back then he didn’t talk about needing more work. Back then he didn’t dwell on the difficulty of regaining his competitive edge.

He went out and won, just like he’s been doing his entire life.

Contrast that with his third tournament back since going into exile and spending time in rehab. Woods seemed so happy just to make the cut on Friday that he had a big smile on his face as he exchanged pleasantries with his playing partners.

Things didn’t get much better Saturday as he stumbled to a finish, treating viewers to the odd sight of the player who used to blow it by everybody hitting a second shot on the par-4 18th hole with a fairway wood.

Afterward, he talked as if it was his golf game that was on a 12-step program.

“This is a process, especially since I haven’t played at all,” Woods said. “I just need more rounds.”

Don’t tell that to the fans so used to watching Woods dominate on Sunday. Or to the golf fanatics who used to be able to mow the lawn and have a leisurely lunch on the weekend before tuning in to see him in action.

Tiger the philanderer they could deal with. Tiger the middle-of-the-pack grinder is another matter.

Yet there he was, popping up tee shots like a weekend hacker, and hitting other shots sideways. His game is in such disarray that he seems to want to hide behind the new sunglasses he now wears between shots.

It now just seems a matter of time before the kid is right and Woods loses the No. 1 ranking he has held for five years to Phil Mickelson. Indeed, that could happen on Sunday should Mickelson shoot another low round and win.

More troubling for Woods is that the future looks just as uncertain. He once seemed destined to pass Jack Nicklaus in major championship wins and be anointed as the greatest player ever, but now his standing in history seems as shaky as his tee shots.

While Woods has won an average of one major a year since turning pro, he’s now 34 and it’s been two years since he won his last U.S. Open. Where he was once the fearless young kid who could blow people away on Sunday, there are now young players seemingly everywhere like Rory McIlroy who can do the same thing.

What is really striking is how Woods seems in denial of what is happening around him. He talks vaguely about other players not being subjected to the same scrutiny he is, but mostly it’s the same party line about how his swing is coming around and it’s just a matter of time before all is well.

He may believe it, though it’s hard to believe much Woods has to say anymore. His pledge to treat the game with more respect unraveled quickly at the Masters, and his pledge to treat fans better didn’t last much longer.

While Mickelson signed autographs by the dozens after his round Saturday, Woods didn’t sign any, not even for two young volunteers.

It was just like old times, except with a twist.

At least then he had the game to get away with it.

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Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

Vogel started the year with only conditional Web.com Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a Web.com tournament.

"The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.

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Woods adds BMW Championship to playoff schedule

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:01 pm

Tiger Woods is adding a trip to Philadelphia to his growing playoff itinerary.

Having already committed to both The Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies Championship, Woods' agent confirmed to GolfChannel.com that the 14-time major champ will also make an appearance next month at the BMW Championship. It will mark Woods' first start in the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs since 2013 when he tied for 11th at Conway Farms Golf Club outside of Chicago.

This year the Sept. 6-9 event is shifting to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., which is hosting the BMW for the first time. The course previously hosted the Quicken Loans National in both 2010 and 2011. Woods won the BMW en route to FedExCup titles in both 2007 and 2009 when it was held at Cog Hill in Illinois.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Woods was already in good position to make the 70-man BMW field, but his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship vaulted him from 49th to 20th in the season-long points race and assured that he'll make it to Aronimink regardless of his performance in the first two postseason events.

Woods' commitment also means a packed schedule will only get busier leading into the Ryder Cup, where he is expected to be added as a captain's pick. Woods' appearance at the BMW will cap a run of five events in six weeks, and should he tee it up in Paris it could be his seventh start in a nine-week stretch if he also qualifies for the 30-player Tour Championship.

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Handing out major grades: From A+ to F

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 5:00 pm

The Masters is 237 days away, which means these definitive major grades will hang on players like a scarlet letter for nearly eight months.

OK, maybe not.

Brooks Koepka, obviously, gets an A+. He won two majors, and became just the fourth player to take the U.S. Open and PGA in the same season, and did all of this while overcoming a career-threatening wrist injury at the beginning of the year. Very impressive.

Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari – you passed with flying colors, too. Reed showed that he can access his best stuff in an event other than the Ryder Cup, while Molinari’s three-month heater culminated with him surviving a wild final day at Carnoustie to hoist the claret jug. Welcome to the major club, gents.

As for everybody else? Hey, you’ve now got plenty of time to recover, reassess and round into form in hopes of improved marks in ’19.


TIGER WOODS

Grade: A

Why: Sure, a few shots from his major season will linger for years – his too-cute pitch shot on Carnoustie’s 11th hole and his sliced drive on Bellerive’s 17th immediately come to mind – but let’s not forget how far we’ve come: Two years ago, Woods could barely walk because of debilitating back pain; at this time last year, he’d just exited a treatment facility for overusing his pain/sleep medications, following an embarrassing DUI arrest. Now, he’s top 30 in the world, with a pair of top-6s in the majors and undoubtedly the most stirring final round of the year, in any event, with his career-best Sunday 64 at the PGA. If you still think that Tiger doesn’t have what it takes to win another major, you’ve lost touch with reality.


JUSTIN ROSE

Grade: B+

Why: 

Why: He was one of only two players (Webb Simpson) who finished top 20 in all four majors, and he’ll probably look back at 2018 as a year in which he easily could have bagged a second title. At the U.S. Open he was only one shot off the lead after 54 holes but stumbled on the final day. A month later, he tied for second at The Open, but only after a weekend rally once he made the cut on the number. Across all four majors he had the best cumulative score to par of any player (12 under). This was a what-could-have-been year.


RICKIE FOWLER

Grade: B

Why: His 65-67 finish at the Masters left him one shot back of Reed, but it felt like the final obstacle had been cleared. Nothing was stopping Fowler now – he proved he could go low when it counted. Except then he imploded with an 84 in the third round of the U.S. Open and shot over par in both weekend rounds at The Open, before again getting into the mix at the PGA. Alas, battling an oblique strain, he regressed each round after an opening 65 and tied for 12th. Maybe next year …


JORDAN SPIETH

Grade: B

Why: Give him credit: He played better in the majors than he did the rest of the season. He shot an electric 64 on the final day at the Masters (though he’ll rue his tee shot on the 72nd hole) and grabbed a share of the 54-hole lead at The Open, despite not having his best stuff. That he shot a birdieless 76 on the final day was more a product of his form this year than succumbing to major pressure. Like Kopeka, he’s figured out how to perform when the lights are the brightest.


JON RAHM

Grade: B

Why: With the completeness of his game, it’s a little surprising that he hasn’t given himself better chances to break through. But he’s still only 23, and the chances will come in bunches before long. His fourth-place showings at the Masters and the PGA are steps in the right direction. 


Rory McIlroy on No. 18 on Saturday at the 2018 Masters.

RORY MCILROY

Grade: B-

Why: Asked Sunday how he’ll remember the major season, McIlroy replied bluntly: “Probably won’t. I don’t think there was anything all that memorable about it.” Of course, we’ll remember plenty, such as when he played his way into the final group at Augusta, only to fade over the course of the day, thus squandering another shot at capturing the career Grand Slam. And we’ll remember his tie for second at Carnoustie, where he eagled the 14th hole but then, with a chance to apply pressure on Molinari, couldn’t hit a wedge within 20 feet on the 18th green. He’s fallen into bad habits with that majestic swing, but there are holes in McIlroy’s game that need filling – holes that some of the other top players don’t have. And until he refines his wedge play and putting, that majorless drought (now four years and counting) will continue. 


JUSTIN THOMAS

Grade: C+

Why: No one has been better than Thomas over the past two seasons, but he’s likely frustrated by his major performance in 2018 – three top-25s, but only one realistic chance to win. Four shots off the lead heading into Sunday at the PGA, he had erased his deficit midway through the front nine but made critical mistakes on Nos. 14 and 16 to dash his hopes of defending his title. Of all the big-name players, he’s probably the best bet for a major rebound in 2019.


JASON DAY

Grade: C

Why: This has been a resurgent season for Day, with a pair of wins, but he didn’t bring it in the year’s biggest events. It’ll look good on paper, with three top-20s, but the only time he had a chance to win was the PGA, and he was one of the few to back up on the final day, carding a 1-over 71 when he sat just four shots off the lead.


DUSTIN JOHNSON

Grade: C-

Why: The floodgates were supposed to open after the 2016 U.S. Open, and it just hasn’t happened. Yet. He top-tenned at the Masters but was a non-factor, then jumped out to a four-shot lead halfway through the U.S. Open. He couldn’t make a putt during a Saturday 77, then got worked on the final day, head to head, against Koepka. He backed it up with a missed cut at The Open (where he blamed a lack of focus) and finished outside the top 25 at the PGA at a soft, straightforward course that suited plenty of other bombers. He can – and should – fare better.


PHIL MICKELSON

Grade: D-

Why: His series of lowlights at the U.S. Open – where he bizarrely whacked a moving ball on the green and then staunchly defended his actions – underscored that his window is all but closed at the majors. His major results since getting demoralized by Henrik Stenson at the 2016 Open: T33-T22-MC-MC-T36-T48-T24-MC. ’Nuff said.


SERGIO GARCIA

Grade: F

Why: No doubt, marriage and fatherhood are massive adjustments for everyone, but he’s missed the cut in his last five majors (and didn’t break par in any major round this year), plummeted down the world rankings (to 25th!) and put European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn in a difficult position of deciding whether to burn a pick on the slumping Spaniard. Memories of that breakthrough Masters victory are already drifting further and further away.

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Watch: Furyk throws out first pitch at Yankees-Mets

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 12:59 pm

As part of a a New York media tour to promote the Ryder Cup, U.S. captain Jim Furyk threw out the first pitch at Monday evening's game between the Yankees and Mets at Yankee Stadium.


Here's a look at some more photos from Captain Furyk's Ryder Cup Trophy tour.