Tiger Makes Return a Scary Proposition

By George WhiteFebruary 17, 2003, 5:00 pm
It was the worst news you could deliver to the PGA Tour rank-and-file. Tiger Woods is back, and it looks like he is better than ever. If you are going to win this year, its best to do it the 25 or so tournaments where you wont see him ' Tigers still playing in only 20, right?
 
A lot of people ' myself included ' figured it might take two or three tournaments for Tiger to get the motor started and completely warmed up. It may, but Lord help us if it does. What he did in Southern California, to a pretty good field at the Buick Invitational, should have been witnessed by adults only. You dont want a child to see carnage like that.
 
We havent seen him alongside Ernie Els yet this season. Ernie won the first two on the U.S. tour, then high-tailed it the Pacific Rim. He has wreaked devastation every place hes been in 2003, winning four times and losing a fifth on the 72nd hole. That was supposed to be pretty good.
 
Tiger noticed ' you bet he did. But then he came out after nine weeks of surgical rehabilitation and blew away the field in San Diego. We didnt see Ernie there, but in a month or so, they will cross swords. It appears that Mr. Woods is not going to give up his wrist-lock on golfs top rung easily.
 
The knee appears to be fine. Does that mean that last years five-win season is only an aberration, a figure so puny that it would have been twice that amount if he were walking on two good pins? The knee appears sound and that can only mean more trouble to the tour clan, who were getting downright boisterous in Tigers absence.
 
I mean, hes in another league, said Arron Oberholser, who used to know Eldrick when Woods was still mortal. Hes in another league from Ernie, in my opinion.
 
Oberholser played junior golf with a young Tiger Woods. He can remember two times when he beat Woods. Well, he can only remember once, but he thinks there was another time. But those days are from another era, apparently, an era when a young Tiger was still beatable.
 
Oberholser addressed the media on Saturday, and he had just about already conceded the w. So he hit nine fairways (out of 24) and hes 8-under par ' OK? Thats good, he said, over-emphasizing something here.
 
News flash. I mean ' the rough is five inches, six inches in spots. I mean, the guy is a beast. Hes strong. I mean, he can maneuver his golf ball out of the rough, out of six-inch rough. Thats impressive.
 
Phil Inferior Equipment Mickelson isnt conceding ' God bless him. Phil is still thinking there has got to be a way to beat Woods, though at age 32, there has to be periods of doubt every now and then. But Mickelson bravely, staunchly, juts his chin out and trudges along, knowing that the day he lets his guard down and concedes that Tiger is better ' well, you know what happens next.
 
Tigers level of play - we all know that hes not a hundred percent this week. And yet, hes still atop the leaderboard, he said.
 
So that kind of tells us that we have a lot of or an area where we need to get better to keep pace.
 
Tiger WoodsUnfortunately, that is not always possible. There are a lot of areas in my game that I would have to improve to be on a par with Tiger ' areas that I could practice from now until I go to glory but will never reach. And neither will Mickelson ' though, to his credit, he refuses to concede. If he ever does, that is the day he will be playing only for second place.
 
I wanted that challenge, Mickelson of the final-group pairing with Woods. I wanted to have the opportunity to play with Tiger, and if you ever watch him or compete against him when hes in the final group and playing pretty good, hes very impressive. And I enjoy that challenge ' to try and catch him.
 
Theres no telling how many more tournaments Mickelson might have won were it not for Tiger ' no telling how history would have regarded him differently. But that is the story of the PGA Tour today. That has been the story the last five years, and it will be the story at least another 10 years. Tiger is simply Tiger, and there has never been another one like him.
 
Realted Links:
  • Full Coverage of the Buick Invitational
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    Rory 'convinced' driver is the play at burnt Carnoustie

    By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 6:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – There are two distinct schools of thought at this week’s Open Championship - that Carnoustie is either best played with a velvet touch and a measured hand off the tee, or that it makes sense to choose the hammer and hit driver whenever and wherever possible.

    Count Rory McIlroy in the latter camp.

    Although the Northern Irishman’s opening 2-under 69 may not be a definitive endorsement of the bomb-and-gouge approach, he was pleased with his Day 1 results and even more committed to the concept.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I’m convinced that that's the way that I should play it,” said McIlroy, who hit just 4 of 15 fairways but sits tied for eighth. “It's not going to be for everyone, but it worked out pretty well for me and I would have taken 69 to start the day.”

    From the moment McIlroy’s caddie, Harry Diamond, made a scouting trip to Carnoustie a few weeks ago, the 2014 Open champion committed himself to an aggressive gameplan, and there was nothing on Thursday that persuaded him to change.

    The true test came early on Thursday, with McIlroy sending his tee shot over the green at the 350-yard, par-4 third and scrambling for birdie.

    “That hole was a validation for me. It proved to me it’s the right way for me to play here. It was a little personal victory,” said McIlroy, who played his opening loop even but birdied Nos. 12 and 14 to move under par.

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    Report: USGA, R&A to 'severely restrict' green books

    By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 6:42 pm

    The detailed yardage books that many players rely on to help read greens at various tournaments could soon become a thing of the past.

    According to a Golfweek report, the USGA and R&A are poised to "severely restrict" the information offered to players in green-reading books, which currently include detailed visuals and specifics about the location and severity of slopes and contours on each putting surface. The change is expected to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

    Green-reading books have come under scrutiny in recent years as their use has increased, seen as both an enemy of pace of play and a tool that can take the skill out of reading the break on putts.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    "We believe that the ability to read greens is an integral part of the skill of putting and remain concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round," the R&A said in a statement. The USGA also reportedly issued a statement that they plan to update their review process on the books "in the coming weeks."

    Speaking to reporters after an opening-round 72 at The Open, Jordan Spieth seemingly implied that the rule change was all but official.

    "I don't think we're allowed to use them starting next year, is that right?" Spieth said. "Which I think will be much better for me. I think that's a skill that I have in green reading that's advantageous versus the field, and so it will be nice. But when it's there, certain putts, I certainly was using it and listening to it."

    According to the report, new language in the Rules of Golf is expected to address the presentation of the books and "end the current level of detail."

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    'Super 7' living – and loving – frat life in Carnoustie

    By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 6:32 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It’s not exactly “Animal House Scotland,” but it’s as close as the gentleman’s game allows itself to drift toward that raucous line.

    For the third consecutive year, some of golf’s biggest and brightest chose to set up shop on the same corner of the Angus coast, a testosterone-fueled riff session where feelings are never spared and thick skin is mandatory.

    Among the eclectic “Super 7” who are sharing two houses in Carnoustie this week are defending champion Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker and Kevin Kisner – a group that ranges in age from 24 (Spieth) to 42 years old (Johnson).

    The tradition, or maybe “guy’s week” is a better description, began in 2016 at Royal Troon when Spieth, Fowler, Thomas, Walker, Johnson and Dufner all roomed together. Kisner was added to the mix this year and instead of baseball – the distraction of choice in ’16 – the group has gone native with nightly soccer matches. Actually, the proceedings more resemble penalty kicks, but they seem to be no less entertaining.

    “I just try to smash [Dufner] in the face,” Kisner laughed. “He's the all-time goalie.”

    For the record, his flat mates will attest to Dufner’s abilities as a goalie, although asked about his chances to make the U.S. national team Thomas was reluctant to go that far.

    “As a U.S. citizen, I hope he does not make our team, but he's a pretty good backyard goalie,” Thomas said.



    The arrangement comes with a litany of benefits, from the camaraderie to the improved logistics of having so many VIPs under the same roof.

    “Honestly, it just makes everything really, really easy because there's a lot of cars going to and from the golf course. They know our address. We have food essentially at our beck and call. And we have friends. I mean, we have some women [wives] in there to keep the frat house somewhat in order,” Johnson said. “But I mean, every individual there is great. It's fun.”

    But this goes well beyond some random male bonding for what at the moment represents nearly one-third of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. This is a snapshot into a curious side of golf that’s as rare as it is misunderstood.

    Unlike team sports, golf is a lonely pursuit. A player can collect as many swing coaches, sports psychologists and handlers around them as they wish, but there’s a connection between athletes at this level that creates a unique flow of ideas that’s normally only present during the annual team events, be it a Ryder or Presidents cup.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    At this level, players talk a language only they understand that’s littered with the kind of insider give-and-take one would expect from PGA Tour winners and major champions. Between the two houses, which are adjacent to each other, there are eight major victories.

    “I have zero, so I don't know how many they have,” Kisner joked when asked about his accomplished roommates.

    Kisner is southern like sweat and sweet tea and can trade good-natured jabs with the best of them, but given the pedigrees assembled between the two houses he seems to understand the importance of listening.

    “Everybody is just really chill, and it's a lot of fun to be around those guys. There's a lot of great players. It's really cool just to hear what they have to say,” Kisner said. “Everybody's sitting around at night scratching their head on what club to hit off of every tee.”

    It’s worth pointing out that The Open winner has come from this group twice in the last three years, including 2017 champion Spieth, who took no small measure of inspiration from Johnson’s victory at St. Andrews in ’15.

    Nor is it probably a coincidence that four of those players now find themselves firmly in the mix and all within the top 20 at Carnoustie, including Kisner who will have bragging rights on Thursday night following a first-round 66 that vaulted him into the lead.

    “I probably get to eat first,” he smiled.



    In their primes, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player would occasionally share a house, they even vacationed together from time to time – you know, SB1K68 – but the practice fell out of favor for a few generations. It’s hard to imagine Greg Norman enjoying a friendly kick-about with any of his contemporaries and even harder to think that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson could share a cab ride, let alone a house for a week.

    Some say this type of fellowship is the product of a new generation who grew up playing junior golf against each other and logically took their bond to the big leagues, but that ignores the 40-somethings (Johnson and Dufner) in the frat.

    Maybe it’s a byproduct of America’s Ryder Cup rebuilding efforts or an affinity for non-stop one-liners and bad soccer. Or maybe it’s a genuine appreciation for what each of the “7” have to offer.

    “[Kisner] is good friends with all those guys, he likes to cut up and have a good time and talk trash. It’s a good little group,” said Kisner’s swing coach John Tillery. “This last year or two and the Presidents Cup and being on the teams with those guys has just escalated that.”

    Some seem to think these friendships run a little too deep. That sharing a bachelor pad and dinner for the week somehow erodes a player’s competitiveness. But if the “Super 7” have proven anything, other than American golfers probably aren’t the best soccer players, it’s that familiarity can be fun.

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    Foley helping Willett (69) emerge from dark times

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 6:23 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – After all of the dark places Danny Willett has occupied over the past 18 months, he wasn’t about to beat himself up Thursday.

    “As perfect as we try and be,” he said after a bogey-bogey finish gave him a 2-under 69, putting him three shots off the early lead at The Open, “you should remember the times that were terrible and go, Well, that’s not too bad.”

    There have been plenty of terrible times lately for Willett.

    Seemingly ever since that 2016 Masters breakthrough he’s been locked in golf purgatory, at times betrayed by his body, his swing and even his own brother.

    Willett began to break down not long after he won at Augusta, a tournament, not unlike The Open here in 1999, that’s destined to be remembered more for the player who lost (in this case, Jordan Spieth) than the one who executed all the shots Sunday and triumphed.

    Tournaments near and far wanted the Masters champion in their field, and Willett dutifully obliged, putting his slender frame under duress. First his back began to ache, making routine tasks like climbing out of bed and picking up his kids a chore. Then he blew out his shoulder, the pain eventually creeping into his neck. Trying to manage a body that wouldn’t cooperate, he recently told Press Association Sport that he was taking six painkillers a day, to little effect. With his game and body in disarray, his confidence needed a reboot, too, especially after his brother, P.J., posted a poor attempt at satire in the days leading up to the 2016 Ryder Cup. Already showing signs of decline, Willett withered under the spotlight at Hazeltine and needed more than a year to rebuild his self-belief.

    How dark were those times?

    “Pitch black,” he said. “Not a nice place to be.”

    Save for a scare in Italy (knee) and in a practice round here at Carnoustie (shoulder), Willett has mostly been injury-free for the past eight months, allowing him to dive headlong into some much-needed changes. Needing a fresh start, he blew out the entire team around him late last summer, tabbing swing coach Sean Foley to overhaul his swing.

    “He was quite battered,” Foley said.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    But Foley has a history of resurrecting players who have fallen on hard times, most famously Tiger Woods, with whom he began working in 2010, just a few months after his scandal. He’s also helped Sean O’Hair, Stephen Ames and Justin Rose find a swing that alleviates the discomfort in their backs.

    Willett’s fall was steeper, and more harrowing, but for Foley the challenge remained the same.

    “I guess I enjoy that in a way, because I’ve grown into a mentor as well as a coach,” he said. “They’ve been playing golf their whole life. They got good really quick, and when you get to the summit, there’s no oxygen and it’s really cold. Most climbers die when they go down a mountain instead of up it. These guys have never really struggled before.”

    Mentally and physically, on a 0-to-10 scale, Willett was a “0” when Foley first saw him at last year’s PGA.

    “When you know how good you can be, and you can’t get back to that point, that’s where they lose their mind,” Foley said. “The range can be a dangerous place to be.”

    And so they targeted some of the moves in Willett’s swing that were causing him pain and went to work. Success was slow, but Foley reminded him to celebrate some of the small victories along the way. Even when he missed eight of 10 cuts earlier this year, Willett took time to appreciate that he wasn’t taking painkillers, or that he didn’t need to spend an hour on the physio table, or that he was starting to grow more comfortable in left-to-right wind.

    “He’s a very charismatic guy, very upbeat, and I think with where I was, I really needed that,” Willett said. “We often have little jokes about where we were.”

    Listening to Willett, the cockiness that fueled his rise to the top 10 in the world is gone. Perhaps that’s what happens when just seven of his 54 rounds played on the European Tour last year were in the 60s.

    Even with three top-20s in his past five starts, rising from No. 462 to No. 320 in the world, he remains cautiously optimistic. Asked Thursday if the worst is behind him, he smiled: “You never know. But I’m pretty hopeful we’ll never be in as dark of a place as we were.”

    “Regardless of what the golf is and how the golf is,” he said, “it’s a lot better place to be.”