here’s the thing:I hate doing
"picks" going into a major.
10 years ago, when Tiger Woods was
at the peak of being Tiger Woods,
doing the obligatory "picks" for The
Inquirer on the Sunday before each major felt like an exercise in futility
bordering on dumbassery.No fool, I’d pick Tiger as first among
my "Five to Watch," but after him, it was like picking lottery numbers.Still, my editors wanted it, so I did
these years later, out of habit, whenever a major rolls around, I find myself
doing "picks" in my head.It gives
me a headache.
can spend an hour on the PGA Tour website studying players’ stats and stuff
like it was the Daily Racing Form,
and you make a what feels like a semi-educated guess.But golf being golf, it all
unravels quickly.I mean, c’mon,
who among us didn’t see CharlSchwartzel
coming last year?
of course, brings us to this year’s Masters.
might have picked Dustin Johnson,
who I think is overdue to win a major, but that putz
just WD’ed because of a back injury – something
about trying to life a jet ski.I’m
shaking my head here.
like Phil Mickelson, and he is a
true Masters stud, but Phil seems to have lost half a step at
41. I’ve also found myself
questioning Phil’s thought processes
ever since he started wearing those too-tight shirts with the weird
collars.Any man who can stand in
front of a mirror wearing one of those shirts and think he’s good to go, can no
longer be trusted to make completely sound decisions on the back nine at
Augusta on Sunday.
Luke Donald, who is back to No. 1 in the world now? I want to
believe but, sorry, I don’t.Hunter Mahan?Possible.Lee
Westwood?Also overdue, but no.
Heck, I could go on like this for a while, but I won’t .For me, I keep coming back two
guys:Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.
now, I’d take Rory and Tiger against the field and be
happy.We all saw what Rory did last year in the Masters, right up to his tee shot at
the 10th on Sunday.He is to be greatly admired for the way he held his head high afterward,
and for the way he rebounded with his win at the U.S. Open two months later.He is the first to admit that he has much to prove this year at the Masters.Don’t bet against him.
after that performance at Bay Hill, I keep coming back to Tiger.Damn, he looks
good, confident, determined.Truth
is, he looks "back" in ways I didn’t think was possible.If you look at the PGA Tour stats, he
pretty much leads in every stat that matters.
why do I feel all queasy in the stomach about picking Tiger?
why do I feel like a teenage girl who finally broke up with my badass
boyfriend, but now he wants back in my life and he’s on the phone, begging?I know he’s bad for me, and I know can’t
trust him, and I can hear my mother in the next room, yelling, "Hang up! Don’t you go back to that
boy!He will hurt you again!"
I’m all weak in the knees.Please,
stop me before I believe again.
I don’t know if Tiger is back.After that long-overdue and commanding
victory Bay Hill on Sunday, he sure looks back.
Who I do can say is back,
for sure, is me – back watching golf.As I planted myself in front of the
high-def, big screen yesterday, I couldn’t remember
the last time I had cleared the afternoon to watch the final round of a PGA
Tour event, from the introductions on the first tee shot to the tap-in on the
I can’t remember the last
time I watched every shot Tiger hit, studied every swing, looking for clues
into the State of Tiger.Was he
back for the day?For the
tournament?Or, you know, really backback?
For all the good to great
shots he hit yesterday, I thought the look on Tiger’s face was more revealing
than anything else.Gone were the
displays of disappointment and disgust with himself and his game we’ve seen of
late.Tiger looked confident, in control, steely, in ways we haven’t seen
in...well three-plus years.
Until now, we’ve only seen
flashes of what we hoped would be "back."There was his win last fall at his own tournament, which wasn’t terribly
convincing.There were the pair of
68s earlier this at the AT&T Pebble Beach, there was the 62 in the final
round of the Honda Classic and there was the 65 on Friday at Bay Hill.
But there was also a closing
75 at Pebble Beach, and there was a worrisome collection of missed putts at a
variety of tournaments.Then, there
was the limp-off exit at the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral a couple of weeks
ago.When that happened, who among
us didn’t go, "Oh, no, here we go again."
But this hard-charging
5-shot win at the ArnyInvy is enough to get me and millions of golf fans
excited again.Frankly, I’m tired
of be smug and disgusted over what and how Tiger
imploded his life a couple of years ago.I’m ready for him to give us a reason to be exited about his golf
again.Now, he has done just that.
Of course, it couldn’t some
at a better time, only a week before the Masters.Can you imagine the buzz?Can you imagine the hype?
Golf needs this.Tiger needs this.Golf fans need this.
homeboy, has been a rising star in the world of golf course design for more
than a decade.Suddenly, he is an
That’s the effect of his selection
Wednesday to design the golf course for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro – a selection, we might add, that
came over a Who’s Who of finalists: Jack
Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Gary Player and Robert
Trent Jones II.
It’s almost impossible to
overstate what designing the Olympics course is going to do for Gil’s career.His growing reputation in the U.S. will
go worldwide. He’s already designing one course in China but after 2016, with
the eyes of the world on Rio, Gil
will be in demand in every corner of the earth where golf is beginning to take
hold.He will become one of the
leading ambassadors of American golf, mentioned in the same breath with Tiger Woods, not to mention the single
most influential golf course architect in the world.
"This is a career changer,"
said golf writer Jeff Silverman, a
friend of both Gil’s and mine, when
we shared the news yesterday.
Since then, Gil’s work as improved and his
reputation has grown exponentially.Among golf course design aficionados, Gil’s courses are known for their subtle simplicity and purity;he has become the modern-day master of
understatement.It is a philosophy
that is winning him fans, fame and, increasingly, fortune.
In 2009, Gil was named "Architect of the Year"
by Golf magazine. Just a couple of weeks ago, Donald Trump hired Gil to
redo the Blue Monster at Doral.With his selection to design the
Olympics course, the sky is the limit. Thing is, all this couldn’t be happening
to a nicer guy.Gil is soft-spoken, reserved, humble --
and insanely talented.
All over the golf world,
people are sitting up and saying, Gil Who?They are about to
just finished reading The Big Miss, Hank Haney’s revealing new book on his six years as Tiger Woods’ coach.I know several people who didn’t
like it, dismissed it and accused Haney
of betraying Tiger; maybe so, but I
couldn’t put it down.
come under some criticism for writing the book at all, even from fellow coaches
Butch Harman and Rick Smith, who suggest PGA Tour swing
coaches assume a vow of confidentiality, like a priest or any attorney.
other hand, The Big Miss is No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, a rare feat for a golf book.That’s because it is the most intimate insider-look we are likely to get
at one of the most dominant, remarkable figures in the history of sports.Haney
goes where no authorized biography of Tiger
is ever going to go.
were several anecdotes and stories that caused me to wince, agreeing that Haney had wandered in to territory that
probably should have been off-limits.
To wit: Haney writing about what appeared to
him to became a rather distant, cool, relationship with his then-wife, Elin, before the
crack-up in his personal life. Haney also writes that at dinners in the couple’s home, when Tiger would finish, he was up and outtathere.It’s a small thing, but Haney
even recalls one evening, when he and Tiger
were watching a ballgame on TV together, when Tiger went to the kitchen and returned with a Popsicle for himself,
never offering one to Hank.That small slight stuck in Haney’s craw for years, seeming to
perfectly illustrate Tiger’s
self-absorption or narcissism.
objection that many people, including me, have about Haney including some of those details is that he came by them as a
result of being a frequent overnight guest in the Woods’ home.Compared to the kind of knife-in-the-back
recollections we get in the typical Washington or Hollywood tell-all memoirs, Haney’s stories are tame.
Who can blame
Tiger for feeling his privacy has
been invaded by a man he called a friend.But let’s be honest: Nothing Haney
reveals about Tiger or his marriage
is nearly as devastatingly revealing as Tiger’s
own self-destructive behavior.
whether Haney and Tiger were "friends" or not is very
much a running theme throughout The Big
Miss.Tigercalled Haney a friend, and Haney certainly wanted to be his
friend, but in the end, he wonders whether Tiger
is even capable of true and deep friendships.
the book details what Haney believes
is the impenetrable bubble Tiger has
constructed around himself.Tiger knows everybody, and he is
cordial with plenty of people, often referring to them as "friends." But in his
time around Tiger, Haney observes little of what he
considers genuine friendship.
From Haney’s vantage point, Tiger was never really close to famous
athletes like Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley.And when Tiger’s personal life exploded, he even shut out the few guys who
thought they were true confidants, like Mark
O’Meara and John Cook.Haney
knew he certainly was no intimate confidant.The only two people Tiger seemed close to were his agent, Mark Steinberg, and a neighborhood high school kid he played
practice rounds with at Isleworth, Corey Carroll.
what I liked about the book is that it confirms so many suspicions we all had about
Tiger:That the expectations heaped on him and
strain of being Tiger Woods weighed
on him much more heavily than he ever let on; that even at his peak, in
2000-2002, Tiger had much more
self-doubt than we knew; that despite his protestations to the contrary, Tiger knew exactly what people (and the media) were saying and writing about
him; that Tiger can be an aloof, remote,
cold-hearted bastard, even to the handful of people seemingly closest to him.
knock Tiger off his pedestal The Big Miss – Tiger had already done that to himself.But Haney
does give us plenty of insider information and evidence to show that Tiger was, and is, just another flawed
human being, albeit one with nearly superhuman ability and determination.
As Haney has pointed out time and again,
most of the book is quite positive about Tiger.Haney
regards Tiger as the greatest player
who ever lived, even if he doesn’t break Jack
Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.Haney is flat-out in awe of Tiger.He finally just decided that the
pressure of being Tiger’s coach and
the indignities of dealing with his mood swings, was
sucking the life out of him.
When it comes to the history of golf in
Philadelphia, I humbly bow to two men.On the amateur side, it’s James W. Finegan, author
of the authoritative tome A Centennial
Tribute to Golf in Philadelphia, for the Golf
Association of Philadelphia.
Quite the stick in his day (former captain of
the University of Florida golf team), Pete
got involved in Section politics and worked his way up through the ranks of the
Section PGA, becoming the 27th president in
1987.When the Section created a Hall
of Fame in 1992, he was an original inductee.
Along the way, Pete indulged his fascination with the history of golf in
Philadelphia and over time, he became the Section’s official historian. Pete researched and wrote all of those
vignettes that ran on the home page of MyPhillyGolf
in 2011 commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Section.
Pete does this stuff not for
money but because, well, it is his passion and he has the time and energy to do
Now comes his latest labor of love, the
culmination of his work, a website he has launched with the help of a couple of
enthusiastic and computer-savvy buddies, Bill
Orrand Jack Darcy.
The website, Trenham
Golf History, is now up and running; that
said, it is a work-in-progress.Pete, Bill and Jack plan to
add more and more stuff – documents, blueprints, videos, anything that
people might find interesting.
For now, the strength of the site is the
history of the PGA Section and its
many professionals.But when we had
lunch at St. David’s recently, Pete, Bill and Jack were all interested
in growing and expanding their archives in all directions of golf history.
Just when it seemed the storm clouds over golf
couldn’t get much darker, Jack Nicklaus
laid a factoid on us last week that is truly alarming:
22 grandkids, only one, 9-year-old G.T.,
son of Gary Nicklaus, has more than a
passing interest in the game.
If the greatest golfer of all time, whose
grandkids presumably enjoy every advantage and opportunity to get dawn into the
game, aren’t hooked, what is the future of golf?
I heard this discouraging bit of information
from Nicklaus himself last week at
the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando,
sitting in on a roundtable discussion on the PGA of America’s latest initiative, Golf 2.0.
PGA president Allen Wronowski
began the session with an upbeat but less than convincing opening remarks on
why Golf 2.0 will be any more
effective than earlier well-meaning but largely failed programs.
Then, Wronowski turned the microphone over to Nicklaus, who cited his own family to paint just how bleak the
picture is.Here’s a little of what
We've lost 23 percent of the women in the
game since 2006 and we have lost 36 percent of the kids in the game since
2006.That's not a good stat.
it's not something that we are proud of.When we finally kept looking at this thing and saying, we need to do
something, The PGA of America with their 2.0 program, it's the most
comprehensive and complete and well‑thought‑out program and I think
it's something to get behind. That's what I'm here to try to help do.
You know, this relates to my own
family.I had three of my kids that
became golf professionals.They
stopped playing to golf, all three of them have got their amateur status
back.Steve is not a pro but he's a
pretty good player and he doesn't play much anymore.I play about once a month.My wife doesn't really play.
The grand kids ‑‑ I've got
22 grand kids, and I've got ‑‑ they all play a little bit, but
I mean, a little bit ‑‑it's really a little bit, they play less than I do, and that's not very
Other sports are grabbing attention and time
from our kids.The parents are
being dragged to the parks and the park systems and they are playing soccer,
lacrosse, football, baseball, basketball, you name it.And they don't have the time to play
golf and the kids are not being introduced to it and that's exactly what you
were just saying.
sons don’t play much.For crying
out loud, Nicklaus himself only
plays once a month.He’d rather
fish -- or hang with his posse, I suppose.Or design golf courses that are too hard for 95 percent of today’s
If you want to read more
about Golf 2.0, click here
make too much of the Q&A video
with fans that Tiger Woods has
posted on his official website, but I don’t think it’s good news for golf or
for golf fans.
that the 15-minute, 19-question video is b-o-r-i-n-g. More concerning, it is
further evidence of a growing chill between Tiger and the media and his desire insulate to himself from nosey
scribes with pesky, embarrassing questions.
background.At most tournaments --
all majors and anywhere he is defending champion -- Tiger goes to the media center for a 30-minute pre-tournament
sit-down with the assembled media.
knows those interviews can be boring, too, often full of softball questions or
rambling non-answers from Tiger.Tiger, after all, has never been one
to spill his guts about anything.In fact, if you read Hank Haney’s
book, The Big
Miss, Haney confirms that Tiger derives much mystique and power
over other opponents by revealing nothing, letting no one inside his head.
since his personal life crack-up, Tiger’s
cordial but arm’s-length relationship with the media has deteriorated to the
point of open hostility.Monday, at
the Wells Fargo Championship in
Charlotte, Tiger declined to do the
usual press conference and instead posted a video on his website of himself
answering fan questions.
wrong with that?Nothing, per
se.I have read a few blogs by
people who think the media is getting its comeuppance and deserves the
stiff-arm from Tiger.I won’t argue that point one way or the
will argue is that if this is what we are going to get from Tiger from now on, he might as well go
into exile.Did you get a load of
the questions he hand-picked to answer on the video?
have you been working on since the Masters?
is your favorite trophy of the four majors?
line, if Tiger adopts a new
communications policy of going straight to the fans, avoiding the media
whenever possible, allowing only softball questions to penetrate his personal
space, no nobody benefits.
think he does, but he doesn’t.What’s good for golf and good for Tiger
is him being compelling.That
fan video he posted is not compelling.