Questions Asked and Answered

By Rex HoggardApril 6, 2010, 12:53 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The next time Tiger Woods takes to a microphone he will do so to talk about golf, and that – regardless of how we got here – is progress.

It’s not as though Woods gave up the goods or, with a few exceptions, stunned the assembled scribes Monday afternoon in a packed Masters media center with revelations beyond those already in the public realm. He stayed on topic regarding the Nov. 27 bumper car incident that ignited the nastiest media free-for-all in the history of the ancient game.

Nor did he reveal why exactly he spent 45 days in therapy. “That’s a personal matter, please,” was his only line in a bunker filled for too long with mud.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods at his Monday Masters press conference. (Getty Images)
But he was genuine, at least to those who have watched him cliché his way through too many interviews in recent years. He was also forthcoming about a great many items of interest.

Canadian Dr. Anthony Galea may end up haunting Woods like BALCO haunts shamed slugger Barry Bonds, but on Monday before a packed house of scribes Woods did something Bonds has never done. Answer the question.

Why choose a Canadian doctor, who is not licensed to practice medicine in Florida and has a history of HGH use, when any number of physicians could have administered the same procedure?

“He never gave me HGH or any (performance-enhancing drugs). I've never taken that my entire life. I've never taken any illegal drug, ever, for that matter,” said Woods, who explained he underwent a procedure called platelet-enriched plasma treatments to help his knee mend and for an Achilles injury to his right leg he sustained in December 2008.

Why was he taken to an Ocoee, Fla., hospital after smashing his SUV into a neighborhood hedge, tree and fire hydrant on Nov. 27?

“I had a busted up lip and pretty sore neck. Had to have five stitches,” he said.

For 33 minutes Woods fielded 39 questions from 34 different reporters. For 33 minutes the man who distastes media incursions into his personal life so much he named his yacht “Privacy,” answered, if not every question, than at least a number of queries that mattered.

There will be more uncomfortable moments in the weeks and months ahead. On Monday Woods revealed his manager – IMG’s Mark Steinberg, who watched Monday’s proceedings intently from the back of the room – has been contacted by federal authorities about Galea.

Woods also let it be known that his wife, Elin, would not be at Augusta National this week, a bad sign for the marriage some surmised.

But that, like much of the last five months, is Woods’ personal life. What mattered on Monday was how Woods was going to get on with the rest of his professional life.

It seemed strangely telling that Woods admitted to being more nervous teeing off in the morning dew, and the reception he would get from the Augusta National faithful, than he did prior to his first mass media Q&A.

“(The patrons) blew me away,” Woods smiled. “Today that touched my heart pretty good.”

Alongside fan favorite Fred Couples, Woods’ first official practice round of the year had a Bizarro World feel to it – a Sunday capacity crowd with a distinct Monday vibe.

Couples was beloved, while Augusta National’s patrons seemed to want to like Tiger again, but they need time. And that’s a start. There is still an appreciation, but only at arm’s length.

The entire affair had a first-day-of-school feel to it, surreal and subdued. After five months of drama, what does one say to break the ice?

For Couples that answer was easy.

“We had a lot of laughs,” Couples said. “Most of them were about me.”

There wasn’t much for Woods to laugh about afterward, however. Or over the last five months, for that matter. Rampant media speculation is one thing. Stolen moments that can never be reclaimed are an entirely different animal.

“I missed my son’s first birthday in rehab,” Woods admitted. “That hurt. Hurt a lot, and I vowed never to let that happen again.”

The cynic will dismiss Monday’s showing as a well-scripted delivery. The scribe will default to the world No. 1’s actions, not his words, to decide if the born-again Buddhist is on a new path. But the golf fan will walk away from Woods’ 33 rugged minutes and give the man the benefit of the doubt.

Of all Woods’ revelations on Monday, perhaps the most telling came when he was asked his feelings regarding Thursday’s opening round.

“That first tee, I'm looking forward to it. I haven't looked forward to that tee shot in a long time, not like this. It feels fun again.,” Woods smiled. “That's something that's been missing. Have I been winning, have I been competing, have I been doing well? Yeah, I have.  I've won numerous times the last few years but I wasn't having anywhere near the amount of fun. Why?  Because look at what I was engaged in.”

Black Friday begat Monster Monday. What’s next largely depends on Woods. But having fun is always a start.


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Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

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It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”