Woods' bad back could hinder Masters prep

By Ryan LavnerMarch 2, 2014, 10:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – OK, now there is legitimate reason for concern: Tiger Woods’ worst start to a season just got markedly worse.

Questions about the state of his game heading into the year’s first major morphed into serious doubts about his short- and long-term health Sunday after the world No. 1 withdrew after 13 poorly played holes at the Honda Classic.

There were signs of trouble early and often at PGA National. Even before teeing off in the final round Woods was stretching and twisting his lower back. Afterward, in a statement, he confirmed that the injury had caused him discomfort since his warm-up on the range.

Then, after walking off the ninth green, he stopped and talked for about 15 seconds with girlfriend Lindsey Vonn, who had slipped inside the ropes. It was an unusual exchange in the middle of a round, and in hindsight it’s reasonable to assume they were discussing his health and a possible exit strategy.

About an hour later, Vonn was seen hobbling through the parking lot with Woods’ 5-year-old son Charlie. Soon after, and with the media waiting nearby, Woods was dropped off in a white van. He chatted briefly with his spokesman, Glenn Greenspan, before slowly heading toward the passenger seat of a black Mercedes SUV.

Oh, just a reminder: The Masters is only 39 days away.

Back spasms was the official reason for his withdrawal. The severity of the injury is unknown – in a statement Woods said that it’s similar to what he experienced at the Barclays last fall, when he fell to his knees after hitting a shot – and it’s unlikely he would fully divulge that information even if he did return to action next week at Doral.


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What we do know is this: This is Woods’ seventh career withdrawal, and his fourth in the past five years. That he has pulled out for four different ailments – knee, Achilles, neck and now back – only casts further doubt as to whether he will ever again be able to play an injury-free season.

If nothing else, Sunday served as a stark reminder that it is Woods’ brittle body – not his mind or game – that stands as his main obstacle to Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.

This marks the first time in Woods’ career that he has failed to record at least one top-10 finish in his first three starts of a season. His previous worst opening stretch was 2011, and that eventually turned into a lost year, after missing three months (and two majors) with injuries to his knees and Achilles’ tendon.

Now, Woods is rusty, injured and seemingly disinterested at times. He clearly eased into the year because of a late-2013 injury and can’t chisel off the rust or, more importantly, return to 100-percent health.

To recap, he missed the 54-hole cut at Torrey Pines, where he had won eight times as a pro. Then came the listless T-41 in Dubai, where he was a two-time winner.

And now, after an efficient Saturday 65 that prompted many to proclaim that all is right with the world No. 1, he was 5 over par (and back to even for the tournament) when he walked off after 13 holes.

Prior to withdrawing, he was missing fairways with irons. He was flubbing pitches around the green. He was fighting a two-way miss with the driver – on the par-5 third, he blasted one 40 yards right into the pond; three holes later, he sniped one left into the drink.

Luke Guthrie, who was paired with Woods during both weekend rounds, noticed that Woods began gingerly teeing up the ball and plucking it out of the cup on the 11th hole. Soon after, Woods made a short par putt on 13, walked up to Guthrie and said, “I can’t go anymore,” and headed toward the white van.

“If you’re hurting, you’re hurting,” Guthrie said afterward. “You don’t need to risk injuring yourself even more. He’s had his share of problems with injuries. There’s no reason for him to chance it if he’s really hurting.”

Much like in 2012, when Woods withdrew from Doral only to return two weeks later and win at Bay Hill, this injury is even more significant because of the timing.

Here’s a trivia question: How many times has Woods won the Masters without a victory earlier in the season?

Answer: Zero.

When Woods has won one Tour event before the Masters, he has gone on to claim two green jackets (1997, 2002).

It’s why his next two scheduled starts, at Doral and Bay Hill, take on even greater importance – assuming, of course, that he can even make it to the first tee Thursday. “It’s too early to tell,” he said in a statement.

Indeed, the coming days will provide more clarity.

At this point, any outcome is possible.

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


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“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.