Woods' biggest obstacle might be between the ears

By Doug FergusonFebruary 10, 2015, 2:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – The BBC called on Thanksgiving weekend in 2009 looking for insight on the shocking, sordid details about the private life of Tiger Woods and how this would affect his pursuit of golf's most meaningful record.

The line of questions made one thing clear. They didn't need a golf writer, they needed a psychologist.

Five years later, has anything changed?

Ignore for a moment the bunker shot that Woods blasted into the bleachers on the 16th hole during the pro-am at the Phoenix Open. Or the 82 he posted in the second round at the TPC Scottsdale, the worst score of his career. The record will show he has more WDs than top 10s in the last 18 months.

But this might be the most sobering thought.

Is it possible that perhaps his greatest strength - his mind - is now his weakness?

The look on the practice range is one of uncertainty. On the golf course, it is one of resignation. Woods has never appeared more fragile. And he has never been the subject of so much sympathy from peers he used to beat so badly that Charles Howell III once said only half-jokingly that he ''ruined a lot of guys' lives.''

There was some truth to a throwaway line from Woods at his Hero World Challenge in December that ''Father Time is undefeated.'' He is 39 with five surgeries and one public embarrassment behind him. Adding to accelerating years is that he has been in pursuit of greatness from the time he crawled out of a high chair.



Accepting his rapidly advancing age is another story.

A decade ago in the parking lot at Doral, when Woods finally adapted to a swing change under Hank Haney and was on his way to two majors that year, he said he would walk away from the game sooner than anyone imagined, that he would quit when his best was no longer good enough to win.

''I've won tournaments out here when I wasn't playing my best,'' Woods said that day. ''If I play my best and don't win, there's no reason to be out here. I don't lie. When I play well, I tell you guys. When I haven't played well, I'll tell you.''

At this stage in his career, his best isn't good enough to beat Rory McIlroy and maybe a few others.

Woods has never been forthcoming with the press or the public. The question is how honest he is with himself. For now he can fall back on injuries as the cause of his poor play, although the message gets muddled based on his recent comments about his back.

''It feels great. It feels fantastic,'' he said in December.

''That's not an issue anymore,'' he said last week in Phoenix.

And then he pulled out after 11 holes at Torrey Pines for what he described as tightness in his lower back. If only he had described it that way. Woods doesn't like to be perceived as a golfer. He wants to be perceived as an athlete, and it shows in his speech.

He warmed up fine on Thursday morning. The fog rolled in, the temperature dropped and his back never loosened up again after standing around. That happens. Instead, he said that ''everything started deactivating again'' and it was frustrating that he couldn't stay ''activated.'' Thankfully, he cleared that up by mentioning it was his ''glutes'' that didn't activate.

For the next two days, ''glute activation'' became a buzz word on the putting green and practice range. Woods became the butt of jokes.

No one wants to see this.

Most disturbing is how easily it has become to withdraw. In his brief interview among a circus atmosphere in the parking lot, no one asked if Woods risked further injury by completing the last six holes (and presumably two putts). Could he not have gutted out the first round and tried to activate his glutes Friday morning? Notah Begay said over the weekend on Golf Channel that a text from Woods indicated it was not a ''major concern.''

One major concern is motivation and, yes, desire.

That would be unlike the Woods of yesteryear - no one would ever dare question his desire - but it's reality. This is his 20th year on tour. He's gone to the top of the mountain four times. This would be the toughest climb of them all. He is a single father of two whose schedule is determined by the weeks when he gets the kids. He has been hurt on the golf course and humbled off it.

And he has chipping problems so severe that the dirtiest four-letter word in golf has been evoked - yips.

The Masters starts in 59 days. Woods is supposed to play the Honda Classic in two weeks, and there are questions whether he should even show up. Woods doesn't need competition. He needs a clear head and a strong mind.

Right now, the only thing clear about Woods is that he faces a murky future.

@bubbawatson on Instagram

Bubba gets inked by Brooks, meets Tebow

By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 5:40 pm

Bubba Watson missed the cut at Shinnecock Hills following rounds of 77-74, but that didn't stop him from enjoying his weekend.

Watson played alongside Jason Day and eventual champion Brooks Koepka in Rounds 1 and 2, and somehow this body ink slipped by us on Thursday.

Got autographed by defending @usopengolf Champ @bkoepka!! #NeverShoweringAgain

A post shared by Bubba Watson (@bubbawatson) on

And while we're sure Bubba would have rather been in contention over the weekend, we're also sure that taking your son to meet the second most famous minor-league baseball player who ever lived was a lot more fun than getting your teeth kicked in by Shinnecock Hills over the weekend, as just about everyone not named Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood did.

Already in Hartford, Watson will be going for his third Travelers Championship trophy this week, following wins in 2010 and 2015.

Getty Images

Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

“The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

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Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Jordan Spieth

6. Rickie Fowler

7. Bubba Watson

8. Webb Simpson

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9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Matt Kuchar

12. Brian Harman

On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Tommy Fleetwood

4. Francesco Molinari

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5. Thorbjorn Olesen

6. Ross Fisher

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Rory McIlroy

3. Alex Noren

4. Matthew Fitzpatrick

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5. Ian Poulter

6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello

@jenamsims on Instagram

Koepka autographs local kids' 'Go Brooks' sign after win

By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 2:30 pm

Brooks Koepka is a two-time U.S. Open winner, but that doesn't mean he's now too big to go sign a couple pieces of cardboard in somebody's front yard in the middle of the night.

Koepka's girlfriend, Jena Sims, posted two pictures to her Instagram story on Sunday of "Go Brooks" signs she says were put up by some local kids in the area where Koepka was staying for the week.

The first is dated prior to Koepka's final-round tee time.



The second is from Sunday night.



And here, separately, for no reason in particular (other than the fact that she posted it) is a video of Sims running over a parking cone at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

Speaking of kids, just feels those two are gonna make it.