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9:17AM

RealClearSports: Tiger Controversy Is What Golf Needs



By Art Spander
For RealClearSports.com

CHASKA, Minn. --This is what golf needs, a good controversy that involves the unquestioned best player in the game.

Maybe the people who dote on scandal and debate will decide indeed there is more to the sport than handshakes and kind words.
These are times of action, and about the only action in golf is bending over to pick a ball from the cup. Golf then must do it with reaction.

Like the reaction of Tiger Woods to being charged, along with playing partner Padraig Harrington, with slow play in Sunday's final round of the Bridgestone Invitational over at Akron.

Tiger's in a bigger event this week, the 91st PGA Championship, which starts Thursday at Hazeltine National some 20 miles southwest of Minneapolis. He's trying to win his first major of the year. He's also still trying to defend his criticism of a rules official at the Bridgestone.

Tiger's the big dog. When Tiger barks, everybody hears. Tiger barked loudly after winning the Bridgestone.

He and Harrington, coming down the stretch, separated by a shot, were put on the clock by John Paramor, a European official working the tournament because it was a World Golf Association event. In a timeless game, Tiger and Padraig were being timed, threatened by a fine and a penalty stroke.

Harrington apparently rushed his chip shot from behind the green on 16 and the ball bounced into a pond. He ended with a triple-bogey 8, losing four shots to Woods, the lead and finally the tournament. Padraig stayed silent. Woods did not.

"The way I understood it,'' Woods said Tuesday, "we were the only two in contention. We had separated ourselves. The winner was not going to come from the groups ahead. It was going to come from our group, and we were having a great battle.''

Forty-eight hours earlier, Woods stated, "I'm sorry John (Paramor) got in the way of a great battle, but that happened.''

In his defense, Paramor said the twosome was 17 minutes behind the preceding group on the 16th tee, and the warning was deserved.

On Monday, a day later, there was a story that the PGA Tour, in its speak-no-evil ways, had fined Woods for his remarks. But Tuesday Tiger said he was not fined. Neither was he fine.

"I thought they could have used better judgment,'' Woods said of being put on the clock. "It certainly influenced us in how we played and influenced the outcome of the tournament, and that's not how you want to have a tournament come to an end.''

Harrington, the defending PGA champion, was less critical than Tiger but hardly less displeased.

"As regards to what he said,'' explained Harrington, "I think it's easier for having won the tournament to take the moral high ground and say what he wants. Having lost the tournament, I'm going to take it on the chin and say it was my mistake.''

Which, literally, it was. Hassled or not, flustered or not, a player as good as Harrington, who has two British Open wins along with his PGA, is not supposed to lose control.

The people in charge of golf shudder at this stuff. They deem golf a gentleman's game and attempt to cover up any misfortune or disagreement.

At the Masters, there's a booklet with a quote from the late Bobby Jones warning fans not to cheer a player's errors. The Tour last winter refused to confirm that John Daly had been suspended, even though he had been.

But golf is better off with controversy. Baseball, football, basketball, and even tennis thrive on it. All of a sudden, you have Tiger Woods talking like a low-key Ozzie Guillen -- standing up for what he thinks is right and getting as much attention as for his marvelous play.

Woods has won five tournaments in '09, a year that begin with him still rehabilitating the June 2008 anterior cruciate ligament surgery on his left knee. Two of those victories have come in the last two weeks. However, none of those victories has been in a major.

"For me to come back and play as well as I have,'' said Woods when asked if this still would be a top year without a major win, "and actually win golf events, to say at the very beginning of the year, I don't think any of us could have thought I would win this many events.''

Told that previously he wouldn't have thought it was a good year without a win in a major, something that hasn't happened since 2004, Woods answered, "I've said that in the past, but I didn't have ACL reconstruction either.''

He had it. He's back. And he's letting golf know, with his game and his comments.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was recently honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

8:49PM

Newsday: Watson, 59, shares British Open lead; Woods misses cut

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- The haunting unpredictability of golf jolted the British Open on a windy afternoon that sent the world's No. 1 player out of the tournament and surprising Tom Watson and Steve Marino into a share of the halfway lead.

Tiger Woods, the overwhelming favorite -- in the betting parlors as well as in casual conversations -- missed the cut. That was more stunning than the 59-year-old Watson -- the oldest player to lead a major championship -- and the winless Marino moving into a first-place tie.

Marino, 29, a graduate of the University of Virginia who had never even seen a links course until this week, shot a 2-under-par 68 Friday at Turnberry. Watson, a five-time Open champion, was at 70. Each had a 36-hole total of 5-under 135.

A shot back at 136 was another of the near-geriatric set, 49-year-old Mark Calcavecchia. Ross Fisher, Retief Goosen, Kenichi Kuboya, Vijay Singh and first-day leader Miguel Angel Jimenez were tied for fourth at 137.

Only once in 48 previous majors as a pro -- the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot a few weeks after his father, Earl, died of cancer -- had Woods missed a cut.

Unable to control his tee shots, even though he mostly used irons and his 3-wood instead of a driver, Woods lost seven shots to par in a torturous stretch of six holes on the famed course, eight through 13.

He had bogeys at eight, nine and 12 and double bogeys at 10 and 13. Even a birdie at 17 was of little help as Woods shot a 74. Added to Thursday's 71, it left him at 145, a shot over the 144 cut line.

"I was 1 under par for seven holes,'' Woods said, attempting to mask his disappointment, "and just right there in the championship and had a few tough holes right in a row and couldn't get it back.

"I hit a couple of bad shots, but other than that, I made a double bogey at 13 from 150 yards. It was just problem after problem. I kept compounding my problems out there. I just made mistakes, and obviously, you can't make mistakes not only to make the cut but to try and win a championship. You have to play clean rounds of golf, and I didn't.''

This is the third straight major of 2009 in which Woods came in two weeks after a victory and didn't win, although in the other two - the Masters and U.S. Open at Bethpage Black - a pair of sixth-place finishes were hardly as crushing.

The double bogey at 10, a 446-yard par 4, came after a lost ball. Using a 3-wood, Woods smashed his tee ball into the deep rough.

Woods, who had been the 2-1 choice in this nation where gambling is legal - The Racing Post called the action on Woods a "feeding frenzy'' - won three previous Opens. But he never had played Turnberry, on the west coast of Scotland along the Firth of Clyde, until a practice round Sunday. He did not take to the course.

"I was playing well coming in,'' said Woods, who when asked what was next on the agenda answered, "Head home.''

The great drama now is whether Watson -- who won at Turnberry in 1977, edging Jack Nicklaus in their renowned "Duel in the Sun'' -- is headed for a miracle win.

The oldest major winner was 48-year-old Julius Boros in the 1968 PGA Championship. Greg Norman was 53 when he challenged in last year's Open at Royal Birkdale before slipping back the final day. This time Norman missed the cut at 77-75-152.

"The spirits are with me,'' Watson said. "And I've holed some long putts.''

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http://www.newsday.com/sports/highschool/golf/ny-spbrit1812980876jul17,0,2331801.story
Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.
4:27PM

CBSSports.com: Woods shoots 71, odds triple in rough first day at Open

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- The money couldn't be turned over fast enough. The pounds, each of them worth $1.77, were being wagered on Tiger Woods with such eagerness that Britain's betting paper, the Racing Post, headlined it as "a feeding frenzy."

Tiger was a virtual 2-1 favorite when he stepped to the first tee Thursday to hit first shot of the 138th British Open, and nobody else, not Sergio Garcia, not Steve Stricker, not two-time defending champion Padraig Harrington, was better than 20-1.

The odds changed dramatically by the time Tiger made it to the rolling 18th green of Turnberry's enticing links. Woods not only wasn't leading the tournament, he wasn't even leading the other two players in his threesome, one of them 17-year-old Japanese prodigy Ryo Ishikawa, the other Englishman Lee Westwood.

The odds on that happening were rather large. Mr. Woods, who came in with a 1-over-par 71, which put him down below the top 60, was a 1-2 favorite to beat Ishikawa and Westwood.

Which he didn't do, both of them coming in with 2-under 68s. And which made El Tigre perhaps the most unhappy laddie on the west coast of Scotland, if not the entire country.

Tiger was his usual repetitious and non-committal self when asked exactly that happened on a day when the wind didn't blow, the rain never fell and the temperature at the real Turnberry -- this one -- might have been confused with that of the reasonable facsimile, Turnberry in Florida.

You not only could see the sun, you could see Ailsa Craig, that mammoth rock off 10 miles into the Firth of Clyde, and not even think about the local axiom: "If ye can't see Ailsa Craig, it's raining; if ye can see Ailsa Craig, it's going to rain."

It figuratively rained on Tiger's out-of-step parade. He had four bogeys, of which one actually was quite impressive.

Woods hit his approach on the 455-yard par-4 16th, named "Wee Burn," into the burn, or stream, which doesn't seem so "wee." After a penalty drop, he chipped close and one-putted. Otherwise he would have had a double bogey.

Tiger's post-round analysis consisted of a not-surprising litany, words we have heard more than once at majors since Woods returned from the left knee ACL surgery that kept him out from June 2008 to February 2009.

"Well," he said, "I certainly made a few mistakes out there. Realistically, I probably should have shot about 1 or 2 under par. But I made a few mistakes, and consequently I'm at 1 over."

Then he pointed out he would be going to the driving range to correct those mistakes.

There's a pattern here, and one Tiger needs to break. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March two weeks before the Masters and finished sixth at Augusta. He won the Memorial two weeks before the U.S. Open and finished sixth at Bethpage. Two weeks before this Open Championship, he won the AT&T in Washington.

"On the range," Woods said of his warmup, "my misses were to the right. And I tried not to miss it to the right on 3. I didn't do that. Consequently I hit it left."

After the shot, he took a swipe at the teeing ground and mumbled something under his breath. By round's end, he had tossed away his clubs a few times. He expected more of himself. So did everyone, especially the guys making the odds.

"The misses I had were the same shots I was hitting on the range," Woods said. "So I need to go to work on that and get it squared away."

With 54 holes remaining, Woods isn't exactly finished, even if the bookmakers revised the numbers upward, placing him at 6-1. You only wish waiters over here could serve half as quickly as the odds are posted.

Before 2005, Tiger had not finished first in a major when he didn't shoot par or better the first round, but that stat has become irrelevant, sort of like those six-foot deep bunkers at Turnberry without any breeze to knock down shots.

Woods now has three major titles when he began over par, the '05 Masters and the last two of his total 14, the '07 PGA and the '08 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, the one he took on a leg and half and a lot of courage.

The other day, after a practice round, Tiger said Turnberry is a course where "you can't fake it." There was no faking the first round of the 2009 Open, just enough bad shots to change the odds -- if not Tiger's continued place as the favorite.

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http://www.cbssports.com/golf/story/11960022
© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.
11:22AM

RealClearSports: Tiger Takes on Turnberry

By Art Spander


TURNBERRY, Scotland -- It is a land of history and mystery, of kings and kilts, of whins -- the tall grass -- and whisky. A land where remnants of 700-year-old abbeys stand against time and the words of poet Bobby Burns carry in the wind.

It is the land where golf began, on the sandy soil next to the sea called links, and the land where the game once more returns with the oldest of championships, the British Open, being played for the 138th time.

This is Turnberry, hard by the Firth of Clyde, some 40 miles south of Glasgow, a course twice, during World War I and World War II, turned into a base for the Royal Air Force and now has again been turned into a test for the game's best players.

Along the road is Croy Brae, or The Electric Brae, where because of an optical illusion up looks down and down looks up. On the edge of a course is a lighthouse, built on the alleged birth site of Robert the Bruce, who led the Scots against the English in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

The River Doon flows in Ayr, the city some 18 miles north, and over it, near Burns' heritage museum, crosses the Bridge over the Doon, or Brig O'Doon.

The pros can cross that bridge when they come to it. Now the idea is to get past the bunkers, the huge pits five or six feet deep, and the long rough when play in the Open begins Thursday on Turnberry's Ailsa course..

"Just a fabulous golf course,'' said Tiger Woods. He is a three-time British Open winner, but like so many of the golfers in their early 30s, or younger, never had played even a practice round at Turnberry until this week.

Three Opens have been held here: 1977, won by Tom Watson; 1986, won by Greg Norman; and 1994, won by Nick Price. But 15 years is a long time. Fifteen years ago Tiger was 18 and one of his playing partners for the first two rounds, Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, was 2 years old.

So, in a way, for many in the field Turnberry is uncharted territory, even though they will have noted every swale and sand trap during the previous few days.

"We haven't had the big winds yet,'' said Tiger of how difficult it is to create a playing strategy. "We'll see how the weather holds out.''

Off the coast about 10 miles is Ailsa Craig, a huge rock, an extinct volcano, home to thousands of birds. The saying here is "If ye can't see Ailsa Craig it's raining; if ye can see it, it's going to rain.'' On Tuesday, you saw it, and then you saw storms smash in from the Firth.

Turnberry was renovated the past year, reopened only a month past. Tiger, in a sense, also went through his own renovation, surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee in June 2008.

That kept him out of last year's Open, a fact to which the British media kept referring - hey, at least they didn't ask about Lindbergh flying across the Atlantic - and out of any tournament until February.

Since his return, Tiger has won three times, which he conceded was not something anyone would have predicted, but none of those wins was in a major. He tied for sixth in both the Masters and U.S. Open.

The three who took championships at Turnberry, Watson, Norman and Price -- and a fourth, Jack Nicklaus, whom Watson beat by a single shot in '77 -- all are living members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. The connection was not lost on Tiger.

"You are looking at guys who were some of the best ball strikers,'' said Woods, who has been made the 7-to-4 favorite. "At this course you can understand why. You really have to hit your ball well here. And you have to drive the ball well, hit your irons well. You just can't fake it around this golf course.''

Experience helps on links courses, although because the weather is so changeable sometimes not that much. If you're hitting a driver with the wind because the ball is certain to carry a bunker, what happens when the wind reverses? Do you use a 3-wood or 3-iron and play short?

Tiger won the Open three years ago at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, and hadn't played the course until the week of the tournament. Back in 1964, Tony Lema, who had never even been on a links course, won at St. Andrews, advising, "I don't build 'em, I play 'em.''

So does Tiger, and he said his introduction to links golf, some 14 years ago when he was at Stanford, was a revelation.

"I just fell in love with being able to use the ground as a friend, as an ally,'' said Tiger of golf on the hard-packed fairways. "We don't get to do that in the States. Everything is up in the air.''

At the moment, so is the winner of the 2009 British Open. Tiger is the choice, but everyone except Robert the Bruce has a chance.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And he has recently been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America for 2009.

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http://www1.realclearsports.com/articles/2009/07/14/tiger_takes_on_turnberry_96427.html
© RealClearSports 2009
9:15AM

SF Examiner: Tiger anxious for first major win since surgery

By Art Spander
Special to The Examiner

TURNBERRY, SCOTLAND — And now into the land of Robert the Bruce, where castles stand and time seems endless, steps Woods the Tiger. Aye laddie, the British Open returns to Scotland, and Woods, after a missing year, returns to the Open.

“Haste ye back,” says the sign along A77 as it curves out of Kirkoswald toward the Firth of Forth and the links of Turnberry. Tiger is back. And naturally the heavy betting favorite, 7-to-4 at Ladbroke’s the bookmaker.

Every Open Championship, as it’s called here, offers a unique glance at an event which is as much about history as it is competition. Over the hill in Ayr is the actual Brig O’Doon, or bridge over the Doon River. Close by is the home of Bobby Burns, the poet hero who created Auld Lang Syne told us the best laid plans “o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.”

Tiger’s plan for this 138th Open, of course, is to finish first, to follow in the wake of Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Nick Price who won the three previous Opens at Turnberry.

“They were some of the best ball-strikers,” Woods reminded. “At this golf course you can understand why. You really have to hit the ball well here ... you just can’t fake it around this golf course.”

Nor on any links, which is where the Open always is played. Those are the courses on the rolling, sandy soil once under the sea, where the bunkers are huge, the fairways firm, and the advantage is in hitting the ball low, not high.

Those are courses such as Royal Birkdale, where Padraig Harrington won last year, and Carnoustie, where Harrington won in 2007, and Royal Liverpool, where in 2006 Tiger took his third Open.

There are no true linksland venues in the United States — Pebble Beach Golf Links is one in name only, not style — and not until they cross the sea do Americans get the opportunity to play them.

“I fell in love with it right away,” Woods said of links golf. “I fell in love with being [able] to use the ground as a friend, an ally. We don’t get to do that in the United States; everything is up in the air.”

Nor in the U.S. do they compete on a course built where, in 1274, Robert the Bruce was born. He would become King of Scotland and fight the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. Now a lighthouse, Turnberry’s symbol stands at Robert the Bruce’s alleged birth site.

The virtual king of golf is Tiger. But since the knee surgery which prevented him from playing in the ’08 Open, Woods has not won a major. He has three victories since returning five months ago but he couldn’t get to the top in either the Masters or U.S. Open, tying for sixth in both.

“To sit here and say I was going to have three wins halfway through the year probably would have been reaching a little bit,” Woods said. “Granted I haven’t won a major, but I’ve come close. I’ve done it before, and hopefully I’ll do it again.”

The oddsmakers believe he’ll do it this Open. They are not alone.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on artspander.com and realclearsports.com. E-mail him at typoes@aol.com.

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http://www.sfexaminer.com/sports/Spander-Tiger-anxious-for-first-major-win-since-surgery-50814812.html
Copyright 2009 SF Newspaper Company