When it comes to Tiger: Is it ever OK to quit?

By Jason SobelMarch 3, 2014, 10:40 pm

Have you ever sat through a job interview where the questioner maintains, “There is no right or wrong answer,” then grills you on your viewpoint, furiously taking notes the entire time? That’s how I feel about a persisting issue in golf that reared its ugly head once again this weekend.

As you know by now, Tiger Woods withdrew from the Honda Classic with five holes remaining in his final round because of lower back spasms. It was the sixth withdrawal of his 19-year professional career and fourth in the last five years.

On three of those occasions, he bowed out during the final round. These were final rounds which saw him out of contention and in pain, on the way to an uninspired T-37 finish or whatever, something invariably un-Tiger-like.

That’s hardly a pattern, but it can be considered a recurring theme.

His message, each time, was transparent: If I can’t win, then I’m not going to risk further injury by continuing to languish out here on the course.

Sounds like thoughtful, reasonable rationale. After all, there are really two things about the man that we know to be true: He only cares about winning and wants to peak four times each year for the major championships. Everything else is gravy. The justification that if he can’t win then he’s better off protecting himself for the majors is hardly misguided.

Then again, withdrawing early from a competition – in any sport, at any level – is expressly frowned upon. For a 14-time major champion who owes it to the tournament and his fans and his position as a role model, he should feel the responsibility to soldier on in the face of adversity, to grit it out until the bitter end.

And so this is the question that remains: Is it fair to withdraw when you’re hurting and have no chance of winning?

There’s no right or wrong answer – but don’t get it wrong anyway, just in case.

Immediately after Woods’ latest withdrawal, I searched what I’d written about Rory McIlroy exactly one year earlier after he’d left the Honda due to what he’d termed an impacted wisdom tooth.

“This is beyond poor form. This is quitting,” I wrote at the time. “This is the absolute opposite of what we expect and demand from our superstars. … The golf course may not be a rugged gridiron or a blood-spattered boxing ring, but we still want our best players to be tough. We want them to suck it up during the lean times. Take their lumps, get through it and move on.”

Shouldn’t the same logic be applied to Woods? Yes, I think, but with a bullet: You can’t exacerbate a toothache by continuing to play golf. A back injury, though, can indeed worsen.

Make no mistake, if Woods had been closer to the lead on Sunday afternoon we would have witnessed five more holes of stretching and wincing as he tried to capture a title. Sure, it was a half-dozen years ago, but the 2008 U.S. Open is still fresh in our minds, the image of an oft-doubled-over Tiger forging ahead on a torn ACL and multiple leg fractures to win a Monday playoff. It was the kind of performance they’ll make a movie about someday. It might not have been Ben Hogan returning from a near-fatal collision with a Greyhound bus, but it was pretty special in its own right.

More recently, we can look back to last year’s Barclays tournament. In contention, Woods fell to his knees after hitting an ugly pull-hook on the 13th hole, the result of a back spasm. He not only persevered, he carded two birdies down the stretch, then missed a putt on the final green that would have forced a playoff before shuffling off the course, barely able to lift his feet off the ground.

What that tells us is that he’s capable of competing through pain – and competing at a high level – but doesn’t feel the need when he’s not in contention.

We can also learn from Sunday’s withdrawal. The takeaway, once again, is that Tiger doesn’t care what the rest of us think. He doesn’t care if he gets castigated for packing it in, doesn’t care if he gets censured for not persevering as he’s done when in contention.

What he cares about – not necessarily in this order – is winning and remaining healthy for the major championships. The first wasn’t going to happen this time, so he left the course before the second was any more in doubt.

Was it the right move? Well, it depends if we’re speaking physically, technically, mentally, emotionally, morally or ethically. No matter what, though, there’s really no right or wrong answer.

Getty Images

Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

Getty Images

Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

Getty Images

Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

Getty Images

Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.