Tiger's Catch 22

By Jason SobelOctober 10, 2011, 2:06 pm

Maybe it’s the nature of our instant-gratification society. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s such a polarizing figure. Whatever the case, every time Tiger Woods produces a single maneuver on the golf course, the masses are quick to either proclaim, “He’s back!” or, “He’s done!”

These declarations often aren’t proffered after witnessing the sum total from an entire golf tournament or even a full round. They can be pronounced on a shot-by-shot basis. A stiffed iron shot means “he’s back”; a wayward drive means “he’s done.” Even the stock market doesn’t see that kind of volatility.

It’s all a matter of opinion, of course, and following Woods’ tie for 30th at the Frys.com Open this past weekend, the two camps remain as divided as ever.

I believe Woods is going to win again. I’m certain of it. OK, fairly certain. At least, I think I’m fairly certain.

Excuse the vacillating, but I thought Tiger was “back” when he returned to competition at last year’s Masters and finished in a share of fourth place. And again when he posted five birdies on the back nine in the third round of last year’s U.S. Open. And when he peeled off a final-round 65 at the Australian Masters. And when he blistered Francesco Molinari in their Ryder Cup singles match.

He’s put together glimpses of the past in individual swings and putts, in multiple-hole stretches, even during full rounds. In his most recent appearance, he performed admirably for multiple rounds, following an opening 2-over 73 with three consecutive identical scores of 68. Afterward, he was predictably upbeat about what it all meant.

“I got better every day,” said Woods, who finished the week tied for seventh in total birdies. “And I hit a lot of good putts the last three days, which is good, and it was nice to make that adjustment there on the putting green after Thursday's round. I felt very comfortable, and I just need to keep staying the course. The game's coming.”

Now the $1 million question – literally – may revolve less around “if” than “when” the erstwhile No. 1-ranked player will once again reach the winner’s circle.

Here’s my theory: It will come when we least expect it, when nobody is paying agonizingly close attention to him, when there is far less scrutiny on his every machination than there is right now.

The only problem? We still haven’t reached the point where Tiger teeing it up isn’t a major news story in itself, independent of how he actually fares. While many observers will contend that shouldn’t be the case, it’s simple supply and demand. More coverage of Woods’ rounds is demanded and so the various media outlets supply the content.

Makes sense, too. If his career is a three-hour movie, we’re only 90 minutes into it right now. The second half may be a triumph over self-infused adversity or a tragic drama. Either way, nobody is walking out of the theater just yet.

All of which makes it even more intriguing to focus on Woods. Playing under the intense spotlight is no problem when you’re hitting 300-yard drives on a string and holing everything inside 20 feet, but it can burn when the going gets tough. Despite dropping to 52nd in the world and failing to win a title in nearly two full years, he still draws the largest crowds on the PGA Tour.

Heck, players not named Tiger don’t have hot dogs thrown at them in the middle of rounds – and yes, that happened to Woods on Sunday.

While he may be accustomed to life under the microscope – both on and off the course – it has to pose a greater problem than it would for most other pros who could work through struggles with their games in comparative anonymity.

Two months ago, when Woods returned to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after a three-month absence due to injury, I asked him whether he was ever surprised at the large galleries that continue to follow him, even when his A-game hasn’t followed him to the course.

“I think it's great they just came out, period,” he said. “It's great to have them come out and support the event. This is a big event, and whether they're following me or someone else, it's great to have them out here.”

Great? Sure, but likely not beneficial to the cause. I’ve always believed that whenever Tiger is playing, there are not only more distractions, but it becomes a more stressful situation, with increased fans, media, security and – as a result – greater tension.

It’s not an easy environment in which to play proficient golf, which may have more to do with Tiger’s previous domination over playing partners than any perceived “intimidation factor.” Even for a guy accustomed to that spotlight, trying to regain his former elite status in front of discerning eyes must be an exceedingly difficult task.

End result? Consider it the ultimate Catch-22. Woods may not return to his previous form until the spotlight dims, but there’s no sign of anyone shining it away from him anytime soon.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.