Hello, again

By Rex HoggardAugust 31, 2011, 3:43 pm

NORTON, Mass. – It’s been 15 years of high-fives and histrionics. Fifteen years, 71 PGA Tour titles and 14 majors for those scoring at home. Fifteen years since he stepped to a microphone in middle America and announced brashly, “Hello, world.”

At the time it seemed like a bit much. Sure, young Eldrick had won the amateur game’s double trifecta (three U.S. Junior titles and three U.S. Amateurs), but in 14 events in the Big Leagues he’d managed just a single top-25 finish and missed more cuts (nine) than he’d made. Arm-chair analyst liked what they saw and the kid certainly had potential, but “Hello, world?”

Without the need of ad nauseam detail, it is safe to say Woods carried the 250-yard hyperbole cross bunker his bold announcement created by a comfortable margin, but on that warm August day at Brown Deer Park Golf Club in Milwaukee “Hello, world” must have sounded as impetuous as it was ill-advised.

But then he won his fifth and seventh starts as a play-for-pay type, advanced to the 1996 Tour Championship and never looked back, or at least he never let on that he’d allowed himself such self-indulgent moments of reflection. Those who make history rarely do.

Over the last 24 months, however, Woods has embraced varying doses of the three “Rs,” rehabilitation, reclusiveness and, yes, maybe even reflection.

On Wednesday’s ‘Morning Drive’ Woods was asked his thoughts on the anniversary of “Hello, world.” His answer was surprisingly telling.

“Life is very difficult,” he allowed.

A less-reflective Woods would have cut the scene and faded to black on that note, but the guy who is three years removed from his last major championship, two years – next week, adrift of his last Tour title and still dogged by a sex scandal and ensuing divorce pressed on.

“When I first walked on that tee I didn’t realize the magnitude of what I was embarking on,” Woods said. “It was something that was eye opening, that was something that took some time getting used to. I made some mistakes in the process, but it’s been a lot of fun to chase your dreams.”

That he didn’t short-arm the question with a ready-to-use cliché says more about the state of Woods’ mind, if not his game, than any number of “reps” he will get in before the end of the year.

Observers will conclude that U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples “strong armed” Woods into adding a Fall Series start to his schedule, but there seems little chance he would be so accommodating if the mind wasn’t willing.

Why the Frys.com Open? Why not?

“I wanted to play another event. I had taken a lot of time off. It’s something I told the commissioner I’d play an event I normally didn’t play in the past and it worked out great,” Woods said from the NB3 Foundation Challenge at Turning Stone Resort in New York.

Although the decision will be extensively dissected, the truth is, Woods is playing the Frys.com Open because he can, not because he wants to make Freddie’s team or gain some world ranking points. He’s playing the Northern California event because the swing that works in his south Florida lab is still a coloring-by-the-numbers experiment when he takes it to the Tour pitch, as evidenced by his play at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (T-37) and PGA Championship (missed cut).

Maybe the most encouraging tidbit from Wednesday’s Q&A is that he’s playing because his body will let him. A left leg with more medical baggage than a back-up quarterback for the Colts is cooperating after years of dysfunction.

“I’ve been hurt for a very long time. Back to 2007 when I ruptured my ACL, it was a very tough road,” Woods said. “It’s been years since I actually felt good. Sometimes you get out of bed in the morning and it’s tough. Now it’s fun, I can spring out of bed and go to practice.”

On Wednesday, Woods’ former Stanford teammate Notah Begay III, a rare constant in Woods’ life long before “Hello, world,” was asked his thoughts on the anniversary: “He transcended the game like not many other athletes have done,” Begay said.

And now Woods continues to captivate, and polarize, like few in professional sport can. Blogdom watches and weighs in every time he steps to a microphone with precious few opinions populating the middle ground. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of the times, but the golf world appears split between the “he’s done” and the “he’s back” camps, with little or no interest in between.

This Q&A felt strangely similar to that 1996 media meet-and-greet in Milwaukee. “Hello, world,” so pretentious given the facts of the moment, now seems perfectly apropos. This time there was no marketing-perfect message, just a quiet calm. Healthy? Yep. Hungry? Nothing else explains his first Fall Series start?

Fifteen years ago, Woods called his shot from a similar podium and never looked back. Given his history at the microphone there’s no reason to think this time is going to be any different.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.