Fit as ever Woods ready for rush of competing

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureMARANA, Ariz. ' Tiger Woods pulled into the parking lot as sunlight began to filter across the desert floor. He ducked into the clubhouse to change into golf shoes and headed out for a practice round, a routine he has followed for a dozen years.
 
For a moment, it didnt seem as though he had been gone from golf for the last eight months recovering from knee surgery.
 
It feels the same. Nothing feels any different, Woods said, recalling a conversation with his wife Tuesday morning. Just because it feels like Im coming back to what I used to do.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods finally is back out on the course, ready to compete.(Getty Images)
But there was one change that brought so much satisfaction.
 
Standing on the first tee at Dove Mountain, he drew back his 3-wood and sent the ball soaring against the Arizona sky, his swing looking just as good as it did that Monday in June at Torrey Pines when he won the U.S. Open in a playoff.
 
Only this time he didnt wince. He didnt stoop over and clutch his left leg. He didnt have to use his club for a cane.
 
Nothing hurt.
 
I feel great, Woods said. I didnt think it would feel this good before the surgery, or even just after the surgery, because I hadnt known what its like to feel this way. Its been so long. So to have it feel this healthy and this solid and secure, man, its a great feeling.
 
He was about an hour late for his press conference, but he had a good excuse.
 
It was his first time walking 18 holes since the U.S. Open, and I forgot how long it takes, said Woods, who has been riding a cart at home.
 
Woods does not know what to expect from his game when the Accenture Match Play Championship begins Wednesday, mainly because there is sure to be rust. He has not competed since surgery to rebuild ligaments in his left knee the week after Torrey Pines.
 
Ive played one tournament in 10 months, Woods said. Ive simulated tournaments the best I possibly can, but its hard to get the adrenaline up to where its going to be tomorrow when I play. Im trying to get into the rhythm of the round as fast as I possibly can.
 
And hopefully, it will happen quickly for me.
 
His first-round opponent is Brendan Jones, an Australian Woods has never met.
 
Woods is the defending champion, which means nothing in this fickle format. It doesnt matter what score he shoots, as long as he wins more holes than his opponent.
 
You have to be on your game right away, he said. You have to make sure you bring the intensity and bring your game from the very first hole. Because if you dont, then Ill be going home.
 
The intensity might come from the circus around him.
 
Even if Woods felt like his drive to The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club was just like going to the office, it soon was clear this week will be different. About 50 photographers were waiting at the entrance of the practice range, and a dozen of them camped on the slope behind where Woods set up to hit balls.
 
The only other player on the range was Phil Mickelson, who won two days ago at Riviera and virtually was ignored.
 
As Im walking to the range, Ive never seen so many cameras, especially that early in the morning, Mickelson said.
 
Woods played alone, followed by swing coach Hank Haney, agent Mark Steinberg and spokesman Glenn Greenspan.
 
He looked great, Haney said. Im very pleased with how he did today. Its slowly coming around, and hes getting more consistent. His knee is not flopping all over the place. Its nice to see him not in pain, not hurt when hes playing.
 
Haney said Woods was hurting when the won the Match Play for the third time last year. Woods tried to take care of his wounded knee with surgery to clean out cartilage after the Masters, but the ACL already was gone. And then came a double stress fracture of the tibia while practicing for the U.S. Open.
 
Woods figures he had only 20 percent of his ACL some five years ago, none since stepping in a hole while jogging after the British Open in 2007.
 
I feel a lot stronger in my left leg, Woods said. Both legs have been stronger than they ever have been. Stability is something I havent had in years. So its nice to make a swing and not have my bones move. Its nice to hit into it for the first time.
 
Woods doesnt watch a lot of golf on TV, but he knows what has transpired during his absence.
 
He remains No. 1 in the world ranking, although the gap has closed from an 11.33-point margin over Mickelson to a 1.74-point lead over Sergio Garcia.
 
Padraig Harrington won the British Open and PGA Championship, meaning the Irishman will go to the Masters with a chance to join Woods and Ben Hogan as the only players to win three straight majors. Once considered young, the 33-year-old Woods has noticed the next generation making its move, from Anthony Kim to Camilo Villegas, from Rory McIlroy to Dustin Johnson.
 
None of it made him eager to return.
 
He spent the last eight months chasing around his 20-month-old daughter, Sam, and waiting on the Feb. 8 birth of his son, Charlie.
 
It was a blessing in disguise to have an opportunity just to see Sam grow that fast and that much, he said. As players, you travel so much that I would have missed a lot of that. So I was very lucky there.
 
In the last few weeks, he said he would go to the range at home in Florida while Charlie was asleep. His wife, Elin, would call when the child woke up, and Woods would head back to the house.
 
His family is in Florida, and Woods said this week would be a time to catch up on sleep. Thats one incentive to win matches.
 
Im looking forward to the rush tomorrow. I really am, Woods said. Waking up tomorrow, and getting ready for my round, and getting focused, and coming out here, warming up and getting fired up. Im really looking forward to that more than anything else. Because I havent had that in a long time.
 

Note: Tiger Woods' return can be seen live on Golf Channel Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage ' Tiger's Return
  • Match Play Bracket
  • Match Play Bracket Challenge
  • Full Coverage ' WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Woods' wife gives birth to son Charlie Axel
  • Getty Images

    NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

    By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 5:00 pm

    The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

    After three days of stroke play, eight teams have advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals will be contested on Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

    Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.

    Scoring:

    TV Times (all times ET):

    Tuesday
    11AM-conclusion: Match-play quarterfinals (Click here to watch live)
    4-8PM: Match-play semifinals

    Wednesday
    4-8PM: Match-play finals

    Getty Images

    Davis: USGA learned from setup errors at Shinnecock

    By Will GrayMay 22, 2018, 4:51 pm

    With the U.S. Open set to return to Shinnecock Hills for the first time in 14 years, USGA executive director Mike Davis insists that his organization has learned from the setup mistakes that marred the event the last time it was played on the Southampton, N.Y., layout.

    Retief Goosen held off Phil Mickelson to win his second U.S. Open back in 2004, but the lasting image from the tournament may have been tournament officials spraying down the seventh green by hand during the final round after the putting surface had become nearly unplayable. With the course pushed to the brink over the first three days, stiff winds sucked out any remaining moisture and players struggled to stay on the greens with 30-foot putts, let alone approach shots.

    Speaking to repoters at U.S. Open media day, Davis offered candid reflections about the missteps that led to the course overshadowing the play during that infamous final round.

    "I would just say that it was 14 years ago. It was a different time, it was different people, and we as an organzation, we learned from it," Davis said. "When you set up a U.S. Open, it is golf's ultimate test. It's probably set up closer to the edge than any other event in golf, and I think that the difference then versus now is we have a lot more technology, a lot more data in our hands.

    "And frankly, ladies and gentlemen, what really happened then was just a lack of water."

    Davis pointed to enhancements like firmness and moisture readings for the greens that weren't available in 2004, and he noted that meterological data has evolved in the years since. With another chance to get his hands on one of the USGA's favorite venues, he remains confident that tournament officials will be able to better navigate the thin line between demanding and impossible this time around.

    "There are parts that I think we learned from, and so I think we're happy that we have a mulligan this time," Davis said. "It was certainly a bogey last time. In fact maybe even a double bogey, and equitable stroke control perhaps kicked in."

    Getty Images

    UCLA junior Vu named WGCA Player of the Year

    By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 3:23 pm

    UCLA junior Lilia Vu was named Player of the Year on Tuesday by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA).

    Vu recorded the lowest full-season scoring average (70.37) in UCLA history. Her four tournament wins tied the school record for most victories in a single season.

    Vu was also named to the WGCA All-America first team. Here's a look at the other players who joined her on the prestigious list:

    WGCA First Team All-Americans

    • Maria Fassi, Junior, University of Arkansas
    • Kristen Gillman, Sophomore, University of Alabama
    • Jillian Hollis, Junior, University of Georgia
    • Cheyenne Knight, Junior, University of Alabama
    • Jennifer Kupcho, Junior, Wake Forest University
    • Andrea Lee, Sophomore, Stanford University
    • Leona Maguire, Senior, Duke University
    • Sophia Schubert, Senior, University of Texas
    • Lauren Stephenson, Junior, University of Alabama
    • Maddie Szeryk, Senior, Texas A&M University
    • Patty Tavatanakit, Freshman, UCLA
    • Lilia Vu, Junior, UCLA
    Chris Stroud and caddie Casey Clendenon Getty Images

    Stroud's caddie wins annual PGA Tour caddie tournament

    By Rex HoggardMay 22, 2018, 3:15 pm

    Casey Clendenon, who caddies for Chris Stroud, won the gross division of the annual PGA Tour caddie tournament on Monday, shooting a 5-under 66 at Trinity Forest Golf Club, site of last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson.

    Scott Tway (65), who caddies for Brian Harman, won the net division by two strokes over Wayne Birch, Troy Merritt’s caddie.

    Kyle Bradley, Jonathan Byrd’s caddie, took second place with a 71 in the gross division.

    The tournament was organized by the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, and proceeds from the event went to two charities. The APTC donated $20,000 to Greg Chalmers’ charity, MAXimumChances.org, which aids families living with autism. The association also donated $10,000 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.