Posted on: March 1, 2012 3:34 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 3:46 pm

Giving Tiger the shirt off their backs

By Steve Elling

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Or in the case of this father and son shadowing Tiger Woods at the Honda Classic on Thursday, maybe a million of them.

The early winner of the photo caption contest is, "The sad part is, they had these shirts custom made 30 months ago."

Father/son combo following Tiger Woods at the Honda Classic. (Twitter)

Photo credit John Maginnes' Twitter
Category: Golf
Posted on: March 1, 2012 12:43 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 9:49 am

Rory McIlroy opens Honda with solid 66

Rory McIlroy talks with his caddy J.P. Fitzgerald while shooting a 66 on Thursday at the Honda Open. (Associated Press)

By Shane Bacon

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla -- On Wednesday night, I was lucky enough to spend a few minutes with Rory McIlroy. It was part of Oakley’s entire week here, and they set it up so that a lot of their players could spend some times with lowly journalists like myself. 

And above all else, the thing I took away from McIlroy was at just 22, the kid is a superstar in every sense of the word. As he was leaving dinner, the thing I kept thinking to myself was, “he’s going to win this week. I know it.” And after the first round of the Honda Classic, the prediction might not be far off. 

McIlroy shot an opening round 66 at PGA National, dropping just one shot and taming the always brutal Bear Trap along the way. He did it in the precise way that we used to a see a certain someone that is also in the field this week work. Rory picked his spots, made his birdies, and took his chances when they needed to be taken. 

People nitpick on Rory about his inability to close, like at the Masters a year ago and the Accenture just last week. Critics easily forget his work at Congressional, but above that, just look at the way he’s played the last two months. Second at the match play, fifth at Dubai, another second place finish at Abu Dhabi and a win in December in Hong Kong. 

His play of late has been scary consistent, much like his golf swing, and if he continues to put himself in a position to win, like he has this week after the Honda, the wins are going to start pouring in. 

This week has been about Tiger Woods. The press conference. His debut at this event. The fact that Tiger is playing two weeks in a row. But the real story should be McIlroy. The golf world has been looking for someone to start dominating again after a two year hiatus from such a figure, and if we’d all start opening our eyes, we’d see that someone is a curly haired kid with growing biceps and an incredible resume the last few months. 

Rory needs to win here, but more than that, we all need to just realizing what we have right in front of us. 

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 1:18 pm

Video: Tiger did not like those book questions

By Shane Bacon

Tiger Woods had his usual timid press conference on Wednesday at PGA National, and while it had the bland answers Woods usually gives reporters, it did have a surprise moment when Tiger lost his cool.

Asked by Alex Miceli about the recent excerpts from Hank Haney's tell-all book about Woods, Tiger said he wasn't going to answer anymore questions and actually broke his cool for a moment. The video is below, so watch it for yourself, but you can obviously tell Tiger isn't a big fan of this upcoming book and might even hate questions about the book more.  

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Category: Golf
Posted on: February 29, 2012 10:55 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 11:04 am

Some might call it swing oil, but not Nicklaus

By Steve Elling

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- It started off as a spontaneous treatise to a question indirectly relating to the putting issues of Tiger Woods, but the response took an interesting detour into an area that had not much been explored.

Eighteen-time major champion Jack Nicklaus never experienced debilitating putting slumps over his legendary career, and he's developed an interesting theory as to why it afflicted plenty of other legends, from Ben Hogan to Sam Snead to Arnold Palmer, but never seemed to bother him.

Yet the perceived root cause is, shall we say, a sensitive area.

Couching his words carefully, Nicklaus said Tuesday at the Honda Classic that he believes his putting stroke has remained steady over the years because he didn’t drink during tournament weeks, while other players from the old-guard era used to repeatedly hoist a cold one after rounds.

Or based on the stories circulating from back in that era, more than one, in some instances.

"I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, please, because I am not condemning what happened, but in those days, most of those guys were club pros in the old days, the Hogans and Sneads and so forth," Nicklaus said. "Their life was playing golf maybe 20 weeks a year and the usual thing was to come in after a round, sit down, have a drink and socialize.

"I have always felt that drinking does not do well with nerves. The guys today don’t do that. I don’t think you see that and I never did that. Did I have a drink, sure, I had a drink here and there. But never while I was playing in tournaments. I always felt it was terrible for your nerves and terrible for your touch.

"I don’t think the guys did it because they were nervous, it was just their way of life, a social way of life. Golf was a social sport. Guys today take the game more as athletes, in a different way. I took it pretty much that way.

"I never lost [my stroke], never. Even today, I am just as quiet over a putt as I was when I was playing. I am not saying these guys were [heavy] drinkers. I am just saying it was part of their life, part of their culture. It's not part of the culture now.

"You don’t really hear about the yips anymore, do you? The only guy I remember who had the yips, who I know was not a drinker, was Langer. And he has overcome them."

Interesting theory, and one never before espoused, as far as we know. Nicklaus seemed to sense that some would take it the wrong way.

"Probably a theory I probably shouldn't have said here," he said.

And clearly, none of it applicable to the recent putting plight of Woods, who isn't much of a drinker, socially or otherwise.

Posted on: February 28, 2012 8:55 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 8:58 pm

Nicklaus poses heretical idea: Use 12-hole days

By Steve Elling

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The NFL has the three-hour game almost down to a science. Big-league baseball not so much, but games are usually around that general time mark.

Basketball games in college and the pros log in well under that time figure.

So, how are fans supposed to remain engaged for a round of golf, not the most stimulating sport visually for spectators, if it takes five hours to complete? Or for the actual practitioners, five hours to play?

A possible answer: Cut the number of holes. Or at minimum, redistribute them. In theory, it would certainly help retain eyeballs in an era of increasingly shorter attention spans.

The game's biggest father figure, 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus, said Tuesday at the Honda Classic that he's suggested to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem that a tournament in the future be cut down to 12-hole days, perhaps played over six days, versus 18 holes over four days.

"I'm trying to talk Tim -- and I talked to him about a year ago and he sort of poohpoohed me -- about the 12-hole golf," Nicklaus said. "He came back to me at the Masters last year and he says, 'You know, we are going to do more with this 12-hole golf. I'm going to do something with it.'

"He hasn't done anything yet, but he has it in his head. He likes it for the First Tee because they have two sixes [six-hole courses] and it makes a lot less time for First Tee. I said, 'Tim, what would be the difference -- we have to legitimize, if you are going to have people play 12-hole golf, you have to play golf in 2 1/2 hours."

Nicklaus has experimented with 12-hole rounds at his home track in Columbus, Ohio.

"Every other sport is played in less than three hours. If we can do that, why can't we play a tournament where we play six 12-hole rounds?" he said. "You just play a round and a half a day. You score it differently is all.  You wake up in the morning and you see where you've shot a 46 and a 23 and you shot 69 for the day as total number of strokes."

Actually, most people track scores relative to par, anyway, so a full 18-hole score at the end of the day has been somewhat marginalized already. In a 12-hole day, a player would be 3-under, and that number could be tracked instead over the 72-hole week.

"It's just how you score it, legitimize it, to get people to think about the game in a different way." Nicklaus said. "I hope he'll do it."

Don't hold your breath. The 18-hole round has been around for centuries, and Finchem is unwilling to do much more than turn his head on issues relating to slow play. But if Nicklaus presses the issue, it can't possibly hurt.

Posted on: February 28, 2012 5:36 pm

Haney: Tiger considered becoming a Navy SEAL

Tiger shakes hands with members of the Armed Forces at the 2007 AT&T National. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

Judging by his brains, good looks and killer instinct, it seemed when Tiger Woods came into our lives he had the ability to be anything he wanted. Sure, he was a golfer since basically birth, but his larger than life persona made it seem like he could be a CEO, professional baseball player or even the president. 

But one of the things you probably didn’t expect to hear is that at one point, Tiger seriously considered becoming a Navy SEAL. 

Golf Digest has some excerpts from Hank Haney’s tell-all Tiger book, and one of the quotations from Hank says that Tiger once told him he seriously was considering leaving golf to join one of the most elite forces in our military. 

"Tiger was seriously considering becoming a Navy SEAL. I didn't know how he'd go about it, but when he talked about it, it was clear he had a plan....I thought, Wow, here is Tiger Woods, greatest athlete on the planet, maybe the greatest athlete ever, right in the middle of his prime, basically ready to leave it all behind for a military life."

As Mr. Wall points out, there isn’t exactly a time indicated in Haney’s quotes, but to say “the middle of his prime” meant that it had to have been when Woods was winning all those majors, not when his personal life was in shambles. 

That, in itself, is pretty incredible because it shows that Tiger really thought about doing this for no other reason than to serve his country. 

Tiger’s dad, Earl, was a Green Beret in the United States Army so it isn’t like Tiger didn’t have a military background, but it’s incredible to hear he even thought to do this with the level of fame and success he reached at this certain point. 

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Category: Golf
Posted on: February 28, 2012 3:13 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 3:19 pm

Has Tiger earned his U.S. stripes already?

By Steve Elling

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- In case you were wondering what it would take for Tiger Woods to be bypassed as a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team later this season, you have your answer.

Courtesy of U.S. captain Davis Love, the guy who makes the final call.

Love indicated Tuesday at the Honda Classic that unless Woods is dead, dismembered or has the small pox, he will be a member of the American side.

OK, so that's not the exact quote, but it's close. Love didn’t go quite as far as Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples, who last summer gave Woods a spot on the team even though he had not earned it with his play, Love gave every assurance that the striped one will play at Medinah.

In fact, when asked what scenario it would take for Woods to be left at home, Love gave a very narrow definition.

"If he was hurt or didn't play a full season," Love said. "But if he plays and he's healthy, again, I would have a hard time seeing him not making the team one way or another."

Woods has been added to the last two international cup teams as a captain's pick as he tries to patch together his game after his well-chronicled personal and professional issues. The last time Woods didn’t play on one of the annual cup teams was at the Ryder Cup in 2008, which the U.S. won without him in Louisville.

The U.S. Ryder points list is compiled by using PGA Tour earnings from the past two seasons, but is heavily tilted toward money list for 2012. Woods has played twice, with mixed results, and is buried at No. 32 at the moment, though this early in the year, one good week puts him back near the top of the chart.

When Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan won, they jumped into the top five. The top eight in points are automatic picks, while gets to use discretionary picks on the other four.

"Well, how many tournaments has he played?" he said of Woods' position. "I think like Phil, or like Hunter, all it takes is one week, you know.  I think if he plays a full schedule, he's going to be right in there.  I just keep saying if he's healthy, he's going to make the team.

"I think that's what Fred, what anybody, would think. If he's healthy, he's going to be on the team one way or another."

Sounds pretty close to a guarantee to us, no?

"II love the way he's played," Love said of Woods' recent uptick. "He had really one bad day since the [ Open last fall], he's had one bad round, really."

In a controversial move, Woods was added to the Presidents Cup team as a captain's selection last fall and went 2-3, though he scored what proved to be the clinching point. He hasn't won an official event on the PGA Tour in nearly 30 months.

Love is feeling pretty confident about his troops at the moment. American players have claimed the first nine PGA Tour-sanctioned events this year, the longest streak to open a year since Yanks won 12 in succession to start the 1991 season.

"It's been very exciting for me, and I know for the American golf fans, to see them playing well," Love said.

The complete list of U.S. Ryder Cup points through the Mayakoba and match play events last week:

Posted on: February 28, 2012 10:01 am

Rory favored over Tiger at Honda

Tiger and Rory shake hands at the Abu Dhabi event. (Getty Images)

By Shane Bacon

The thing about sports betting is that you're almost always going to lose (thanks a lot, Eli Manning), but it definitely makes sports more interesting to watch. And another thing about sports betting is that the people in Las Vegas know more about the sport than you do, and they know more about how your mind works than you do. Case and point? Tiger Woods continues to be the favorite at golf tournaments. The reason is because people are always going to put money down on Tiger because he's a name they remember and he's a guy they like to root for.

So it's interesting when you check out the Honda Classic odds (and Masters odds, for that matter) and see Rory McIlroy favored ahead of Tiger to win this week.

These are the numbers in Vegas:
  • RORY McILROY - 8/1
  • TIGER WOODS - 10/1
  • LEE WESTWOOD - 10/1
  • KYLE STANLEY - 25/1
  • BEN CRANE - 25/1 
Sure, looking at the lines in sports don't really mean anything, because it's more about the casinos winning money than putting the right person at the top, but it definitely reiterates our point that McIlroy might slowly be taking over as the main attraction in golf if Vegas thinks people would want to put money on him just as much as they would on Tiger. 

If nothing else it just defines my point about betting on golf; it's stupid and you should never do it.  

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