Posted on: February 11, 2012 8:17 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 4:49 pm

Tiger and Phil, yin and yang, paired at Pebble

By Steve Elling 

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Who are these guys, Abbott and Costello? Hall and Oates? Peanut and butter?

Break 'em up as a team and they mostly flop?

As we all know painfully too well at this point, Tiger Woods has been missing in action for more than two years, and in that span, his nemesis Phil Mickelson didn’t do much of anything.

In fact, over his last 37 PGA Tour starts, dating to his victory at the 2010 Masters, and as he freely admits, hasn’t exactly used the door that Woods left wide open when his personal and physical issues left him sidelined for most of the period since.

Mickelson not only didn’t take advantage, he went backward and enters this week's Pebble Beach Pro-Am  in much the same position he's held for his career -- ranked right next to Woods in the world pecking order. It's just that these days, Mickelson is 16th and Woods is 17th.

So, of course, with Woods showing flashing red-light signs that his slump is over, Mickelson picks this week to perk up?

The pair of longtime adversaries, California natives and multiple-time winners at Pebble Beach will be paired in the final round on Sunday at the famous seaside links, with the title in reach for both.

Woods is in third place, four shots behind Charlie Wie, while Mickelson is T4 and six strokes back. Let the jockeying and jocularity begin.

These guys have combined for an incredible 110 career PGA Tour wins -- Woods (71) ranks third and Mickelson (39) is 10th -- but with Woods injured and ailing, and Lefty playing listlessly, they are a mere 1-for-59 in terms of victories in recent U.S. starts.

Neither player knew of the final-day pairings when the left the course after play concluded Saturday night, but here's how they stack up in the times they have been paired in PGA Tour play over their careers. Woods holds a 13-12-4 margin when paired with Lefty, who in recent years has actually played better than the former world No. 1 when grouped eye-to-eye:

Year        Event                            Round   Mickelson     Woods
1997        PGA Championship        Rd 4        75                75       
1997         NEC Invitational             Rd 2        72                72       
1997        TOUR Championship      Rd 2        72                68       
1998        Nissan Open                   Rd 1        67                68
1998        Nissan Open                   Rd 2        76                73
1999        U.S. Open                       Rd 3        73                72       
2000        NEC Invitational              Rd 3        69                67       
2000        Buick Open                     Rd 3        65                67       
2000        TOUR Championship      Rd 1        67                68       
2001        PLAYERS Championship  Rd 3        72                66       
2001        Masters Tournament       Rd 4        70                68       
2002        TOUR Championship       Rd 1        70                71
2002        TOUR Championship      Rd 4        69                70       
2003        Buick Invitational            Rd 4        72                68       
2005        Ford Championship        Rd 4        69                66       
2006        Ford Championship        Rd 3        72                68       
2006        PGA Championship        Rd 1        69                69
2006        PGA Championship        Rd 2        71                68       
2007        Deutsche Bank              Rd 1        70                72
2007        Deutsche Bank              Rd 2        64                64       
2007        Deutsche Bank              Rd 4        66                67       
2008        U.S. Open                      Rd 1        71                72       
2008        U.S. Open                      Rd 2        75                68
2009        Masters Tournament     Rd 4        67                68
2009        WGC-HSBC Champions Rd 4        69                72
2010         BMW Championship     Rd 4        67                70
2011        WGC-Cadillac                Rd 1        73                70
2011         WGC-Cadillac               Rd 2        71                74
2011        WGC-Cadillac                Rd 3        72                70


Posted on: November 16, 2011 10:30 am
Edited on: November 16, 2011 10:45 am

Cup pairings not exactly Presidential in timbre

ORLANDO, Fla. – Wake up, America.

Boy, are we missing the overnight news cycle.

While many in the States were sleeping, the pairings for the first day of play at the Presidents Cup were issued, and event organizers are hardly taking the high road when it comes to controversial matchmaking, or gleaning every ounce of juice they might generate.

Not quite two weeks after caddie Steve Williams used a racial term to describe part of former boss Tiger Woods’ anatomy, Woods and Williams’ new boss, Adam Scott, were placed in the final opening-day foursome off the tee as matches begin Thursday in Australia.

That’s hardly all that happened overnight, either, but foisted things first.

After organizers at last week’s Aussie Open declined to pair Scott and Woods, the two captains at the PrezCup wasted no time in putting the pair together, sending them out last on the first day of matches. Reaction was swift.

*The PGA Tour, which runs the event, took no disciplinary action against Williams for uttering the perceived racial slur, but isn’t above using any tension with Woods to hype the event? Nice. Hypocrisy take a 1-up lead.

*Secondly, Woods was a highly controversial selection to the U.S. team to begin with – two-time winner Keegan Bradley, the only Yank to win a major this year, was passed over -- and the tour is clearly milking Woods for all he’s worth.

*If you had forgotten that this is an exhibition, consider yourself reminded. The Aussie Open didn’t pair Woods and Scott because it would have been disruptive to the tournament proper.

*But the Presidents Cup is a soap opera, not a real tournament, and not above pandering to draw eyeballs in a time zone 16 hours away from the U.S. eastern time zone. In fact, this thing looks more like pro wrestling that professional golf. Maybe the Rock ought to be tapped as a future assistant captain, not Michael Jordan.

*Despite some misdirection from U.S. captain Fred Couples --or maybe he was just a mite confused, as usual -- Woods was indeed paired with Steve Stricker in the opening matches. The duo has been hugely successful in 2009 and 2010 as dance partners and Woods was 5-0 at the Presidents Cup two years ago in San Francisco. Yeah, we're sure you're as shocked as we are.

At 2 a.m. ET, the tour announced that the 2015 Presidents Cup would be staged at an undetermined in golf-crazed South Korea, which represents a savvy move. The Ryder Cup, the granddaddy of all international matches, isn’t held outside the U.K. or the United States, and the decision to stage the PrezCup in Asia for the first time is shrewd for a variety of reasons.

The European Tour has a better grip on Asian markets already, co-sanctioning several events with other tours, and this will insinuate the PGA Tour into more homes and markets. Not to mention that this year’s International team at Royal Melbourne has three Koreans on the roster.

In an unrelated note, yet one that will generate plenty of chatter going forward, it was announced Wednesday that Woods will skip playing the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines in January in order to play for pay at the European Tour event the same week in Abu Dhabi.

Woods has won seven tournaments at Torrey and only once has finished outside the top 10 – last year. The blowback will be at least two-fold: Woods will get ripped for blowing off his most successful venue for a payday, and speculation will heighten about where he will play on the West Coast instead, be it at Pebble Beach, Riviera or wherever.

Woods frequently played the Dubai event in the EuroTour's Desert Swing, but his contract expired this year, and he was fined for spitting on a green in the final round. Interestingly, the Abu Dhabi event is run by IMG, Woods' former managament agency.

Though he hasn't won anywhere in over two years, Woods reportedly commands a $2 million appearance fee, the top figure in the game.

Based on what just happened at the Presidents Cup, what are the odds that Woods will be "drawn" with Rory McIlroy over the first two days?

Warm up those eyebrows, people, because there's plenty of wattage in the sarcasm meter these days.

Here are the opening pairings for tonight's foursomes (alternate shot) matches:





Posted on: July 15, 2011 11:33 am
Edited on: July 15, 2011 4:28 pm

Fortune: Tiger needs money, zapped by Nike

SANDWICH, England -- Fortune Magazine, a longtime observer of the financial tide around the globe, has turned its eyes toward Tiger Woods and found ...

Not much, apparently.

The magazine's website posted a story this week stating that the reason Woods signed a deal to hawk a Japanese pain-relief rub was because he's out of money after being cleaned out in his divorce and losing several lucrative endorsement deals in the wake of his sex scandal.

Like many Americans, Woods is carrying a fat mortgage, on his new Jupier Island abode, too.

Said the story: It's no secret that Woods, once king of the sports world, has suffered financially since his fall from grace. His endorsement list shrank and his marriage ended in a divorce settlement reportedly worth $100 million. But now he may actually be hurting for funds. At the very least, there are signs that he isn't generating enough to comfortably cover his costs.

Howver, the biggest note was yet to come. The story suggests that Nike, which has an entire golf division built around Woods, docked him millions in pay as penalty for his humiliating indiscretions.

Said the story: With giants like Gillette, Accenture, Tag Heuer, and Gatorade having jumped ship, Tiger's major deals are down to three: Nike, EA Sports, and Kowa. His EA Sports video game, Tiger Woods PGA Tour '12, set a first-week franchise record of 225,000 games sold. But our source also tells us that Tiger's Nike money fell by as much as 50% in 2010 (to about $10 million, down from $20 million in 2009) and that he will get the same reduced amount for 2011. The reason? Nike penalized him for his indiscretions, reducing his payment for two years as a response to his public behavior. Nike had no comment.

Woods' agent denied that his lone client is in financial hot water, but did not speak to the particulars of the Nike details cited.

"Tiger Woods is financially sound and strong, contrary to wide-ranging rumors and inaccurate figures in the media," Mark Steinberg wrote in an email to Forbes. "Stating anything else is incorrect and factually baseless."

The original Fortune story can be found here:  http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.c

Meanwhile, things seem to be going swimmingly for Elin Nordegren, who reportedly received a $100 million divorce settlement from Woods. According to the New York Post, she is dating wealthy American investor Jamie Dingman, who has acres of money on hand, apparently.

That story is here: http://www.nypost.com/p/pagesix/eli

Category: Golf
Posted on: May 12, 2011 3:02 pm

Tiger was obviously ailing? Yes and no

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla . -- Two guys with the same front-row seats.

But you'd never know they were watching the same sporting event.

The playing partners of Tiger Woods in the first round of the Players Championship could not have been farther apart in their postround comments about Woods, who quit after nine holes on Thursday. It was almost funny, the difference in their levels of perception with regard to the pain Woods was feeling with his myriad leg issues.

"Tiger looked like he was in pain today," said Matt Kuchar, who shot 69. "It looked like you could tell he was walking quite slowly, quite gingerly it seemed like. He was just last to get to his ball every time as he was just walking so gingerly."

Woods said he aggravated his injuries with the very first swing of the day. Which Kuchar picked up quickly.

"Yeah, probably by the second hole I knew that you could tell," Kuchar said. "That walk wasn't normal, and I think by the third hole started seeing some grimacing."

While Kuchar was almost expecting Woods to stop after nine holes, Kaymer, ranked No. 2 in the world, was clearly caught off guard. Woods handed him his scorecard after walking off the ninth green.

"I was surprised because I was not expecting it," Kaymer said. "But I mean, nobody really knows in how much pain he was [in]."

Kaymer failed to notice that Woods was favoring his right leg and struggling to keep up with his playing pertners.

"Did I notice anything?" Kaymer said. "Yeah, he was walking really slowly. He was walking behind us. But I didn't know that it was because of pain or I just thought that he walks a little slower than me. 

"I didn't really know in how much pain he was. I don't know what he told you guys after the round, but for us, I was focusing on my game. I was not really paying too much attention."

Not a bad idea, really. Kaymer, the defending PGA Championship winner, shot 65 and was in a tie for third after the morning session.

Posted on: May 12, 2011 9:20 am
Edited on: May 12, 2011 10:58 am

Woods withdraws after fast Sawgrass splashdown

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla . -- Tiger Woods stood behind the ninth green on Thursday and wondered aloud at what had just transpired.

On a day in which good shots were few and far between, not to mention few and far afield, he has just bombed his second shot on the par-5 hole over the green on the fly and into an oak tree behind the green. It was a towering shot that was seemingly in the air forever.

He handed the club back to caddie Steve Williams and said, "I just hit it 290 with a 5-wood?"

Even the rare good shots turned out porrly for the fading, former world No. 1 in the first round of the Players Championship, and he finished with a bogey before withdrawing for the second consecutive year.

A moment latrer, he handed his golf glove to Williams and his scorecard to playing partner Martin Kaymer and told them he was punching out after nine holes.

"I am having a hard time walking," Woods said.
Not to mention a difficult time scoring. He shot 6-over 42 on the front nine and was tied for last when he decided to head to the TPC Sawgrass locker room, visibly limping.

It was downhill from the start for Woods, who pulled up lame after hitting is first tee shot of the day, a draw that missed the fairway. Woods said that as he pushed into the 3-wood, his knee began to throb. His second shot was no better. He was forced to stand in the pine straw to make his second swing of the day. That's the same type of lie he faced that landed him in his current predicament -- Woods injured a knee and Achilles hitting a ball out of the pine straw in the final round four weeks ago at Augusta National.

This time, Woods lost traction on his downswing and instantly muttered, "freaking foot slipped," as he hit the shot fat and the ball came up well short of the green. He made bogey and the early tone was set.

"The pine straw didn't help because the foot slipped," he said afterward.

After muffing a flop shot on the easy second hole and settling for a par, Woods hit two balls in the water on the fourth, where the green is fronted by a pond, including ann awful wedge shot from 45 yards in a closely mowed drop zone that caromed off the wooden bulkhead surrounding the green clanged into the middle of the hazard.

The knee was not the issue. That was pure rust and poor execution. He chunked three wedges in nine holes, including on the ninth.

"The pitch shots weren't [because of the injury]," he said. "Those were just bad shots. Awful." 

Woods eventually found the green and made an 18-footer for a triple bogey at the fourth. Moments later, he grimaced in apparent pain after he badly missed the fifth green, from 160 yards out and the middle of the fairway, and made another bogey, dropping to 5 over through five holes and into dead last among those in the morning wave in 72nd place.

After his tee shot found the fairway at the sixth, his approach from 123 yards plopped into a greenside bunker, though he managed to save par. On one of the trickiest short-game tracks on the PGA Tour, Woods only found one of the first six greens in regulation.

In 13 career starts, Woods had never missed the cut at Sawgrass or posted a score higher than 75. He withdrew after seven holes on Sunday last year with a neck issue.

Because of the leg injuries, Woods didn't practice or play for four weeks heading into this week's event, and only played nine holes at Sawgrass on Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation. He has played 16 competitive stroke-play rounds in the States all season.

Woods dropped to No. 8 in the world ranking this week, his lowest position since before he won his first Masters title in April, 1997.

As though Woods didn't look lost enough, his playing partners, Matt Kuchar and Martin Kaymer, are two of the steadiest players on the planet and were both 2 under through the first six holes, seven shots better than Woods.


Category: Golf
Posted on: May 11, 2011 9:16 am
Edited on: May 11, 2011 11:16 am

Woods camp fires back over Bubba critique

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Looks like you can’t make fun of Tiger Woods with impunity anymore.

Bubba Watson, who once played dozens of practice rounds with Woods and still considers him a friend, raised eyebrows last week when he said the fading former world No. 1 is going down the wrong road with his myriad swing changes.

For months, players have offered unbridled and honest opinions of Woods -- a topic  that had them walking on eggshells for 15 years, lest they draw his ire -- but Woods and his camp began fighting back this week at the Players Championship.

On an Irish radio show, Woods' new swing coach Sean Foley quickly mounted a counter-assault when asked about the comments from Watson, who has three victories since last fall to climb to No. 11 in the rankings. Appearing on a Dublin talk show to promote his instructional DVD, Foley fired a sarcastic fastball at Watson's noggin. The comments were first reported on the Irish Golf Desk website.

“He has the right to his own opinion but you probably shouldn’t make comments about a guy who has won 69 more times than you and you are virtually the same age," Foley was quoted as saying. "You know what I mean?”

More excerpts from the Canadian coach: "I would just say, 'Bud, you won three times the last 10 months, I am really pleased for you. You have worked hard and I think it is a great thing that you are playing so well. But why do you feel the need that you have to get the attention? What’s the use in making that comment?"

Foley then took a personal shot at Watson, characterizing him as a publicity hound.

“Let the guy do what he’s doing and you do what you’re doing and it will be fine," Foley said. "There is absolutely zero need for him to make that comment. But you know, Bubba loves the camera anyway so, I mean, whatever.”

Watson already realized the nature of last week's off-the-cuff comments about Woods -- he was never asked about Tiger directly before offering the opinion that Woods is too wrapped up in the mental side of the game and swing changes -- long before he arrived at the Players Championship this week.

"I'll just go ahead and say it," Watson said at the Wells Fargo Championship last week. "I think Tiger is going the wrong way. I think he's so mental right now with his swing. Just go out there and play golf. He used to hit shots, used to bomb it, used to do all that stuff. In 2000 and '97 I think he did pretty good. He won the Masters by 48 shots or whatever he won it by. But I think sometimes he gets carried away on that. And a lot of guys do."

On Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass, Watson said he had spoken with Woods' management about the comments to make sure he hadn't napalmed his bridge with Tiger, who dropped to No. 8 in the world this week.

"I just talked to his agent, and I talked to another person in his camp last week and told them that I didn't say anything wrong. I just said my opinion, and the media runs with it," Watson said.

For context, his Woods comments last week were the result of a query about Sean O'Hair and Foley splitting. Watson has never used a swing coach.

"I just told him [his management] that, look, you know me. I'm good friends with you," Watson said. "I've been a supporter of you the whole time I've been a pro and have known you. So I'm here for you, but I didn't do anything wrong.

"So yeah, the camp says I'm okay, but I haven't talked to the boss yet."

Woods was not doing cartwheels about the comments when he arrived at the Players Championship on Tuesday, and not just because he has a sore knee.

"That was interesting," Woods said tersely when the comments were broached.

Rest assured that the two will speak in person, Woods said.

"We'll talk," Woods said curtly.

Click here for more of the transcript from the Foley radio interview.

Posted on: April 5, 2011 5:49 pm

Jack's tracks get tougher for Tiger to follow

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- In case you were wondering, Jack Nicklaus isn’t exactly rooting for Tiger Woods to break his mark for most major championships.

That point was made with some hilarity on Tuesday, when the Golden Bear made his annual visit to the Masters Tournament to play in the par-3 contest Wednesday and to serve as the honorary starter on Thursday morning.

Nicklaus won 18 majors in his career, while Woods, seemingly a lock to better the record, has hit the wall at 14 Grand Slam titles. A reporter asked Nicklaus if he still wants to see the record fall, prompting Nicklaus' blond eyebrows to shoot straight northward.

"Do I want to see him break my record?" Nicklaus laughed. "If he breaks my record, I want to be there to see it. Those are two different things."

Nicklaus won six Masters title and this week marks the 25th anniversary of his last victory, the famous comeback of 1986, when he shot 30 on the back nine on Sunday to win at age 46.

"Nobody wants their record to be broken," he said. "Why would you say, 'Gee, I want to give up my record to him?'

"But if he plays well enough, more power to him and I’ll be the first to shake his hand."

Given that Woods' victory drought extends to the fall of 2009, it seems like the odds of the Nicklaus mark falling are growing increasingly less likely.

"I said last year that last year was an important year for him," Nicklaus said, noting that three of the 2010 majors were played at sites where Woods had won before. "We're now into the next year. So now is an important year.

"The longer it goes, the tougher it will be. Simple mathematics."

Posted on: March 11, 2011 11:44 am

Warning: McDowell sees progress in Woods' game

DORAL, Fla. -- Graeme McDowell has had his nose to the glass over the past few months.

Indeed, it would be hard to find another player who is more qualified to render an opinion, iif not a verdict, on the state of Tiger Woods' game at the moment.

They were paired at the HSBC event last fall in China, at the Chevron Challenge in December and again this week at the Cadillac Championship. McDowell, world No. 4 and the defending U.S. Open champion, believes Woods is gradually starting to find his mojo.

"I can see the improvement," he said. "Sorry to say."

McDowell was cracking wise. Sort of.

He and playing partner Phil Mickelson, playing alongside Woods over the first two days at Doral, had a conversation on the 12th hole that was illuminating. Mickelson brought up Woods' once-dominant ways.

"Phil said, 'Thank god for all of us that he didn't keep playing like that, because it would have been tough for the rest of the world to win anything,'" McDowell said.

Woods and McDowell both shot 2-under 70 to finish the first round at T25, while Mickelson played his last three holes Friday morning in 3-over and shot 73.
Category: Golf
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