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Rose wins at Doral, but all eyes remain on Tiger

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By Michael Williams

Special to GolfWRX

Seemingly on the brink of regaining the form that propelled him to greatness, Tiger’s Achilles’ heel turned out to be his Achilles heel. Last week, Woods dominated the story line by posting his career Sunday low on the course; he was close to setting a career low off of it when he refused to stand before the press after withdrew from the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.

At the time he withdrew, he was having a difficult round, and in the spirit of an event hosted by a car company, he changed tires (shoes, actually) at the start of the back nine in an attempt to gain some traction. He showed some signs of physical discomfort on the 10th hole after hitting his approach into the water. After hitting his longest drive of the day on the 12th hole, he followed it with two even longer drives; the drive in a cart back to his car, and the drive back to his Fortress of Solitude in nearby Jupiter Beach.  Woods was 3 over through 11 holes, essentially playing himself out of contention early in the day. His chances of winning disappeared and he did likewise, pausing only to chuck bag and caddie into the Caddy. The MetLife blimp, appropriately named Snoopy, followed Woods’ car from the air for several minutes, a scene eerily reminiscent of a certain running back in a white Ford Bronco. It seemed that at any moment Al Cowlings was going to call Johnny Miller from the car and say, “I’m in the car with Tiger. He has $100,000, a passport and icepack. But he’s OK, so just stay back!”

These events upstaged the results of the tournament, including eventual winner Justin Rose and hard-luck runner-up Bubba Watson, and put once again the career arcs of Tiger and Rory into juxtaposition. Both had disappointing weekday rounds and came into Sunday needing to put up a low number just to have a chance. Rory did just that, shooting a 67 that could just as easily have been the 64 that would have won him the tournament.  Tiger never seemed to be comfortable, suffering through the distance control problems with his irons that had seemed to be ironed-out with last week’s 62. McIlroy is clearly golf’s Sunday best. He is always in contention if he makes the cut because he is always a threat to post the low round of the day. With every passing week his game and his confidence are growing and the sports world is anxiously anticipating his return to Augusta to see if he will exorcise his demons born on the back nine in last year’s Masters. When it comes to Woods, there is a lingering pattern of having more disappointing Sundays than a missionary in Vegas.

I grow tired of making the connection between mental and physical in golf; surely the long-suffering reader is tired of having it made. The only person that doesn’t seem to get it is Tiger Woods. After all that has happened, how can he not understand that a person who is brittle and petulant in the press room will be brittle and petulant on the course? How can he not be aware that if he is not willing to give answers to the simplest requests that are asked of any performer, then the media and the public will replace information with speculation? How can he not see that the ability to handle your emotions is directly connected to the ability to control performance?

Since Woods gave only a terse written statement to the press, we are once again left to speculate about whether the withdrawal was due to injury or frustration. It was likely some of both, but it is inexplicable that a man who had the physical and mental toughness to play 18 holes on a broken leg to win a major championship doesn’t have the Nike One’s to stand in front a microphone and explain the situation to the fans and sponsors that want him back at golf’s pinnacle. There has rarely been an athlete who has displayed such a yawning gap between the ability to produce sporting heroics and the inability to produce personal courage. The only one that comes to mind is Woods’ erstwhile mentor Michael Jordan, but that is anther story for another day. To those that feel Tiger owes nothing to the press or the public, I say that each side has benefited and each side deserves respect. Compared to the rest of the entertainment media, the golf press is a wet noodle. Providing the few details and cascade of clichés that it is able to whip into a feature piece should be child’s play, but Woods is a child who seems never to have learned to play nice with others.

The Bible says “Be angry, but sin not,” positing that it is not the emotion that is the transgression, rather how it is expressed. Tiger Woods used to understand anger and how to use it. His anger was controllable and not an imminent threat because it was publicly directed only at a golf ball or at himself. He used anger to his advantage. Now, that anger seems to have corroded the vessel that carried it. He was always intense on the course; now he is joyless. He was always dismissive of reporters; now, he is rude and even threatening. He pretends not to care what anyone thinks, but he is trapped inside a cage of public scrutiny.

But Woods holds the key to that cage, and that key is the same media that he so despises. He doesn’t understand that the media can be used to his advantage. He can manage outcomes and expectations by simply telling the truth. If he is still hurting, why not say so? It’s not a sign of weakness to be injured and even Tiger in his current mental state can’t be addled enough to think otherwise. The whole issue comes down to one simple fact; when he leaves room for speculation, speculation will come. And if you truly don’t care about the media, stop getting angry anytime an unscripted question is asked. Whether he’s open or closed, he should be honest and consistent.

It is pointless to resist comparing Woods and McIlroy. At this juncture in their respective careers they are linked in time, in talent and in the imagination. Rory is carefree for now, but he has not had his life opened up with the rib-spreader of long-term life in the spotlight. Tiger has not only worn down the tissues of his body in his march across golf’s landscape; he has also badly frayed the mental cartilage so important to the game of golf and to the game of life. As the Masters and the rest of the majors approach,  the big questions are whether the body will heal, and, if the mind doesn’t heal, does it really matter about the body?

These are questions that even Tiger cannot answer … not that he would if he could.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

Michael Williams is the contributing editor of Newschannel8 Capital Golf Weekly and Bunkershot.com, as well as a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.

You can follow Michael on twitter — @Michaelontv

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Pam Ward

    Mar 12, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    To quote Joseph Welch head counsel of US Army during the McCarthy hearings, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency? Come on Mike! You’re really going to compare a vicious murder to Wood’s departure due to an Achilles injury? I mean really! OJ Simpson and Al Cowlings! Your article is one of the most racist, destructive reviews I have ever read in my life! I repeat, Have you no sense of decency, at all?

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Tour News

Tiger Woods fires second-round 76, will miss Genesis Open cut

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Tiger Woods’ trip to Los Angeles is over sooner than he’d hoped. Woods fired a 5-over 76 during the second round of the Genesis Open to miss the presumed cut at Riviera by four strokes (the second round won’t be completed until Saturday morning due to darkness).

Hopes were high Woods would continue to build on a T-23 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, as the driving woes that plagued him at Torrey Pines followed him to the Riv, despite changing shafts in his TaylorMade M3.

RELATED: Tiger Woods WITB

Wayward off the tee, Woods made eight bogeys Friday, unable to grind out a decent score as he did with his opening-round 1-over 72. He was unable to rely on his putter the way did in this first round, three-putting back-to-back holes (No. 11 and 12). A stretch of three straight bogeys sunk Woods’ hopes of hanging around for the weekend.

(c/o PGATour.com)

We won’t have to wait long to see the Big Cat back in action, however, as Woods committed to next week’s Honda Classic at PGA National in Florida. Woods most recently put a peg in the ground at the course in 2014, where he ultimately withdrew due to back spasms.

The 79-time PGA Tour winner hasn’t teed it in back-to-back weeks since 2015, so while fans may not be encouraged by his play, at least he continues to be free from any issues with his surgically repaired back.

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Tiger Woods shoots an opening-round 72 (1-over) at the 2018 Genesis Open

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After hitting just 17 fairways all week at the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open, where he finished T23, Tiger Woods switched driver shafts and added 0.75 degrees of loft in his TaylorMade M3 driver ahead of the 2018 Genesis Open this week. He went from using a Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 70TX shaft, to a Matrix TP6HDe shaft — he used a TP7HDe shaft back in 2015.

So how did the switch work out for him at Riviera CC on Thursday?

Well, he hit driver 9 times during his round of 72 strokes; four went right — one of which got lost in a tree and he had to re-tee — one went left, and four found the fairway. He hit 8-of-14 fairways in total; no Fred Funk, but an improvement. Woods’ bigger issue on Thursday, actually, was that he hit only 7 greens in regulation, leaving himself a few tricky up-and-downs. Despite hitting only 38 percent of greens, Woods managed to make 5 birdies, and he continues displaying prowess on the greens (1.784 Strokes Gained Putting, and 82 feet worth of putts made).

He also showed some flashes of old Tiger with Arnie-esque follow through.

Of course, that means he missed the fairway way right, and he did go onto bogey the hole, but the shot made for some excitement on golf twitter, at least.

According to @RandallMellGC, Tiger described his round in a post-round interview: “I fought hard. I made a few simple, silly mistakes, bad shots here and there, missed on the wrong side, made a few birdies as well. 1-over’s not bad.”

Yea, that’s about right.

Tiger currently sits at T66, and six shots off the leader. Lots of golf to play, but he’ll likely be contending with the cutline come Friday afternoon. How do you think Tiger will finish this week at the 2018 Genesis Open?

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Tour News

Bill Haas injured in fatal car crash in Los Angeles

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Bill Haas was involved in a fatal car crash in Pacific Palisades, Calif., site of the Genesis Open, Tuesday night.

The 35-year-old was riding in the passenger seat of a Ferrari driven by a member of the family with whom Haas is staying this week. According to LA County fire officials, the Ferrari collided with a BMW driven by a 50-year-old woman. Haas and the driver of the BMW were transported to a local hospital. The 71-year-old male driver of the Ferrari was pronounced dead on the scene.

The Ferrari also reportedly “clipped” a vehicle driven by actor Luke Wilson prior to the rollover. Wilson was not injured, per a police report.

Per PGATour.com, Bill Haas’ manager, Allen Hobbs of Players Group Management, released the following statement Wednesday morning.

“Last night in Pacific Palisades, California, Bill Haas was involved in a serious car accident in which the driver—a member of the family with whom Haas and his family were staying for the Genesis Open—was killed. While Bill escaped serious injuries and has been released from the hospital, he is understandably shaken up and—more importantly—his deepest condolences go out to the host family during this tragic and difficult time.“

“Bill will withdraw from the Genesis Open and plans to head home to Greenville to recover. He appreciates the support of friends, family and the golf world as a whole, and he has asked for privacy as he processes what has happened.“

Geoff Shackelford tweeted this video of the KTLA coverage of the crash.

Bill Haas’ father, Jay, spoke with Todd Lewis on Golf Channel’s morning drive earlier in the day, saying his son was “very fortunate.” Beyond swelling in one of his legs and pain, Haas sustained no serious injuries, according to his father.

See the discussion in the forums here

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