Woods curious as everyone else about his return

By Associated PressFebruary 20, 2009, 5:00 pm
LOS ANGELES ' Tiger Woods has been on the golf course every day, either practicing or playing, hitting his full array of shots without fear of pain shooting down his left leg or bones sliding out of place.
 
The next step is taking that inside the ropes. And not even Woods is sure what to expect.
 
Im as curious as you, Woods said Friday during a conference call. The feeling of adrenaline, the rush of competing and playing again, all that I havent done in a while.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is trying to prepare for the Masters Tournament. (Getty Images)
Woods will have gone more than eight months ' 253 days to be exact ' without hitting a shot that counts when he returns from reconstructive knee surgery next week at the Accenture Match Play Championship just north of Tucson, Ariz.
 
His goal is to win. That hasnt changed. The surgery in June was to repair his knee, not his heart or his mind. But as confident as Woods feels about his game, his main concern is how sharp he will be in his first tournament since the U.S. Open last June.
 
Its one thing to do it in a practice environment at home against my buddies for a little bit of cash, Woods said. Its a totally different deal to do it at a PGA Tour event against the best players in the world. Im excited to get out there and experience that.
 
But at least hell be doing it on a healthy knee, saying its been years since he was without pain.
 
One of the great things coming back is my bones arent moving anymore, Woods said. Its a very comforting feeling hitting a golf ball without your bones sliding all over the place. Thats been very exciting to play that way, and Im looking forward to the season.
 
Swing coach Hank Haney said the only change in his swing will be the finish, noting that Woods finally has a strong left knee that will not give way and flop all over the place.
 
The only noticeable change might be his golf bag.
 
Woods ended his nine-year endorsement deal with Buick because of the automakers financial problems. He said he will have AT&T on his bag as an extended partnership with the telecommunications giant. AT&T is the title sponsor of his PGA Tour event in Washington and a major sponsor of his foundation.
 
He also has an endorsement with Accenture, although Woods said that wasnt behind his decision to return.
 
The knee has felt strong enough that he could have played earlier. All he waited on was the birth of his son, Charlie Axel, making sure his wife and baby were healthy before he went back to work.
 
It was making sure the family was all good with the birth of Charlie and making sure Elin was OK, Charlie was OK, everything was safe and sound on the home front, he said. Then the focus was on playing again.
 
Woods offered some insight on the name of his son.
 
He said there was a slight connection to Charlie Sifford, the first black to join the PGA Tour, but more than anything, We thought it sounded good. Axel, which has Swedish origins, is the name of his wifes brother.
 
It will be remarkable if Woods can continue the pace he was on when he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines for his 14th career major, one he called probably the best ever because of his wounded knee.
 
That was his ninth victory in 12 official tournaments around the world, and he finished no worse than fifth in the other three.
 
I know when he left he was hitting it awfully good, Haney said. He feels like hes getting close to that. Expectations with him are off the chart. You would think that people would cut him a little slack for a couple of weeks. But Im sure it will start right in.
 
Woods is the defending champion at the Accenture Match Play Championship, with a career record of 31-6. But even last year showed how much luck is required. Woods was 3 down with five holes to play until rallying with long putts to beat J.B. Holmes. In the third round, Aaron Baddeley twice had putts inside 12 feet to win, and Woods escaped with a victory in 20 holes.
 
The format could help ' match play is about winning the hole, not what kind of score goes on the card.
 
Hopefully, Ill get into the flow of the round quickly, he said. It helps that it is match play. It helps that each hole is a match. It pays to get off to a quick start.
 
The tournament moves up the road on Dove Mountain to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, designed by Jack Nicklaus. Woods doesnt know the golf course, but neither does the rest of the 64-man field.
 
All that matters to Woods, not to mention the rest of golf, is that he will be playing again.
 
Woods has not watched much golf during his absence, except for a few holes of the British Open and PGA Championship (both won by Padraig Harrington) and the Ryder Cup, when he was busy texting his teammates.
 
He has missed the competition, no doubt, and spent the last several months looking to satisfy that.
 
I had to find competition in different ways, Woods said. What I did was really focus on my rehab. That was my open personal competition each and every day to get better. Because I couldnt do it in the golfing arena anymore, I turned my competitive juices to a different area. That made my workouts more productive. And here we are.'
 


 
Note: Tiger Woods' return can be seen live on Golf Channel Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET.
 
Related Links:
  • The Roar is Back
  • Match Play Bracket Challenge
  • Full Coverage ' WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Woods' wife gives birth to son Charlie Axel
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    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

    Getty Images

    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”