Fellow Tour pros excited for return of Woods 'circus'

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 7, 2016, 7:25 pm

CARMEL, Ind. – After Rory McIlroy finished his pro-am round at Crooked Stick, he rummaged through his golf bag and saw a notification on his cellphone from the PGA Tour.

Tiger Woods is hopeful to return at the Safeway Open.

“I’m sort of glad I’m not there that week,” McIlroy said with a smile. “It’s going to be a bit of a circus.”

Yes, it always is with Woods, who showed yet again Wednesday that he is the only player on Tour capable of hijacking a tournament – even when he’s not in the field.  

Most players who finished their day’s work at the BMW Championship were greeted behind the final green by their manager, who gleefully shared the news of the day – that Woods hopes to play as many as three events before the end of the year, beginning with the season opener next month in Napa, Calif.

Justin Thomas apparently didn’t get the memo until he was informed by a reporter, but he was no less enthused.

“Really?!” he said. “Wow, that’s awesome. I’m so pumped.”

It has been more than a year since Woods played a competitive round. Since last August, Jason Day has risen to No. 1 in the world, first-timers captured all four majors and Nike exited the golf-equipment business. These days, the only guy who wins in a red shirt and black slacks is Patrick Reed.

“At a time when your Nikes of the world and your TaylorMades and the world of golf is in decline, and you get Tiger Woods coming back,” Graeme McDowell said, “it can only say positive things about the sport. It’s great.”

Especially for the Tour. Woods helped spawn the most lucrative era in professional golf history; the winner this week will receive $1.53 million, with the potential for an $11.44 million haul next week in Atlanta. But more than the influx of cash, Woods transformed golf’s image from a stodgy game played by the elite into a physical pursuit for athletes. The proof each week is on the range, which is now overflowing with muscle-bound 20-somethings who could have thrived as a safety or small forward.

Fans continue to flock to Woods’ group, even if he is playing poorly, just to catch a glimpse. Last year’s Wyndham set attendance records on the weekend; it helped, of course, that Woods began the final round two shots off the lead before settling for a tie for 10th, his best result in a miserable season.  


BMW Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“He brings an aura and an atmosphere that no one else in golf can bring,” McIlroy said.

Added McDowell: “No disrespect to Rory, Jordan (Spieth), Jason (Day) or Dustin (Johnson), because I think we’ve got an unbelievable crop of young talent that are incredible role models for the sport and give the game a real appeal, but no one moves the needle like Tiger Woods. He’s the only one who transcended the sport.”

McDowell is a major champion who holed the clinching putt at a Ryder Cup, but he said one of the highlights of his career was when he stared down Woods at Sherwood in 2010. Keep in mind that the World Challenge is an 18-man exhibition in December, when players are mostly interested in collecting cheap world-ranking points and cash for the holidays.

“I’ve always found him great to play with – it brings weekend focus right away,” McDowell said. “The show that goes with him is incredible.”

Among the players, at least, expectations for Woods’ return remain low. (The same likely can’t be said for the sports public at large.) He hasn’t struck a meaningful shot in more than a year. It’s reasonable to assume that Woods wouldn’t come back if he was at risk of embarrassing himself, but it’ll take time – days, weeks, months – to hone his scoring skills once again.

“The game is so tight with how competitive it is and how hard it is to win,” Day said. “I don’t think winning is going to come as easily as it was for him back in the past. But I think if he’s willing to do the work, and he’s willing to climb that mountain again and get back to where he was, then the possibilities are endless for him.”

At least one thing is certain: When Woods returns next month, the rest of the Tour will be watching.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

Anxiety.

Frustration.

Anger.

Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”

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Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

"Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

"I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

"I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

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Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

"Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

"I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."