Woods still holds all the cards in world of golf
Ernie Els was upset, and this was after he won his match.
Upon hearing that Woods was to speak in the middle of the first World Golf Championship of the year, Els tried to choose his words carefully until he said to Golfweek magazine, “It’s selfish.” And that was putting it mildly.
Other players who felt just as strongly managed to bite their tongues, or at least ask that tape recorders be turned off.
Ian Poulter inquired about the scene at the TPC Sawgrass during his final match, and when it was suggested that the only new development was Woods being seen and heard, Poulter stretched out his arms as if to say, “There is nothing else to add.”
Not that someone didn’t try.
After winning the Match Play Championship – the biggest win of his career and his first victory on American soil – the Englishman dressed all in pink nearly turned red when he heard a question from the back of the room.
“Does the Tiger Woods drama take away or diminish this championship to you in any way, just the media attention?”
Poulter’s eyes widened and he stared for a second.
“Next question,” he replied.
Some players get tired of taking Tiger questions when he’s winning all the time. They don’t like them any more when he’s simply reading a statement into a camera.
The Golf Writers Association of America usually doesn’t get this worked up unless the shuttle bus at the U.S. Open is running late. Woods created a flurry of passionate opinions that led the group to reject an offer of three seats in the room where Woods spoke, lobby for more reporters, receive a compromise of six seats, then vote 19-3 (with four abstentions) not to participate.
Could this all have been avoided? Woods said he was on a break from therapy (without saying what kind of therapy) and was to return the next day. Even if he had waited until the tournament was over, and had spoken on Monday, it still would have meant notifying everyone on Saturday – and that would have stolen attention away from Poulter’s 7-and-6 semifinal victory over Sergio Garcia.
In the end, the resentment was over Woods still calling the shots. Most agree that he should have lost that right through so many selfish decisions that culminated with a sordid sex scandal, which brought disgrace to his family and damage to a sport that made him who he is, or was. It may be years before the extent of that damage is known.
His management team could have diffused some of the resentment by making more clear what this event was all about. The first word was an e-mail to say Woods was going to speak to a small group of associates and friends, and while it was not an open media event, “it is understood that there are many media who are interested in what he has to say.”
Then came word that pool reporters – three wire services, three picked by the GWAA – would not be allowed to ask questions. It appeared to be another outrageous attempt to control the media.
For now, however, Woods does have the right to speak on his terms. He is not playing golf.
That day is coming, even if no one knows when. Woods only said that he would not rule out him playing this year. Once he returns to the PGA Tour, the only control he has over the media is what he chooses to answer. He can say he won’t discuss his personal life. That won’t stop the questions, and dodging them won’t do him any good.
Former Masters chairman Hootie Johnson chose to speak to only five reporters during the nine months that Martha Burk became part of the golf vernacular with her campaign for Augusta National to have a female member.
Johnson was flanked by 60 members in green jackets when he spoke for the first time on the Wednesday before the 2003 Masters. He concluded his opening remarks by saying, “I will have nothing further to add about our membership or related issues.” Then came more than 30 questions related to the controversy, and Johnson answered them all (just not to the media’s liking).
The Masters has tight restrictions on the media that gets a credential, just not the questions they ask.
The ultimate question – whenever he decides to play – is how Woods chooses to answer them.
Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.
The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.
Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.
''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''
Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.
McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.
''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.
Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.
''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''
Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.
Glover (64) leads Web.com Tour Championship
ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Web.com Tour Championship.
The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.
''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''
Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.
Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.
''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''
Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Web.com Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.
''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.
The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.
Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.
Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.
Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.
Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game
ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.
“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.
Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.
“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”
Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.
Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.
“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.
McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68
ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.
In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.
“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”
McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.
“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”