2014 Newsmaker No. 3: Tiger Woods

By Jason SobelDecember 18, 2014, 12:00 pm

If there was ever a single snapshot which could vividly illustrate Tiger Woods’ domain as the most polarizing and prominent figure in golf, it occurred on the afternoon of Aug. 6 in the Valhalla Golf Club parking lot – and he wasn’t even there.

One day before the start of the PGA Championship – and just three days after he’d withdrawn from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a recurring back injury – Woods’ parking space was surrounded by a few dozen television crews and reporters, all eagerly awaiting his expected arrival. As they affixed their lenses on the empty spot, the game’s No. 1-ranked player emerged. Carrying the claret jug and wearing a bemused grin on his face, Rory McIlroy surveyed the scene and strode past without so much as a double-take from the awaiting throng.

Now, it can be argued that this scene is more of a statement on the media’s obsession with Woods than that of the public, but I’d argue in return that such attention is simply a reflection on overall interest. Call it the law of supply and demand. If the public didn’t demand this type of coverage, the media wouldn’t supply it.

During a year in which Woods failed to add to his major championship total, didn’t win, didn’t claim a top 10, dropped to 29th in the world, missed three months after undergoing microdiscectomy surgery and still remained a headliner in more ways than one, it was a stark reminder that, as one of my colleagues so deftly puts it, he doesn’t move the needle. He is the needle.

All of which has resulted in Woods becoming Golf Channel’s No. 3 Newsmaker of 2014.

This announcement should come as less of a surprise than just about anything else in Woods’ ever-changing world this year.

2014 Newsmakers: 4. Social Media | 5. Bishop | 6. Wie7. Reed8. R&A9. Bubba | 10. DJ | Honorable mentions

Fresh off a five-win season, many predicted this would be the year Woods finally inched closer to Jack Nicklaus’ all-time major record and once again asserted his dominance over the ever-expanding field of elite-echelon players. It never had a chance to happen, though.

His first start of the year came at Torrey Pines, a course on which he’s won eight times as a pro. A third-round 80 kept him from making the secondary cut. The next week he competed in Dubai, with only a marginally better result – a share of 41st place.

And that was actually the good news.

Woods withdrew from the Honda Classic with that aforementioned back injury. He gutted his way through a painful final round at Doral. Following surgery and ensuing recovery, he returned to miss the cut at his own Quicken Loans National, then finish T-69 at the Open Championship, WD at Firestone and MC at the PGA – a maelstrom of unfortunate alphabet soup.

If his on-course performance – or lack of it – wasn’t enough to grab attention, then the never-ending news cycle swirling around him certainly was.

Hardly a week went by when there wasn’t some tidbit of varying newsworthiness emanating from Camp Woods.

After the PGA, he announced he’d take himself out of Ryder Cup consideration. Then he severed ties with swing coach Sean Foley and hired “consultant” Chris Como.

He went into the restaurant business. He went on “The Tonight Show.” He signed endorsement deals with Muscle Pharm and Hero. He flamed author Dan Jenkins for a satirical column. He opened the first course from his design business.

He was even in the news when it wasn’t him causing it. His former coach Hank Haney said he was too muscular. Fellow player Graeme McDowell insisted he’s lost his invincibility. Rory McIlroy claimed he’s on the back nine of his career.

Toward the end of the year, following a four-month layoff, Woods returned. With a new sponsor, a new (for one year only) venue and a new reason for optimism, he competed in the Hero World Challenge at Isleworth, home to his former residence. While his swing looked better than it had all year, his short game resembled a high-handicapper’s, as he duffed nine chip shots during four rounds that left him in a share of last place when it was over.

As he slammed the trunk on a lost year from a performance perspective, words he uttered just before that final event still echoed.

“Father Time is undefeated,” he said. “We all eventually are losing some of the things we are able to do when we were younger.”

When he returns in 2015, Woods will again be chasing his former self, trying to turn back the clock on a career that was stuck in neutral this year.

Whether he can accomplish that remains perilously in doubt. The only thing we know for certain is that when the next year ends, win or lose, he’ll undeniably be one of the game’s top newsmakers once again.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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After Further Review: American success stories

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray

On the resurgence of American women  ...

American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.




Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”

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Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

"Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

"I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

"I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."