Player Reaction to Tiger

By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2010, 11:47 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureMARANA, Ariz. – Just past 9 a.m. (MT), adjacent the Dove Mountain men’s locker room, a room full of reporters, caddies and PGA Tour officials gathered in a posh enclave complete with three flat-screens and three pots of coffee.

As if on cue, Tim Clark ambled by just as Tiger Woods launched into his much-anticipated mea culpa with the words, “I’m really sorry.” With that the most curious year in golf history came full circle.

From the match play giant slayer straight to the metaphorical slain giant.

It was 12 months ago Woods ignited the Dove Mountain pre-dawn practice tee when he returned from eight-months of physical rehabilitation. On Friday it was a rehab of a different sort he was emerging from and a buzz of an entirely different genre.

Forty-five minutes after Clark, who put a premature end to Woods’ storybook comeback last year with his second-round upset of the world No. 1, strolled back through the TV room, fresh from the physio table and, as hard as it may have been to believe, oblivious to the goings on offered, “Is it on again?” as the taped event was replayed.

It will be “on” for some time, because for all the questions Woods answered on Friday there still remain many left unanswered.

From performance-enhancing drugs to domestic abuse, Woods covered a lot of ground in his 13 odd minutes at the podium.

Talking point No. 1, given the venue, was why Woods had to make this announcement on Friday of WGC-Match Play week, curious timing given his broken relationship with Accenture that drew the ire of some players.

The answer: After 45 days of in-patient therapy Woods admitted he had to talk on Friday because he was returning to therapy on Saturday. “I have a long way to go,” Woods said.

“I thought Tiger was very humble,” Ben Crane said. “We all love him and want to see what’s best for him.”

Players, many of whom are closet golf fans, also wanted to know when, or if, Woods will return to the Tour fray. For that Woods offered only an ambiguous, “I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don’t know when that day will be.”

Butch Harmon, the Tour swing coach who worked with Woods earlier in his career, was not confident that “that day” would be this year.

“He did say he’d like to play this year,” Harmon said. “That leads me to believe he probably won’t be back this year.”

For Stewart Cink the question is an exercise in futility: “For me to try to get inside his head and figure out when he’s coming back is impossible. I can’t do that. I’ve tried to do that on the golf course many times.”

And of course Woods made a plea for privacy, saying, “I understand people have questions. I understand the press wants to ask me details. Every one of these questions and answers are between me and my wife.”

Harmon, however, was more realistic.

“The idea he’s going to stand there and not get questions asked is a little ridiculous,” Harmon said.

The rest, at least for a circuit gutted by the distraction that began with a simple fender-bender outside Woods’ Isleworth home, is window dressing, at least to Tour types.

Perhaps the most telling moment occurred after Woods had completed his prepared statement and following an emotional embrace of his mother when he offered Tour commissioner Tim Finchem a handshake and the stunned commish remained seated before offering what appeared to be a confused hand.

“I do plan to return to golf one day,” can’t be what Finchem envisioned when he offered the use of the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse just as things were getting interesting at what is billed as one of the Tour’s marquee events.

But then therapy, a true sign more so than all his words of Woods’ humanity, is as good a reason as any to supplant the WGC spotlight, and maybe Ernie Els’ pointed comments regarding the timing of the event were overly harsh given the uncertainty of it all.

“It's selfish,” Els said on Wednesday. “You can write that. I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament.”

On Friday he wasn’t around Dove Mountain, having lost his second-round match on Thursday to Retief Goosen, but it is a safe bet he was watching. Just as Clark was watching. And what they saw was a different Tiger. A Tiger that was contrite and emotional and sincere. It was a far cry from the cold, on-course assassin we are used to seeing.

“He tried to be as sincere as Tiger Woods can be,” Harmon said.

And at an event that had the feel of an early step in a 12-step program, that’s a good start.

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Bhatia loses U.S. Am match after caddie-cart incident

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 2:21 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the hottest players in amateur golf had his U.S. Amateur run end Wednesday under unusual circumstances.

Akshay Bhatia, the 16-year-old left-hander who has been dominating the junior golf circuit over the past year, squandered a late lead in his eventual 19-hole loss to Bradford Tilley in the Round of 64.

Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.

“The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”

Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.

It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.

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Even more interesting was what Darnell said happened earlier in the match.

“I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

Bhatia won the 15th hole to go 1 up, but lost the 17th and 19th holes with bogeys to lose the match. He didn’t blame the outcome on the cart incident.  

“What can you do? I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play in this tournament, so I’m not too upset about it,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I deserved to win that match. That wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., has been a dominant force in the junior ranks, going back-to-back at the Junior PGA (including this dramatic hole-out), capturing the AJGA Polo, taking the Sage Valley Invitational and reaching the finals of the U.S. Junior.

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1, 2, 3 out: Thornberry, Suh, Morikawa lose at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 1:14 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach.

Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.

Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.

Suh and Morikawa could have played each other in the Round of 32, but instead they were both heading home early.

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

Suh, a junior at USC, never led in his 1-up loss to Harrison Ott, while Cal's Morikawa lost to another Vanderbilt player, John Augenstein, in 19 holes.

Englishman Matthew Jordan is the fourth-ranked player in the world, but he didn’t make the 36-hole stroke-play cut.

The highest-ranked player remaining is Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland, who is ranked fifth. With his college coach, Alan Bratton, on the bag, Hovland beat his Cowboys teammate, Hayden Wood, 3 and 2, to reach the Round of 32.

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Fiery Augenstein outduels Morikawa at U.S. Amateur

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 12:55 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Around the Vanderbilt golf team John Augenstein’s nickname is “Flash,” and it’s easy to see why.

The swing loaded with speed.

The on-course charisma.

The big shot in the big moment.

The Commodores junior added another highlight to his growing collection Wednesday, when he defeated world No. 3 Collin Morikawa in 19 holes during a Round of 64 match at the U.S. Amateur.

Out of sorts early at Pebble Beach, Augenstein was 2 down to Morikawa after butchering the short seventh and then misplaying a shot around the green on 8.

Standing on the ninth tee, he turned to Vanderbilt assistant coach/caddie Gator Todd: "I need to play the best 10 holes of my life to beat Collin."

And did he?

“I don’t know,” he said later, smirking, “but I did enough.”

Augenstein won the ninth hole after Morikawa dumped his approach shot into the hazard, drained a 30-footer on 10 to square the match and then took his first lead when he rolled in a 10-footer on 14.

One down with three holes to go, Morikawa stuffed his approach into 16 while Augenstein, trying to play a perfect shot, misjudged the wind and left himself in a difficult position, short and right of the green. Augenstein appeared visibly frustrated once he found his ball, buried in the thick ryegrass short of the green. He told Todd that he didn’t think he’d be able to get inside of Morikawa’s shot about 6 feet away, but he dumped his pitch shot onto the front edge, rode the slope and trickled it into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

“Come on!” he yelled, high-fiving Todd and tossing his wedge at his bag.

“It was beautiful,” Todd said. “I’m not sure how he did that, but pretty cool that it went in.”  

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

Morikawa answered by making birdie, then won the 17th with a par before both players halved the home hole with birdies.

On the first extra hole, Augenstein hit his approach to 15 feet while Morikawa left it short. Morikawa raced his first putt by 6 feet and then missed the comebacker to lose the match.

It may not have been the best 10-hole stretch of Augenstein’s career, but after that pep talk on 9 tee, he went 4 under to the house.

“He’s a fiery little dude,” Morikawa said of his 5-foot-8-inch opponent. “You don’t want to get him on the wrong side because you never know what’s going to happen. He’s not going to give shots away.”

The first-round match was a rematch of the Western Amateur quarterfinals two weeks ago, where Augenstein also won, that time by a 4-and-2 margin.

“It’s the most fun format and where I can be my true self – emotional and aggressive and beat people,” Augenstein said.

That’s what he did at the 2017 SECs, where he won the deciding points in both the semifinals and the finals. He starred again a few weeks later at the NCAA Championship, last season went 3-0 in SEC match play, and now has earned a reputation among his teammates as a primetime player.

“I’ve hit a lot of big shots and putts in my career,” said Augenstein, ranked 26th in the world after recently winning the Players Amateur. “I get locked in and focused, and there’s not a shot that I don’t think I can pull off. I’m not scared to fail.”

The comeback victory against Morikawa – a three-time winner last season at Cal and one of the best amateurs in the world – didn’t surprise Todd. He’s seen firsthand how explosive Augenstein can be on the course.

“He’s just fiery,” Todd said. “He does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to do. He’s just a special kid.”

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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.