Woods forgiving Garcia would stun the world

By John FeinsteinMay 22, 2013, 7:45 pm

Almost everyone has a moment in life when something comes out of their mouth that they wish they could snatch out of the air and stuff back inside. It can be something said to a loved one or a friend in private. For public figures, it often happens with a microphone in front of them when they have to think on their feet.

That’s what happened to Sergio Garcia on Tuesday at the European Tour awards dinner. Golf Channel’s Steve Sands asked Garcia a question in jest about having dinner with Woods at next month’s U.S. Open and the words that came out of Garcia’s mouth: “We’ll have him round for dinner every night. We’ll cook him fried chicken,” can’t be snatched back.

Certain moments – both good and bad – follow public figures through their lives, right to the end. When Tom Kite finally won his major in 1992 in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach he said, “Well, at least now I know what the first line of my obituary will be.”

That was good news. This is not.

Bob Knight won 902 basketball games, three national championships and an Olympic gold medal. “The chair” incident will be near the top of his obit. LeBron James can win a dozen NBA titles in Miami and no one will let him forget “The Decision.” Bill Buckner was a borderline Hall of Fame baseball player. His error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series is in the first sentence of any story written about him – even though the game had already been tied.

Fuzzy Zoeller’s “fried chicken and collared greens” comment in 1997 will be right there in the first two paragraphs with his two major championships someday. Woods can win 100 major titles and his marital infidelities in 2009 will follow him if he lives to 2109.

That’s life. And legacy. Now, Garcia has his very unfortunate legacy and, no matter how often he apologizes, no matter how sincere he may be, it isn’t going away. Not now. Not soon. Not ever.

That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t apologize. He should do so in person to Woods because it is the right thing to do. The remark was, as he put it, 'stupid' and mean. Unlike Zoeller, who wasn’t being malicious, just remarkably insensitive, Garcia seemed malicious because, as everyone knows, he and Woods can’t stand one another.

One of the sadder aspects of all this – from Garcia’s point-of-view – is that he was holding his own with Woods in the verbal sparring match that began during the third round of The Players Championship. He’d even shown some self-awareness earlier in the day on Tuesday when he said Woods was probably right to call him a whiner.

But then, on Tuesday, he came to his verbal/social/cultural 17th hole at Sawgrass. He didn’t put two in the water, he put about a dozen in the water. And, unlike in the movie “Tin Cup” he didn’t finally hole out. He’s not dry yet and won’t be anytime soon.

Of course, as in all things, there are ways to make some amends. The public apology was a first step; a personal apology should come next. Then some public gestures – even if they will be seen as PR moves – would be both smart and the right thing to do. Maybe a large donation to the Tiger Woods Foundation with the money earmarked for public schools in Washington.

Those sorts of things are the best Garcia can do right now. Woods is never going to truly forgive him, but Garcia needs to try anyway. He might also want to consider some sensitivity training – for his own sake, not anyone else’s. The only good thing about a mistake is that it gives you a chance to think about why you made it. Athletes are always saying, “I can learn from this” in the wake of defeat. This was the biggest loss Garcia has ever suffered. He would do himself a favor if he tried to learn from it.

Woods has now won the battle, just as he won the golf tournament when Garcia melted down on the 17th at Sawgrass a few weeks ago. His initial tweet in response to Garcia’s gaffe was pure Woods: he put a few extra bullets into the body while it’s still twitching. He’s entitled to do that.

Now though, Woods has another great opportunity. He should, at least publicly, accept Garcia’s apology. He should say something like “God knows I’ve made mistakes in my life that I regret. I’ve asked people to forgive me and been fortunate that so many people have done so. Sergio’s asked me to forgive him. I told him I hope we can start again on Square 1 and show one another the respect – on and off the golf course – that all of us would like to have.”

That would be game, set, match Tiger.

In all likelihood, the thought of letting Garcia off the mat a little won’t cross Woods’ mind now. And, if it does cross the mind of his agent or PR person, they aren’t likely to voice it to their boss. Imagine it though: Tiger the Magnanimous. It would be the most stunning thing Woods has done since he made the putt on 18 at Torrey Pines in 2008 to force the U.S. Open playoff with Rocco Mediate.

And there would be one huge difference: No one was surprised when Woods made that putt. Almost everyone would be shocked if he made this gesture.

Garcia just left him with a tap-in to win a major that could have more meaning than any victory already on his resume.

Knock it in Tiger.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.