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.

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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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Davies leads Inkster after Day 1 of Senior LPGA Champ.

By Associated PressOctober 16, 2018, 1:10 am

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies opened with a 4-under 68 despite finishing with two bogeys Monday, giving her a one-shot lead over Juli Inkster after Round 1 of the Senior LPGA Championship.

Davies, who earlier this year won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open, had a lost ball on the par-5 18th hole on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. She still salvaged a bogey in chilly, windy weather that had the 55-year-old from England bundled up in a blanket between shots.

Inkster, runner-up to Davies at the Senior Women's Open, made eagle on the closing hole for a 69.

Jane Crafter was at 70. Defending champion Trish Johnson opened with a 73.

Temperatures were in the high 40s, but the damp air and wind made it feel even colder.

Inkster made a bogey on the 17th hole by missing the green with a 9-iron.

''As old as I am, I still get made and I crushed that drive on 18,'' said Inkster, who followed with a 3-wood to 15 feet to set up her eagle.

The 54-hole event concludes Wednesday.

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Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 15, 2018, 9:14 pm

After nearly 30 years in the broadcast booth, Johnny Miller is ready to hang up his microphone.

Following a Hall of Fame playing career that included a pair of major titles, Miller has become one of the most outspoken voices in the game as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports. But at age 71 he has decided to retire from broadcasting following the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Miller was named lead analyst for NBC in 1990, making his broadcast debut at what was then known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. He still remained competitive, notably winning the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at age 46, but made an indelible mark on the next generation of Tour pros with his frank and candid assessment of the action from some of golf’s biggest events.

Miller’s broadcasting career has included 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, nine Presidents Cups, three Open Championships and the 2016 Olympics. While he has teamed in the booth with Dan Hicks for the past 20 years, Miller’s previous on-air partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.

His farewell event will be in Phoenix Jan. 31-Feb. 3, at a tournament he won in back-to-back years in 1974-75.

“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is the gold standard,” said NBC lead golf producer Tommy Roy. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA Tour’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”

Miller was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998 after a playing career that included wins at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont and The Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. Before turning pro, he won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and was low amateur at the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic, where he tied for eighth at age 19.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Miller now lives in Utah with his wife, Linda, and annually serves as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

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Randall's Rant: Tiger vs. Phil feels like a ripoff

By Randall MellOctober 15, 2018, 7:45 pm

Usually, you have to buy something before you feel like you were ripped off.

The wonder in the marketing of Tiger vs. Phil and “The Match” is how it is making so many people feel as if they are getting ripped off before they’ve shelled out a single penny for the product.

Phil Mickelson gets credit for this miscue.

Apparently, the smartest guy in the room isn’t the smartest marketing guy.

He was a little bit like that telemarketer who teases you into thinking you’ve won a free weekend getaway, only to lead you into the discovery that there’s a shady catch, with fine print and a price tag.

There was something as slippery as snake oil in the original pitch.

In Mickelson’s eagerness to create some excitement, he hinted back during The Players in May about the possibility of a big-money, head-to-head match with Woods. A couple months later, he leaked more details, before it was ready to be fully announced.

So while there was an initial buzz over news of the Thanksgiving weekend matchup, the original pitch set up a real buzzkill when it was later announced that you were only going to get to see it live on pay-per-view.

The news landed with a thud but no price tag. We’re still waiting to see what it’s going to cost when these two meet at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, but anything that feels even slightly inflated now is going to further dampen the original enthusiasm Mickelson created.

Without Woods or Mickelson putting up their own money, this $9 million winner-take-all event was always going to feel more like a money grab than real competition.

When we were expecting to see it on network or cable TV, we didn’t care so much. Tiger's and Phil’s hands would have felt as if they were reaching into corporate America’s pockets. Now, it feels as if they’re digging into ours.

Last week, there was more disappointing news, with the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that tickets won’t be sold to the public, that the match at Shadow Creek will only be open to select sponsors and VIPs.

Now there’s a larger insult to the common fan, who can’t help but feel he isn’t worthy or important enough to gain admittance.

Sorry, but that’s how news of a closed gate landed on the heels of the pay-per-view news.

“The Match” was never going to be meaningful golf in any historical sense.

This matchup was never going to rekindle the magic Tiger vs. Phil brought in their epic Duel at Doral in ’05.

The $9 million was never going to buy the legitimacy a major championship or PGA Tour Sunday clash could bring.

It was never going to be more than an exhibition, with no lingering historical significance, but that was OK as quasi silly-season fare on TV on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23), the traditional weekend of the old Skins Game.

“The Match” still has a chance to be meaningful, but first and foremost as entertainment, not real competition. That’s what this was always going to be about, but now the bar is raised.

Pay per view does that.

“You get what you pay for” is an adage that doesn’t apply to free (or already-paid for) TV. It does to pay per view. Expectations go way up when you aren’t just channel surfing to a telecast. So the higher the price tag they end up putting on this showdown, the more entertaining this has to be.

If Phil brings his “A-Game” to his trash talking, and if Tiger can bring some clever repartee, this can still be fun. If the prerecorded segments wedged between shots are insightful, even meaningful in their ability to make us understand these players in ways we didn’t before, this will be worthwhile.

Ultimately, “The Match” is a success if it leaves folks who paid to see it feeling as if they weren’t as ripped off as the people who refused to pay for it. That’s the handicap a history of free golf on TV brings. Welcome to pay-per-view, Tiger and Phil.

Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State University athletics

Trial date set for drifter charged with killing Barquin Arozamena

By Associated PressOctober 15, 2018, 7:28 pm

AMES, Iowa – A judge has scheduled a January trial for a 22-year-old Iowa drifter charged with killing a top amateur golfer from Spain.

District Judge Bethany Currie ruled Monday that Collin Richards will stand trial Jan. 15 for first-degree murder in the death of Iowa State University student Celia Barquin Arozamena.

Richards entered a written not guilty plea Monday morning and waived his right to a speedy trial. The filing canceled an in-person arraignment hearing that had been scheduled for later Monday.

Investigators say Richards attacked Barquin on Sept. 17 while she was playing a round at a public course in Ames, near the university campus. Her body was found in a pond on the course riddled with stab wounds.

Richards faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.