New Tiger looks nothing like the old one

By Doug FergusonMay 10, 2010, 4:36 pm

The Players ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Even at his worst, Tiger Woods has never looked this bad.

It was only a month ago that Woods returned to golf with a performance that satisfied everyone but him. He tied for fourth in the Masters, his first competition in five months. And while his personal life was a mess, it appeared his golf game wasn’t about to suffer.

So much has changed in such a short time.

Woods looked lost on the golf course in missing the cut at Quail Hollow last week with the highest 36-hole score of his career. He looked even more distant as he sat in front of his locker Sunday at the TPC Sawgrass with his head bowed, elbows resting on his knees. He failed to finish another tournament, this time because of a sore neck that forced him to withdraw after six holes.

It was the first time Woods, with more than $93 million in career earnings, has gone consecutive weeks without making a dime.

“It’s early,” Paul Goydos said. “What he’s going through is unprecedented. We don’t know what’s going on. At some point, his life will normalize, as normal as Tiger’s life ever gets. And then we’ll see.”

When he looked up to take a few questions, Woods leaned against his locker with his eyes closed as if he were not listening. At one point, he slammed his shoe to the floor.

Tiger Woods swings golf clubThree months ago in the same clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass – down the hallway and up a flight of stairs – Woods appeared in public for the first time to read a statement about the extramarital affairs that shattered his image and fractured his family.

He wore a dark suit then, his Sunday red shirt now.

In both cases, his aura of invincibility was missing.

It is too early to judge how Woods will recover from this scandal, and it doesn’t help that Woods is no more forthcoming about his game or his health than he was even in good times.

Only at the Masters did he reveal he had a torn Achilles’ during 2009. And while he said Friday that his rebuilt left knee was 100 percent, he never said anything about his neck until Sunday, when he mentioned that it had been bothering him before the Masters.

Who knew?

He has received warm receptions, though the praise is not universal. One woman in Charlotte, N.C., gave a thumbs-down when Woods walked by on his way to the tee. The low point might have come Saturday, when a young boy with an autograph from Phil Mickelson yelled out to Woods, “Tiger, say so long to No. 1. Kiss it goodbye.”

Mickelson, who could have replaced Woods at No. 1 with a victory Sunday, was standing only a few feet away.

“He got heckled by a 7-year-old,” Goydos said with wonder. “That’s brutal. He’s got to get used to that. He’s got a lot on his head and the game is hard. And it’s hard for everybody. He made it look so easy, so when he’s not making it look easy, we wonder what’s wrong. He’s going through a tough patch. If he has 80 percent of the people completely idolizing him, that’s still a big drop.

“He hasn’t been playing, and he’s not playing well,” Goydos said. “And he’s never been under a microscope like this before.”

Woods bristled at the media for making a big deal about hitting five balls in the water during nine holes of practice Tuesday. He said he was working on his swing, not overly concerned with the results when he wasn’t keeping score. But when the tournament began, there were shots that didn’t belong to the No. 1 player – or any PGA Tour player.

Woods twice popped up a tee shot so badly that he had to hit 5-wood for his second shot into a par. Another went 45 degrees to the right and landed in the pond on an adjacent hole.

Even the shots that stayed inside the gallery looked ordinary. This hardly looked like the guy who collected his 82nd title worldwide in Australia six months ago, or who has 14 majors going into a year in which he is expected to resume his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus.

The U.S. Open next month is at Pebble Beach, where Woods won by 15 shots. Then comes the British Open at St. Andrews, where he already has won twice by a combined 13 shots.

“His history is particularly good at those golf courses, “Goydos said. “If he goes through all those places and is not competitive, then you can ask questions.”

So many questions still remain.

Woods will not delve into family matters, although a divorce seems imminent. He spent some of his time at The Players Championship denying speculation that he is about to leave Hank Haney, his swing coach since 2004.

Haney said he had been paid last week for work in the next quarter. Woods followed by confirming that he was still working with Haney, although he didn’t go into specifics and spoke throughout the week about changes to his swing.

Meanwhile, it already is May and Woods is No. 122 on the PGA Tour money list. He is tied for 147th in the FedEx Cup standings. He will stay No. 1 in the world for the next two weeks, at least until Mickelson next plays at the Colonial and gets another shot at him.

Above all, he does not look like the same Tiger – and he’s certainly not playing like him.

“Tiger is facing his greatest challenge,” Hal Sutton said earlier in the week. “Tiger meets every challenge with his head held high and knowing that he will overcome. He’s had better control of his mind than almost any player I’ve ever watched play the game.

“You know, I’m sure Tiger will figure that out,” he said. “He’s figured everything else out.”

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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.

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Playoff streaks in jeopardy for Garcia, Haas

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:12 pm

Since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007, only 13 players have managed to make the playoffs each and every year. But two of the PGA Tour's stalwarts head into the regular-season finale with work to do in order to remain a part of that select fraternity.

Sergio Garcia has rarely had to sweat the top-125 bubble, but the Spaniard enters this week's Wyndham Championship 131st in the current standings. Left with even more work to do is former FedExCup winner Bill Haas, who starts the week in Greensboro 150th.

Garcia got off to a strong start in the spring, sandwiching a pair of top-10 finishes in WGC events around a fourth-place showing at the Valspar Championship. But quality results largely dried up after Garcia missed the cut at the Masters; he has made only two cuts in 10 Tour starts since April, including early exits in all four majors.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Garcia has some history at Sedgefield Country Club, having won this event in 2012 to break a lengthy U.S. victory drought. He also finished fourth in 2009 but hasn't played the Donald Ross layout since a T-29 finish as the defending champ in 2013.

It's been a difficult year for Haas both on and off the course, as the veteran was involved as a passenger in a car accident on the eve of the Genesis Open that killed the driver. He returned to action three weeks later in Tampa, and he tied for seventh at the RBC Heritage in April. But that remains his lone top-10 finish of the season. Haas has missed 11 cuts including three in a row.

While the bubble will be a fluid target this week at Sedgefield, Garcia likely needs at least a top-20 finish to move into the top 125 while Haas will likely need to finish inside the top 5.

One of the 13 playoff streaks is assured of ending next week, as Luke Donald has missed most of the year with a back injury. Other players to qualify for every Tour postseason include Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore.

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Airlines lose two sets of Olesen's clubs in 10 days

By Grill Room TeamAugust 15, 2018, 7:50 pm

Commercial airlines losing the golf clubs of a professional golfer is not exactly a groundbreaking story. It happens.

But European Tour pro Thorbjorn Olesen is on quite the roll, losing two sets of clubs and five suitcases in the span of 10 days.

Olesen, the reigning Italian Open champ, claimed his primary set of golf clubs were lost last week. Having little faith they'd be found before this week's Nordea Masters, he decided to bring his backup set for the event in Sweden.

A veteran move by the 28-year-old, unless, of course, those clubs were lost too. And wouldn't you know it:

After pestering the airlines with some A+ GIFs, Olesen was reunited with at least one of his sets and was back in action on Wednesday.

He also still plans on giving his golf bag away to some lucky follower, provided it's not lost again in transit. Something he's no longer taking for granted.

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Podcast: Brandel compares Tiger and Hogan's comebacks

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 15, 2018, 6:48 pm

Tiger Woods on Sunday at Bellerive recorded his seventh runner-up finish in a major and his first in nine years.

A favorite guest of the Golf Channel Podcast, Brandel Chamblee joins host Will Gray to compare and contrast Tiger's return to competitive golf with that of Ben Hogan and Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the 1950s.

Chamblee also discusses Brooks Koepka's major dominance, Bellerive as a major venue, Tiger and Phil as Ryder Cup locks, and who else might be in line to receive Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn's remaining captain's picks.

Finally, Brandel shares what it was it was like to qualify for the Senior Open Championship and compete for a major title on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Listen here: