There is More Than Tiger

By John HawkinsMarch 23, 2010, 9:49 pm
When my wife asked what I’d be writing about this week, I gave her the standard, two-word reply (“dunno yet”), which isn’t to say she asks very often. This time, however, she had a suggestion. “You should do something on [Jim] Furyk,” she offered, an interesting proposal from someone who makes a beeline for the same way some of us dive at our morning coffee.
Jim Furyk
Jim Furyk's win in Tampa was overshadowed by Tiger Woods. (Getty Images)
It got me thinking. If someone who eats tabloid journalism for breakfast is getting tired of the Tiger Woods saga, what about the millions of folks who still think of him as a 14-time major champion? The last two PGA Tour events have been won by name-brand players (Ernie Els, Jim Furyk) who were in serious need of a victory to revitalize their careers. Tigergate dumped a giant pile of buzzkill on both Ws, first with the announcement that he’d return at the Masters, then by agreeing to a pair of five-minute interviews, one of which went to Golf Channel.

In the mainstream-sports universe, the triumphs of Els and Furyk basically vaporized before the trophy ceremonies were over. America’s infatuation with Woods’ adulterous dalliances isn’t the media’s fault, nor could one characterize it as all that bizarre. A lot of people will tell you they’re all Tigered out and have been for a while, but there they are at the water cooler, discussing the latest twist in a mysterious drama that has moved at a maddeningly slow pace, fueled outrageous levels of speculation and grown exponentially because it appeals to those who don’t care about golf.

It is a massive story whether you like it or not, the sheer size of it dwarfing everything that happens inside the ropes, which is both sad and unhealthy. Woods’ dominance as a golfer might have driven the game’s popularity, but it came with a dangerous downside – an alarming shortage of transcendent interest in the non-Tiger product. Golf is a niche sport to begin with. Without its best player, it becomes a struggling niche, and when that same guy is reeling in all the headlines without hitting a shot, you begin to realize the competitive element is doing very little to grab the public’s attention.

Woods will return for the Masters and TV ratings will go through the roof, and for five or six days, golf will thrive in the backdraft of Tiger’s comeback. It’s a sucker pin if one ever existed. Woods probably won’t be seen again until the Players, then perhaps six weeks later at the U.S. Open, and for lengthy periods between his appearances, the PGA Tour will fight to remain somewhat relevant.

There was a point earlier this season when Phil Mickelson was supposed to help us forget all about the fire hydrant and its intense reverberations. Philly Mick’s 2010 debut at Torrey Pines didn’t go as planned, however, and in five starts, his best finish is a tie for eighth. Nobody else moves the needle, not to the point where it will land a Honda Classic or even a World Golf Championship on SportsCenter before the first commercial break.

Els? Nice guy, 61 victories worldwide, including three major titles, and by virtue of his playing the best final round on the Tour this year to win at Doral, he became a really good story for the masses – the father of an autistic child who struggled after his return from knee surgery and has, more than anyone, had his career aspirations compromised by Woods’ greatness.

I wrote about Els the following day for this Web site, but a couple of hours before its schedule Tuesday posting, word of Woods’ plan to return at Augusta National surfaced. I immediately called my editor and asked him if he needed me to rewrite. He was good enough to let me make the call, and after a short deliberation, I told him I wanted the Els piece to run. It was about golf, about a deserved champion of a big tournament, and besides, there would be plenty of others who would weigh in on the Mother of all Comebacks.

John Hawkins appears on Golf Central every Tuesday at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and on the Grey Goose 19th Hole every Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.

My guess is, the Els story didn’t get nearly as many hits as the latest on Tigergate. I’m cool with that, although I definitely wish that wasn’t the case.

Furyk? Another nice guy, 14 victories on Tour, one of the most down-to-earth, “normal” dudes out there. He’s also one of the most consistent players of his generation, but Furyk’s triumph at Innisbrook last Sunday was his first since the summer of 2007. Right around the same time he was tapping in for a bogey to defeat K.J. Choi by a stroke, Woods was being seen on two networks taking questions for the first time since he smashed up his life Thanksgiving night.

Since he’s clearly in a blame-me mode these days, I suppose we could find Tiger at fault for monopolizing golf’s spotlight for the last four months. Just as the world’s best golfer should have thought twice about his illicit behavior, there are a lot of Tour pros he made wealthy who should have started beating him a long time ago.
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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''

Full-field scores from the Sanford International

Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

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Glover (64) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

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Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

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McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”