A Summer of Speculation Over Woods

By Associated PressJune 17, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger answered his phone during the final round of a U.S. Open that attracted more prime-time viewers than the NBA finals. He was among them, camped in front of his TV.
 
Im watching my show pony, he said, referring to longtime friend Rocco Mediate.
 
Asked what he thought about his Secretariat, there was a slight pause.
 
Im a little worried for him, Azinger said while watching Tiger Woods flinch, grimace, limp and hit a careers worth of clutch shots at Torrey Pines. Not for the Ryder Cup. I just hope hes not doing anything to create a long-term issue for himself. Thats my concern.
 
Woods seems to have everyone worried.
 
The countdown toward Jack Nicklaus benchmark of 18 professional majors began in earnest three years ago when Woods won the Masters in a playoff and reached the halfway point with his ninth Grand Slam title.
 
But when he picked up No. 14 with a playoff victory Monday at the U.S. Open, looking into his future was like summer in San Diego. It can be so foggy you cant see the Pacific from the bluffs, or clear enough to see across the ocean to La Jolla Cove.
 
I think I need to shut it down for a little bit, Woods said. I pushed it pretty hard this week, and I just want to enjoy it. And were going to reevaluate after this event and see what happens.
 
What does that mean? How bad is his knee? How severe was the pain?
 
Only Woods knows, and hes more tightlipped with an injury report than Bill Belichick.
 
The Buick Open next week is most certainly out, and probably his own AT&T National at Congressional the week after. Even the British Open at Royal Birkdale, where Woods missed out on a playoff by one shot in 1998, is up in the air.
 
Woods is expected to expand on his immediate future later this week.
 
In the meantime, this surely will be a summer of speculation.
 
Perhaps it was only fitting that Woods cradled his daughter in his arms before handing Sam Alexis, who turns 1 on Wednesday, over to his wife. As he was piling up majors at a staggering rate, conventional wisdom said that only three things could keep Woods from breaking Nicklaus major record'marriage, children or injury.
 
He handled the first two just fine. But he has had three surgeries on his left knee, two in the last five years.
 
Weve got to get this fixed, one member of his camp said quietly.
 
After going 91 holes to win at Torrey Pines, someone brought up Ben Hogans victory in the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion, which came 16 months after a near-fatal car accident. As injuries ago, there is no comparison.
 
Geez, he was in the hospital and he didnt know if he was ever going to walk again, Woods said.
 
But there is a worthy comparison in their schedules.
 
Hogan never played more than nine times a season for the rest of his career. He won three of the four events he played in 1951, including the U.S. Open and the Masters. He won all three majors he played among eight tournaments in 1953.
 
This was the second time Woods returned from a two-month layoff due to knee surgery and won at Torrey Pines. The other was the 2003 Buick Invitational, and swing coach Hank Haney spoke of a huge difference that had little do with firm greens and thick rough.
 
With Woods, everything comes down to preparation.
 
Hes done this before'laying off'but he didnt do it without preparing, Haney said. Thats what made me apprehensive. Thats why this is the greatest win hes ever had.
 
Woods had not played a full round since the Masters until eight days before the start of the U.S. Open, and that was in a cart. Then came more cart golf in Newport Beach, followed by nine holes of walking on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. He didnt walk 18 holes until the first round at Torrey Pines.
 
As far as practice time, Haney said Woods never tested himself on anything but an even lie. Haney was asked if Woods might follow that routine before going to Royal Birkdale, if he plays.
 
Hopefully not, Haney said, breaking into a thin smile. But he proved he could do this, too.
 
Woods has played only seven times through the U.S. Open, the most abbreviated schedule of his career. That he already has won five times worldwide and leads Phil Mickelson by nearly $2 million on the PGA TOUR money list illustrates how wide the chasm is between No. 1 and everyone else. This is the 500th week that Woods has been atop the world ranking, and his 14 majors are one more than the rest of the top 20 combined.
 
But where does he go from here? And when?
 
Unless his knee heals quickly'or he finds the doctor that helped Paul Pierce climb out of a wheelchair in two minutes'Woods might have to decide between two cups at the end of the season.
 
Ryder Cup or FedExCup?
 
In a typical schedule, he would play two FedExCup playoff events, take a week off, then go consecutive weeks at the time-consuming Ryder Cup and the TOUR Championship.
 
Based on what happened at Torrey Pines, its doubtful he can play four times in five weeks.
 
Under a retooled points system, Woods could not sit out three playoff events and win the FedExCup'not the end of the world since he didnt even bother kissing the cup last year.
 
Does he pour everything into the Ryder Cup?
 
Woods loves the competition of the matches, but loathes everything else about that week. He might have a convenient excuse to sit this Ryder Cup out. Imagine the no-win situation Europe would face playing an American team without the worlds best player.
 
Who knows? Woods might up doing his team a favor.
 
And himself.
 
Related Links:
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    Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

    SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

    Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

    ''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

    Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

    ''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

    Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

    Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.


    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

    He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

    ''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

    Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

    ''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

    Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

    Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

    But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

    ''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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    LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

    LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

    Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

    Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

    Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

    ''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

    That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

    ''Too many,'' Park said.

    The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

    ''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

    The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

    Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.


    Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


    Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

    Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

    ''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

    Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

    She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

    ''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

    ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

    Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

    Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

    The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

    Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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    Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

    By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

    Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

    While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

    The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

    "I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."


    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

    With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

    "Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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    Three years later, PXG launches new iron

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

    Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

    “Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

    PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

    The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

    Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.