Of Tiger Tolkien and Sam Alexis

By Brian HewittJune 23, 2007, 4:00 pm
An explanation for the nomenclature, we are told by the Woods camp, is coming. Exactly when, will be up to Tiger and Elin, the proud parents of Sam Alexis Woods, their newborn daughter.
Until that time, everybody will have to wait and wonder at the significance of the first name, Sam, and the middle name, Alexis.
Meanwhile, strictly by coincidence we assume because there was no mention of Woods in the story, The Wall Street Journal ran a long piece in its Friday editions with the headline The Baby-Name Business.
Among other things, the WSJ reported there have been 80 baby-name books published in just the last three years. More than 100 web sites exist for the purpose of helping parents name their children.
There are even baby-name consultants who charge up to $350 for a package that can include three half-hour phone calls. In Sweden and Denmark the government reserves the right to reject baby-names officials think might subject the child to ridicule. Names turned down by Big Brother in Sweden include Veranda, Ikea and Metallica. Babynamesworld.com, according to WSJ, draws up to 600,000 visitors a day.
No way of knowing at the moment if Tiger and Elin consulted anybody outside of family and friends before settling on Sam Alexis. The only safe assumption is, if they did, they were advised not to name the baby Phil.
Who knew baby-naming was a cottage industry of such size and volume? And who, for that matter, knew people were paying such close attention to the selection of the name of the first born child of the No. 1 golfer in the world?
The following is the text from an E-mail I received from a woman named Stephanie Simmons, who claims to have an insight into why Sam and why Alexis. Part of me wants to dismiss her theory out of hand. Part of me was fascinated reading her E-mail. And part of me was convinced I had to share her message with the other loyal readers of this column. There are, after all, a large majority of readers who cant ever get enough Tiger Woods in this space.
The E-Mail from Ms. Simmons:
You are probably sick of hearing from me about now, but I wanted to share this theory on the name of Tigers baby, and I actually got the idea from Tiger himself.
On Thursdays press conference (at Oakmont), I heard Tiger say something that was oddly worded. The question involved golf and making the cut, and Tiger said something to the effect that its only golf and not the end of all things. That immediately caught my ear. No, not because Tiger was saying to the world of rabid golfers that there was something much more important than golf, but it was the expression. I was watching the conference with my mother, a retired school teacher, and my daughter, the recently graduated junior golfer. I thought to myself it was odd that he said that, and my mother commented, Tiger must be an avid reader. I said, You caught that, too?! Tiger must be a Tolkien fan.
Specifically, The Lord of the Rings. The end of all things is what Frodo says to his gardener and dear friend after the destruction of The Ring on Mount Doom, when it appears that the two will not escape the erupting volcano. Sitting on a fractured piece of rock, surrounded by creeping lava and noxious fumes, the two Hobbits discuss briefly the Shire they left behind and fought to save, and who they would have married had they survived the trek. Frodo, gasping for air, turns to his friend, Sam, and says, Im glad to be with you Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things. Its a famous line, made more famous by the recent films. Many people dont know that director Peter Jackson almost cast the role of Sam as female, rather than the male Harfoot Hobbit. When I heard him say that, I said aloud.the babys name is Sam!!! My mother immediately agreed. My daughter chimed in that it would be weird if he said that by accident or coincidence.
Now, I thought for sure that meant Baby Woods was a boy, not a girl.but here she is!!!! J. R. R. Tolkien was once asked who the greatest hero of the tales was in his opinion. He answered that there were many: Frodo, Faramir, Gandalf, Aragorn, Eowyn.but by far the most humble, noble of heart was Sam. I agree.
I am not the only person who noticed this comment. On Saturday at a concession stand, near the practice range, I overheard two men talking about it. I took my daughter over to see Tiger practicing (he was about to come out in about five minutes) and the men were there again, still talking about it. One asked aloud why he thought Tiger mentioned that line. Several people started discussing why they thought he mentioned it. The general consensus was that he was doing some introspection before the birth of his child. My daughter and I just nodded..
..Alexis is a strong, victorious name as well. If history (Alexander and Alexandria) and Tolkien literature have been the inspiration, he wouldnt be the first to name his child after a Tolkien character. Sam is a great name, boy or girl. But note, her name is not Samantha.it is Sam. Sam is the noblest of heroes. Good name.
So there you have it. Sure, its got a little Twilight Zone feel to it. But remember, Johnny Miller recently talked about a woman at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont who insisted, every day, that he was going to win the championship. He didnt know the woman and he didnt know why she had singled him out. But he did win.
So if any of this is true, Oakmont appears to be something of a spawning ground for golf mythology.
For my part, I am not ready to make the leap that the name of the Woods baby is derived from Tolkiens lore. For that matter, I dont know Tolkien from Tolstoy when it comes to literature recall.
Heres what I do know:
First, The Wall Street Journal thinks enough of baby-naming to devote enough space in its pages for a full-blown feature. And second, if it does come to pass that Tiger and Elin reveal a connection between Sam Alexis and Tolkiens writings, I will not be surprised.
Or maybe well learn they just decided they were going to name their first child after Sam Snead.

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

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“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

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The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

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It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

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Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”