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Is Tiger back?

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As Tiger Woods joins the PGA Tour for the first time in 2012 at the AT&T National at Pebble Beach this week, the speculation is coming fast and furious about how he will perform this year.

There are plenty of variables to consider, enough to fill a classroom blackboard. There’s the new swing, the new coach, the new caddy, the reconstructed (and destined to be replaced) knee. Usually gazing into a crystal ball is associated with seeing the future clearly; with Woods, it’s more like looking through a kaleidoscope and trying to choose from dozens of possible outcomes.

But the key factor is his mental state. Former Washington Redskins tight end and current broadcaster Rick “Doc” Walker played with and against some of the best players of all time. I asked him if his list of the best players he ever saw and the toughest players that he ever saw had any overlap.

“It’s virtually the same list,” he said. “The best players are almost always the toughest players.”

Walker believes that a tolerance for pain is essential for greatness in that sport. When that tolerance is diminished, you are no longer great.

For golfers, pain is seldom the obstacle that must be overcome. The great equalizer is nervousness, debilitating fear of what might happen. Some players simply hover at a performance level that never really brings them into the withering spotlight of major championship competition. Other golfers can overcome it for a round or two. But the greats thrived in the situations that turned their opponents’ knees to jelly.

There is a limit to how long this emotional cartilage can last. Bobby Jones quit in his prime because he couldn’t stand the nervousness anymore. Ditto Byron Nelson who reportedly said “got tired of throwing up every Saturday night”. Hogan and Snead were reduced from titans to mortals by the nerves that eventually robbed them of the ability to putt. When the ability to handle pressure changes, the golfer changes with it; it just remains to be seen how profound and how persistent the changes will be.

For the better part of 12 years, Woods built an internal castle of strength, resolve and confidence. From the rooftops of this mental fortress he rained down destruction and domination on his peers, amassing a record of success rivaled by only a few hallowed names in the history of the game. And in the 2008 U.S. Open, Woods won an 18-hole playoff while hobbling on a broken leg.  That performance, along with Ben Hogan’s 1950 U.S. Open playoff win with his body still healing from a near fatal car crash, is proof positive that golfers are athletes.

No competition or competitor brought Woods down; ironically, the gates were opened by Tiger himself and the angry mob did not delay in storming the castle. The scathing criticism from the media, sponsors and the public created gaping cracks in Woods’ confidence. We saw Superman exposed to Kryptonite, and to most it was not a pretty sight.

Over the last two years, Woods has pieced his life and his game back together. He seems calmer and more content with being a father rather than an athletic icon. All of these were good and necessary things in the growth of the man. But the mental realignment that came with the public humiliation and private rehabilitation seems to have left a cottage where the castle used to stand. Sure, Tiger has three straight top-3 appearances. The swing that he has adopted under the tutelage of Sean Foley seems to be close to what they were envisioning in terms of ball-striking results. And while Tiger is nowhere near the longest player on the Tour, he and Foley seem to be developing a swing and a strategy that will produce a more controlled game and a controlled result. In fact, even Tiger’s on-course demeanor has been tweaked to limit out of bounds behavior in the same way that the swing has been modified to produce fewer out of bounds drives. But the spectacle of the greatest frontrunner in the history of the game losing to his playing partner on Sunday on multiple occasions gives one pause. The question arises: is Tiger’s current mindset one that makes him more stabile off of the course but less stabile on it? The difference between a mentality that produces Saturday leads and one that produces Sunday winners can be summed up in two names: Greg Norman and Tiger Woods.

All of the adjustments, combined with his legendary work ethic, will likely bring Tiger back to being one of the best players in the world. But if he is going to resume his place as one of the best players that has ever lived, he must have some form of the same fire and ice that got him there the first time. Woods is stepping into a familiar course this week that his been the scene of some of his greatest glory.

But with his game slightly diminished and a generation of young stars that have no institutional fear of him, it is also a brave new world for Tiger in 2012. Woods has never been content with simply competing. His interest lies only in winning, especially on the biggest stages. Starting with Pebble Beach, the world will be looking to see if Tiger is back. If he isn’t, will the world be satisfied with a mere Eldrick? More intriguingly, will he?

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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.

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Takeaways from LMPD press conference, Scheffler arrest videos

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If you weren’t able to tune in, here are our key takeaways from the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Tuesday morning press conference regarding the investigation into Scottie Scheffler’s May 17 arrest.

The press conference featured Louisville mayor Craig Greenberg and police chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel. Neither Greenberg nor Gwinn-Villaroel took any questions from the media after speaking.

The press conference is viewable on Golf Channel.

1. The charges against Scottie Scheffler are not being dropped

Despite media speculation earlier this week, Scheffler’s case will continue forward. Echoing a sentiment expressed by the mayor, Gwinn-Villaroel stated, “We respect the judicial process, and we will allow the courts to proceed.”

2. Arresting office detective Bryan Gillis’ body-worn camera was not on and he was disciplined

Gwinn-Villaroel referred to this as a procedural violation and stated he has received corrective action.

“Detective Gillis did not have his body-worn camera operational ready,” Gwinn-Villaroel said, “Our officer has received corrective action for his policy violation. We respect the judicial process, and we will allow the courts to proceed.”

The specifics of the “corrective action” were not discussed.

3. Two videos released and what they show

The department released a pair of videos — one from a fixed camera across the street, the other from a patrol car. You can view the videos here.

This portion of the video appears to show Scheffler attempting to pull into the club, Gillis obstructing his progress, and what followed.

The second video shows Scheffler passing near a police cruiser in handcuffs.

At the request of the Louisville attorney’s office, no other video will be released until the legal process concludes.

4. What Scheffler’s lawyer is saying in response

Steven Romines, Scottie Scheffler’s attorney states, “Scottie Scheffler didn’t do anything wrong. We’re not interested in a settlement. It will either be dismissed or we will go to trial.”

Scheffler is charged with second-degree assault of a police officer, criminal mischief, reckless driving, and disregarding traffic signals from an officer directing traffic.

Scottie Scheffler’s arraignment is scheduled for June 3 in Louisville.

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Tour Photo Galleries

Wedge Stamping Caviar: “The Traditional” Edition

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Pop open a tin of the finest beluga, GolfWRXers…But really, it’s less jelly-like substance, more richness of intrigue than salt-cured roe at Wedge Stamping Caviar as we present to you some of the finest instances of hammer-and-stamp work on the PGA Tour we spotted over the past couple of weeks.

Grab your mother-of-pearl spoon and dig in — with restraint, please. And be sure to check out the rest of our tour photo galleries when you’re done.

Patrick Reed with a fine articulation of what we’re calling “The Traditional” wedge stamping: First and last initials, usually in white or black. 

Here’s The Traditional on Keith Mitchell’s Mizuno T22 wedge as well as a slab o’ wedge tape positioned to raise CG.  

Tyler Duncan’s Traditional stamping on his Vokey SM10 also includes a note about head weight in Sharpie. 

The Traditional, again, this time for Cam Smith on his Vokey SM10 in Jet Black.  

Jason Dufner’s Cobra’s SB wedge bears his initials, JD.

A variation on The Traditional, Lee Hodges’ initials are surrounded by “RTR,” as is usually the case on his wedges — Roll Tide Roll!

Phil Mickelson’s PM Grind wedge has a saucy little 64 stamped on the toe and a slab of lead near the toe peak. 

John Rahm’s Callaway Jaws Forged wedge featured the motto of his LIV Golf squad, Legion XIII.

John Daly’s Sub 70 wedge is superb, featuring the logo of his alma mater, the University of Arkansas. WPS! 

Check out our tour photo galleries here.

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Morning 9: Scheffler’s arrest to be investigated | LIV team finale venue revealed | Charles Schwab photos

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Thursday morning, golf fans, as day one of the Charles Schwab Challenge gets underway.

1. Scheffler arrest to be investigated for policy violations

Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…”Following Scheffler’s arrest at the PGA Championship, Mayor Craig Greenberg acknowledged that detective Bryan Gillis didn’t have his body camera activated during the incident. According to Louisville Metro police policy, officers must turn on their body cameras before “engaging in all law enforcement activities and encounters.” At a weekly press conference on Tuesday, Greenberg said questions remain on why Gillis didn’t have the camera on.”

  • “I think that’s critically important that we do that [investigate], not just in high profile events like took place on Friday, but on a regular basis,” Greenberg said. “And if policies are not being followed, there will be transparency about that. There will be action taken.”
  • “Greenberg added that Louisville Metro police chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel would address the matter later in the week, including if the Professional Standards Unit investigation—Louisville’s internal affairs arm tasked with investigating policy breaches—will be involved.”
Full piece.

2. LIV names site for team final

Field Level Media report…”The LIV Golf League will host its 2024 team championship event Sept. 20-22 at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas, the organization announced Wednesday…”

  • “Our LIV Golf players are looking forward to playing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with its great golf tradition,” LIV Golf commissioner and CEO Greg Norman said. “Texas is legendary for producing and hosting great golfers who set a high bar while competing for championships.”
  • “The season-ending event will mark the Dallas-area debut for LIV Golf. The private Maridoe Golf Club measures 7,817 yards. Jordan Spieth, Will Zalatoris and golf legend Lee Trevino are among the members there.”
Full piece.

3. 16-year-old Kris Kim to play British Masters

BBC report…”Sixteen-year-old English amateur Kris Kim will make his debut on Europe’s DP World Tour at the British Masters in August.”

  • “Surrey-based Kim, the son of South Korean former LPGA player Suh Ji-hyun, became the youngest player to make the cut on the PGA Tour since 2015 at the CJ Cup Byron Nelson in Texas earlier this month.”
  • “The teenager had five birdies and an eagle in a three-under-par opening 68 in McKinney before finishing 65th overall.”
  • “The British Masters will be hosted by six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo at The Belfry from 29 August to 1 September.”
Full piece.

4. Spieth details Xander’s speed gains

Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner…”But Spieth said Wednesday at the Charles Schwab Challenge that there was one aspect of Schauffele’s improvement that has largely gone unnoticed – but, clearly, paid off in a big way.”

  • “He’s looked to add speed,” Spieth said, “but did it very methodically, very quietly, very in the dark.
  • “It’s been amazing watching him go after the tournament rounds – like on Thursday, Friday, Saturday – and he’ll go to the workout trailer and hit a heavy gym session after the round. It’s not common out here. There’s a few guys that will do it, but it’s still not common. Everybody goes before now; 10, 12 years ago, half the field went before, now everyone does.
  • “But he’s going after and hitting these heavy workouts with a goal in mind that he thought would gain a slight advantage. He already had a lot of speed, and he did it while maintaining his consistency and his short game, and it just allowed him to hit shorter clubs into greens, which, maybe over the course of four rounds, being a shot or two. The way he approached that patiently is extremely inspiring.”
Full piece.

5. Stanford wins NCAA women’s golf title

AP report…”Kelly Xu went undefeated in match play for the second straight year and the rest of Stanford followed her lead Wednesday, beating UCLA in the title match for its second NCAA championship in the three years.”

  • “Rachel Heck delivered the final point in a 3-2 victory and the celebration was on for Stanford, the No. 1 team and the top seed going into match play.”
  • “We never take anything for granted,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “We’re privileged to be in this position. We talk a lot about staying patient, staying grateful and enjoying the moment. These are so hard to win.”
Full piece.

6. Spieth contests ‘false’ PGA Tour narrative

John Turnbull for Bunkered…”Jordan Spieth has dismissed claims that the PGA Tour is in a ‘bad place’, as questions surface over a deal with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.”

  • “But Spieth has hit back at ‘untrue’ notions about the PGA Tour, whilst remaining optimistic about the process.”
  • “I think the narrative that things are in a bad place and are moving slowly… are untrue,” he said, speaking ahead of the Charles Schwab Challenge.
  • “I know that it’s false, actually. Things are actually moving positively from both sides. I think ultimately, we’ll end up in a place where professional golf is maybe the best that it’s ever been.
  • “I think both sides believe that. From what I do know, it’s cordial, there’s open dialog, and it’s moving along at the pace that it’s moving along. And anything else that’s said about it is just, I just know to be false.
  • “So, I’m very optimistic I think is what I would say out of all of it.
  • “I think that’s starting to resonate amongst players as they’re able to get more and more information on the matter and it will continue to get more and more information over the coming months.”
Full piece.

7. Photos from the Charles Schwab Challenge

  • Check out all of our galleries from this week’s event!
Full Piece.
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