Entries in Tiger Woods (234)


Ryder Cup nastiness runneth over

By Art Spander

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Tiger Woods was talking about applause in golf. Or really the lack of it. “The art of the clap is gone,” said Woods. Fans have one hand wrapped around a cell phone and their minds wrapped around the idea of creating chaos.

In his advice to spectators — patrons, they’re called — at the Masters, the late Bobby Jones said it would be impolite and improper to cheer a competitor’s mistakes. Which brings us to the Ryder Cup, a tournament where virtually anything goes and everything is yelled, especially insults.

The Cup’s nastiness runneth over. And ain’t it wonderful?

It you’re not familiar with the Ryder Cup, it’s a biennial event that matches golfers from the United States against golfers from Europe, many of whom live at least part-time in the United States. The 2018 Cup is Friday through Sunday at Le Golf National, a course about 20 miles from Paris.

Nobody in America seemed to notice the Cup, much less care about it, until back in the early 1990s when, whoops, Europe, with players such as Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo began to kick America’s you-know-what.

As Davis Love III, a player and then a two-time American captain, recalled, “I got home, and a friend had two questions: What’s the Ryder Cup and how did we lose it?”

With considerable regret, that’s how. All those handshakes at the close of the tournament cover up a great deal of deep-felt irritation that once became public in comments by Paul Casey.

In the Sunday Times of London, Casey was quoted as saying he learned to “properly hate” Americans during the Cup and went on to explain that U.S. fans can be “bloody annoying” and the vast majority of American fans don’t know what’s going on.

The story made its way to the tabloid Daily Mirror, where a headline quoted Casey as saying, “Stupid Americans. I hate them.” That Casey, an Englishman, attended Arizona State, was married to an American and is based in Arizona didn’t seem to matter.

Casey, who plays the U.S. PGA Tour, is back on the European Ryder team, saying very little, unfortunately.

It’s football season in the U.S. (also in Europe, if a different brand of football). The Cup can use a few vocal barbs to get attention.

The Euros have grumbled about the manner American fans acted and bellowed during the 2016 matches at Minneapolis. Surely there will be a response this time around.

Tom Watson, the Stanford guy and five-time British Open champion, gets some of the blame. The 1991 Ryder Cup was held at Kiawah Island in South Carolina shortly after the U.S. military operation Desert Storm. To whip up interest, Watson, the U.S. team captain, called the matches “The War by the Shore,” and the fans roared at every missed Euro putt.

Six years later, 1997, the Cup was in Spain, and the Americans were harassed as much as possible. The next chapter was in 1999 at The Country Club in Boston, when Justin Leonard of the U.S. sank an enormously long birdie putt near the end of day three and his U.S. teammates and some of their wives and girlfriends celebrated on the green — even though opponent José Maria Olazabal had yet to putt.

That was 19 years ago, but a writer from Scotland brought it up the other day. These people have long memories and sometimes short fuses.

Sergio Garcia, the Spaniard, is a captain’s pick. Through the years he’s also been a pain in the neck for the U.S., holing long putts at the most opportune times — or inopportune for the Americans.

Someone suggested the U.S. has copied the camaraderie long evident among the Euros. “It may seem they are doing a little bit better,” said Garcia. “I don’t know what goes on in their team room, but I know what goes on in ours. It comes easy. It comes naturally.

“Then we will go out there and play the best we can and make sure we have a shot at winning the Cup.”

From the American team, we hear the sound of one hand clapping.


Tiger to his young challengers: ‘Alright, here we go’

By Art Spander

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — The hero who became the outcast again has become the hero, raising his sport as he raised his game, and turning back the clock as he turned away the skeptics.

Once more golf has been distilled to two words and one name, Tiger Woods, who was nearly lost in a crowd of enthralled fans as, for the first time in five years, he won a tournament, giving a new generation an idea of what he was like in the old days.

Now after a singular and — from the response in the TV ratings — wildly popular victory in the Tour Championship at Atlanta, Woods, along with some of the people he subdued, has crossed the ocean to play in the Ryder Cup, the biennial team competition between the U.S. and Europe.

That for the first time the Cup, Friday through Sunday, is being held in France, at Le Golf National, a course some 20 miles from Paris and maybe five miles from the glorious royal chateau of Versailles, seems appropriate.

One of golf’s more recent kings has been restored to his throne, and those involved in the game, even peripherally, are ecstatic. Why, during interviews on Tuesday, an American broadcaster, ignoring the dictum of no cheering in the press box, even figurative, thanked Woods “for all of us who earn our living in the golf business.”

Some journalists cringed. Tiger merely smiled in appreciation.

It all gets down to personalities in golf and tennis, to ladies such as Serena Williams, men such as Woods, whose simple presence — or absence — becomes a story.

Tiger, winning majors repeatedly, was an idol, if a distant one given the way he walked fairways without a wave or sideways glance. Then came the revelations about his womanizing, which alienated a percentage of his fans and the media. That was followed by surgery on his back, and who knew if he would play — or if he could play well?

The answer is in. U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk’s decision in early August to add Woods to the 12-member squad was more than justified with Tiger’s victory, one achieved against players such as Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas, who were not on Tour when Woods was in his prime.

When asked why one of Woods’ friends, Phil Gordon, said that Tiger just wanted the new kids on the block to feel the heat of facing him down the stretch of a back nine, Tiger had a ready explanation.

“Well. a lot of these guys were — well, the younger guys were on their way in when I was on my way out,” said the 43-year-old Woods, who of course, still very much is in. He was alluding to Thomas, Koepka and Jordan Spieth, in particular.

“You know, they never had played against me when I was playing well. It’s been, what, five years since I won a tournament?”

Now it hasn’t even been five days.

“I think that when my game is there,” said Woods, trying to temper his self-belief, “I’ve always been a tough person to beat. They have jokingly been saying, ‘We want to go against you.’

“Alright, here we go. And we had a run at it. And it was a blast, because I had beat Rory (McIlroy) head-up in the final group. Rosy (Justin Rose) was tied with Rory ... Those guys had both ascended to No. 1 in the world. They both have won major championships, and I have not played a whole lot of golf the last few years.”

He played a lot the last few months, taking leads in the British Open and PGA Championship, and then winning the Tour Championship. That put him face-to-face with an unfortunate aspect of a career with few unfortunate aspects, his record in the Ryder Cup. Only once in his seven appearances has Woods been part of a winning team.

“Yeah,” agreed Woods, “looking back on my entire Ryder Cup career, that’s one thing I’ve not really enjoyed or liked seeing. I’ve sat out one session. That was the last (team play) session at Medinah (2012). Otherwise I’ve played every match. We haven’t done very well.”

Not at all, but this 2019 team is one with Koepka, Spieth, Thomas, Phil Mickelson and Woods — who, for better or worse, is the guy who the game is all about.


For Tiger, was it a last hurrah or a hint of the future?

By Art Spander

ST. LOUIS — Who knows where it goes from here? In a way, who cares? This might have been a last, wonderful hurrah for Tiger Woods, the PGA Championship in the humidity and enthusiasm of Middle America.

Or maybe it was a hint about a future that, at moments, could make us remember his past.

But it doesn’t matter. What does matter, for the game and for the golfer, is that for a week there were reminders of the way it used to be.

And a year ago, who dared imagine that would be possible? Not even Tiger.

Three weeks ago, he stirred emotions by working his way into the lead on the final day of the British Open before slipping to sixth, which was impressive, all things considered.

Then, here at Bellerive, green, lush and water-logged, so different from the links in Scotland, Woods played an even better major.

He shot 64 on Sunday, the final round of the 100th PGA Championship, and had the enormous crowd engaged and hopeful — and, of course, cheering loudly. The roar after a Tiger birdie rumbled across the fairways almost to the banks of the Mississippi.

The tournament in the end would belong to Brooks Koepka, who with a second major in a single calendar year, after the U.S. Open, and a third major overall, including consecutive Opens, right now may be the best golfer on the globe.

He has the long game and, perhaps more importantly, the short game and the poise. Koepka finished with a 4-under-par 66 for a 16-under total of 264, to win by two shots over, yes, Tiger Woods. Welcome to 2000.

Woods closed with a 6-under-par 64. He was holing putts and pumping his fist — and pumping up the fans. He dropped a long one at 18. He was a contender. He finished ahead of Adam Scott, Justin Thomas, British Open winner Francesco Molinari and Jordan Spieth, who in our tendency to exaggerate we’ve called the next Tiger Woods.

Ahead of everyone except Koepka.

But it was the former and current Tiger Woods who made this PGA thrilling. And surprising.

Woods was a question after the two back surgeries, the second to fuse a part of his spine. He needed to change his swing. He was 43, coming off months of inactivity and rehabilitation.

“At the beginning of the year, if you would say, yeah, I have a legitimate chance to win the last two major championships,” Woods conceded, “with what swing? I didn’t have a swing at the time. I had no speed. I didn’t have a short game. My putting was OK.

“But God, I hadn’t played in two years, so it’s been a hell of a process for sure.”

There’s a sporting axiom that greatness is forever. Age and injury may have an effect on performance, but a champion is always a champion. Tiger, we found out in the last few weeks, is still Tiger. In the hunt, he’s a factor.

What is different is this Tiger smiles and slaps hands with spectators, as he did walking up the ramp from the 18th green. We didn’t know if he would be back. He didn’t know. They say you don’t appreciate something until you don’t have it.

What Woods had during the PGA, especially the captivating last round, was a belief that this is where he belonged, high on the leader board, and striding purposely toward a goal that so many doubted ever would be attainable. It was fun. For him. For everyone.

“Oh, you could hear them,” Woods said of the fans. “They were loud, and they stayed around. It’s been incredible with the positiveness. They wanted to see some good golf, and we produced some good golf, I think, as a whole. The energy was incredible.”

It flowed from Brooks Koepka, from Adam Scott and most of all from Tiger Woods.

“I’m in unchartered territory,” said Tiger about his game, “because no one’s ever had a fused spine hitting it like I’m hitting it. I’m very pleased at what I’ve done so far. Going from where I’ve come to now in the last year, it’s been pretty cool.”

As they used to yell, you’re the man.


Tiger’s Bellerive memories: 9/11 and a different type of long drive

By Art Spander

ST. LOUIS — The drive was a literal one for Tiger Woods, in a car — the only transportation available in a country that had shut down all flights — and it turned out one that provided time for thought.

The PGA Championship, the 100th, begins Thursday at Bellerive Country Club, just west of the Mississippi River. They’ve had previous majors at Bellerive, the 1965 U.S. Open, and the 1978 PGA.

Yet it was a tournament they didn’t have at Bellerive that remains meaningful for Woods.

And, in a way, America.

The 2001 American Express Championship, cancelled because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks the Tuesday of tournament week, the day that Tiger would play a practice round with Mark Calcavecchia, at virtually the same time several hundred miles to the northeast, jets were being crashed into the Twin Towers in New York.

The tournament could not go on. Woods was one of the millions unable to travel by air. On Wednesday, September 12, he drove 17 hours back to Florida. “It was a very surreal time, at least for me for me anyways,” said Woods.

A surreal time, and a time for reflection. On that trip Woods made the decision to revise the purpose of the Tiger Woods Foundation, shifting from an emphasis on golf — “a traveling circus,” said Tiger — to an emphasis on education. “And behold, we have 53 different curriculums.”

Woods has yet to play a competitive round at Bellerive. He missed the 2008 BMW, qualifier for the FedEx Cup, after his knee went out in the U.S. Open. “Yeah,” he said Tuesday, “I literally hadn’t stepped foot on the golf course since the week in 2001.”

And the footsteps he finally took were soggy and limited. One of those massive Midwest thunderstorms hit the region in late morning, suspending play and closing the course to spectators for several hours.

This is the new Tiger, the pro who at 43, after the back surgeries and rehab, is at least back as a golfer — “I’m blessed,” he insisted — if not as a front runner.

While he’ll always be a competitor, one wonders if he still should be called competitive.

He made a run, yes, at the British Open two and a half weeks ago, and then had a good start at last week’s Bridgestone, but at the end, where we used to find Woods at the top, he is fifth or sixth or 15th.

His presence will always be a factor. There’s only one Tiger, even if it’s not the Tiger we once knew.

“When I was playing well there for over a better part of a decade,” said Woods, when asked about preparation then and now, “it was the same thought process. The whole idea was to try and get a feel for the golf course and how it’s playing that week, but more than anything to make sure I was fresh and ready to go on Thursday.”

Yet being ready does not necessarily mean being productive. He’s not the golfer he used to be, which even for a superstar who arguably was one of the greatest ever is a matter of growing older.

His scoring average on the back nine in recent tournaments is a stroke higher than on the front nine. “I wish I could figure it out,” said Woods. “I don’t know what it is. If I had an answer, I would give it to you. But I really don’t know.”

What we all know is that in recent majors, even when Woods has a burst reminding us of his play of some 15 years ago, there’s one bad swing — the 3-iron at the 10th hole at Carnoustie leading to the double-bogey — or one missed putt.

Still, two years ago he wouldn’t even have been in the field.

“Well, just the fact that I’m playing the tour again — to have the opportunity again — it’s a dream come true,” said Woods. “I said this many times this year. I didn’t know I could do this again. And lo and behold, here I am.”

Here he is, for a real round at Bellerive. Finally.



Tiger’s thoughts about winning this British: ‘Who knows?’

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland—Who knows? That was the question asked by Tiger Woods. Of himself.

  Who knows if Tiger, well past his 43rd birthday, is able to win this 147th British Open? Is able to win any golf tournament, major or not?.

  Who knows if the weather, warm, inviting for all Great Britain, indeed for most of Western Europe, will hold for another week or instead with wind and rain turn the Open into the challenge it was meant to be.

  For a while, at St. Andrews, then at Hoylake, Tiger Woods owned the Open, shooting record scores. But that was then, before the emergence of Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Before the back surgeries, which made Woods a spectator instead of an entrant.

   Now, at Carnoustie, “Car-nasty,”  north of St. Andrews, across the Firth of Tay, in Angus, Woods returns to the Open after an absence of two years, a man of experience and doubt, not a favorite but still the focus,

   To ESPN, he’s the only man on the course, any course, any event. To both the purist and the casual fan he’s the eternal unanswered query: “Is Tiger Woods going to win another major?”

   The sarcastic response would be, not with Brooks Koepka or Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson or Justin Thomas in the field. But golf is different than any sport except bowling. There’s no defense. The only effect you have on an opponent is psychological.

   Tiger was on the media room stage Tuesday, facing the skeptics, who as every tournament he plays-- the Open, which starts Thursday is his 12th of 2018—wonder how much trust should be placed on Woods’ chances. How’s his swing? More importantly, how’s his confidence?

“Each tournament I keep coming back to,” Woods said, perhaps as much to persuade himself as anyone, “I keep feeling a little bit better because I’m starting to play golf again. My feels are much better than they were at the beginning of the year.

 “I have a better understanding of my game and my body and my swing, much more so than I did at Augusta.”

That’s the Masters, in April, where he tied for 32nd.  Two months later, the U.S. Open, at Shinnecock Hills, a more punishing course than Augusta National, Woods missed the cut, but so did Spieth, McIlroy and Sergio Garcia.

    A couple after  that, the Quicken Loans event, Tiger tied for fourth.

  He’s changed putters for the British. He’s modified his swing, if only slightly. Everything, he insisted, is a little better. It should be by the middle of July, after weeks on different courses in different locations.

  “I’ve put myself up there in contention a couple of times,” said Woods. “I just need to play some cleaner golf and who knows?”

   The Open is links golf, always played on the hard, fast fairways of linksland, along the coasts of Britain  that thousands of years ago were under the Atlantic Ocean or North Sea.

  It is golf played along the ground, with balls rolling forever, golf that demands creativity, golf Tiger said he relishes, hitting a low-running iron 250 t0 300 yards, golf that enables an older player such as Tom Watson in 2009 at Turnberry when he was 59 and lost in a playoff, to keep up with the young guns.

“I’ve always loved playing links golf,” said Woods. “Feel has a lot to do with winning the Open. I think the guys traditionally over the years who have done well have been wonderful feel players and because it can be difficult to get the ball close, wonderful lag putters.”

   Guys like Watson, who won five Opens; guys like Gary Player, who won three, including here at Carnoustie in 1968; and guys like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Seve Ballesteros won two apiece.

  “There definitely were points in time,” said Woods referring to his post-surgical recovery, “I thought I’d never play in this championship again. Watching it on TV is great, but it’s better in person. I remember how it feels to come down to the last hole with a chance to win. “

  Will he ever have that feeling again? As he said, who knows?