Woods' most potent weapon in comeback? His mind

By Will GrayDecember 3, 2016, 11:57 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – Beyond the fist pumps and the club twirls, past the booming drives and approach shots that left you weak in the knees, Tiger Woods has always had one tool at his disposal that gave him a leg up over any field.

It wasn’t a swing technique, or even a physical advantage. Instead, it was something that Woods took only two seconds to identify Saturday when asked about the biggest strength of his game through three rounds at the Hero World Challenge.

“My mind,” he said. “Always has been.”

There are many adjectives to describe Woods’ prowess over the last two decades, but one that is perhaps underutilized is cerebral. Seemingly from youth, he has been a creature that wholly and willfully operated within his own sphere.

It was a tendency that took him to unprecedented heights, one that allowed him to crush competitors. More recently, though, it became counterproductive: Woods spent the last three years relying on his innate drive to power a body that simply couldn’t hold up.

But this time, as he continues to chart a course on his most important comeback, the space between his ears could hold the key to a potential return to glory.

For the third day in a row, Woods checked off several boxes that showed he is ready once again to compete against the game’s best. He opened with three straight birdies. He added a hole-out bunker shot that thrilled the handful of spectators who made the trek out to Albany Golf Club, and he rolled in putt after putt with the Scotty Cameron that may never again leave his clutches.

Hero World Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Some of that regression can be chalked up to physical fatigue; some can be attributed to overall rust. But frankly, it doesn’t matter. No one, including Woods, is going to catch Hideki Matsuyama this week, and a third-place finish won’t be materially different for Woods than the 10th-place position he currently occupies.

What does matter, though, is how he feels. How he reacts. How he internalizes and assesses these first few competitive strokes that at one point seemed like they might never happen.

That’s where the mind kicks in, and that’s where Woods is showing that this time might be different.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t really have much [expectations] because I didn’t know,” Woods said. “I hadn’t played in a very long time and I didn’t know what it was going to feel like after each round.”

When was the last time you heard Woods approach anything – from a round of golf to a game of soccer in the backyard against his kids – without expectations?

Make no mistake, this is a different Tiger Woods than the man who limped off into the abyss at the 2015 Wyndham Championship. Woods spent his warm-up session cracking jokes with caddie Joe LaCava and John Wood, who loops for Matt Kuchar. He chatted throughout the round with Rickie Fowler, each needling the other at different points, and his mood barely dampened after he doubled No. 18 for the second time this week.

“I’m very pleased to be back and to be able to compete at this level again. It’s been a very, very difficult road,” he said. “You guys were all here last year and I did not feel very good. I was really, really struggling and I struggled for a very long time. Worked with my physios and had to be very patient and finally was able to start building, and here we are.”

Woods made his mark for years as being perhaps the fieriest competitor the game has ever known. But he appears finally ready to take a tactical approach to his return, building from one piece to the next.

It’s not a mission he can fulfill with any single result in the Bahamas, so why sweat a three-putt or a rinsed approach?

After his round, Woods went up into the television tower and a remarkable scene broke out that further shed light on his mindset. Woods sat with host Dan Hicks and analyst David Feherty and he, well, actually appeared to be having a good time. There were laughs, and jokes, and a few more laughs on top of that.

After living in isolation for 15 months, Woods is clearly relishing just being back. The sights, the sounds of competition – even one as unique as a 17-man event on an island – appear to have rejuvenated him.

“[LaCava] and I tried to simulate tournament golf, but there’s nothing quite the same as playing, and the waiting, and the grinding, and the wind, and getting the numbers right and camera phones going off and people moving, sounds,” he said. “These are all different things you can’t simulate at home.”

Some of Woods’ physical skills will return in time. Some, as he nears age 41, will never be seen again.

But the mind – that’s an unwavering mainstay. It’s an asset Woods has used to his advantage for years, and he seems eager to lean on it once again to fuel a comeback that still seems very much on track.


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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.

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Football coach hates golf: Don't need practice swearing

By Jason CrookApril 20, 2018, 10:15 pm

Some football coaches are a little more talkative than others. On one side of the spectrum, there's Bill Belichick. On the other sits Washington State football coach Mike Leach.

Leach always delivers the goods, and when asked recently if he liked golf, he didn't hold back:

As wrong as the 57-year-old is on the topic (golf is awesome), the man makes some hilarious points:

• “It’s boring. I don’t care where that ball goes.”

• "Golfers are always practicing their swing. But you know what I never did? I never practice fishing in my living room.”

• "They'll line up over the ball and they'll say they're going to do something that you can't do with a sniper rifle and a scope, but they're going to do it with a stick and a ball."

• “Golf’s pretty much for people that don’t swear effectively enough or need practice. And so there are people that need golf, and I don’t think I do.”

So in conclusion, it's confirmed: Mike Leach - not a golf guy.