golf’s star attraction, will be here, thank heavens, despite having been dumped
from his endorsement deal with title sponsor AT&T over his recent peccadillo.If you are wondering why he would bother, it’s because the
tournament is actually run by the Tiger
Other rising stars (and fading
stars) of note in the field include suddenly-hot Ricky Barnes, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Justin Leonard, Jeff Maggert, Lee Janzen, Webb Simpson, Rocco Mediate and Davis Love III.
After that, things get
ho-hum in a hurry. It is surely not to be confused with the powerhouse field we
saw two weeks ago at the U.S. Open,
or even the quality of fields that flock to top-tier non-majors, such as the Memorial
Tournament or the Quail
With the exception of Tiger, the AT&T National field is more like what you’d expect see at a second-
or even third-tier tournament on the PGA
Tour, say, the Valero Texas Open or the just-ended Travelers
Most notably absent is Phil
Mickelson, the popular and
flamboyant No. 2-ranked player in
the world. He has played in only one of the three AT&T Nationals, and it seems to be permanently off his
schedule.He is headed to Europe
this week to prepare for next week’s The
Barclays, followed by the British
But Phil is hardly the only big-name no-show for the AT&T.Of the Top 10
players in the World Golf Rankings, the only two who will be here are Tiger
(No. 1) and Furyk
Also absent are Lee Westwood (No. 3), Tiger pal Steve Stricker (No. 4), Ernie Els (No.
6) Englishmen Luke Donald (No. 7), Paul Casey (No. 8) Ian Poulter (No. 9) and up and coming
Irishman Rory McIlory
Other players who won’t be
here include Camilio Villegas, Retief Goosen,
Geoff Ogilvy, Matt Kuchar, Stewart Cink, Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott.
The question is why?
Is the Fourth of July week a
lousy date on the calendar, when players want to be home with their families?Is it because the tournament is sandwiched
between the U.S Open and the British Open?Is it because of the two-year move from Congressional CC in Bethesda, Md., to Aronimink GC, a course the players don’t know?Could it be because of Tiger’s
To be sure, whatever it is, it
is not the fault of Aronimink GC, one of the elite clubs and courses
in Philadelphia, which has done all that was asked of it.
It will be interesting to
see how golf fans and sports fans in general support the tournament this
week.In 2002, when the PGA Tour was licking its wounds from
the lukewarm reception to the SEI
Pennsylvania Classic at Wayneborough CC, I
recall a conversation I had with a top Tour
He said, "Well, we learned
one thing from this:Don’t bother
to come back to Philadelphia unless you bring your A-game."
Eight years later, the Tour is back with an A-game tournament
but a B-game field.
What’s disappointing is
that, because the PGA Tour has been
gone from Philadelphia for so long, and because of the AT&T National’s connection to Tiger, it would have been nice to have a cavalcade of stars. It
would have been nice to be able to demonstrate to the PGA Tour that Philadelphia is such a golf town that it’s crazy not
to give this city a regular annual Tour stop.
That could still happen, and
let’s hope it does.But the depth
of the field this week won’t make it any easier.
If Tiger Woods is true to form, we may have just seen the beginning of
the end for caddie Stevie Williams.
In you missed it, in his interview
after the final round of the U.S.
Open on Sunday, in which he shot 75 and failed to mount any kind of charge,
Tiger did something he never does:
He blamed Stevie.
Not totally, of course, but
for a crucial club selection and plan of attack when it really mattered, at Pebble Beach’s 10th.
"I fired at the pin on 10," Tiger said Sunday. "Steve said
take dead aim right at it, and in my heart I said no. There was no chance. I
have a sand wedge in my hand, and I can't play at that flag."
That quote speaks volumes.For one thing, Tiger always refers to Williams,
his longtime and deeply loyal caddie, in the more familiar "Stevie." For another, no matter what goes wrong in a round, Tiger has never laid so much as a hint
of blame at anybody else’s feet.
is indeed out or on the way out, we’ll probably know soon enough –
perhaps as soon as next week’s AT&T National at Aronimink GC.
It will interesting to see if Williams is on Tiger’s
bag at the AT&T.Even if he is not, an announcement or full
and candid explanation is unlikely.Williams’ absence would more likely
be explained away as him taking a week off to take care of some business back
home in New Zealand.
is a goner, it would also mean that Camp
Tiger, which was already a tiny inner circle of advisors and intimates
– most notably agent Mark
Steinberg, PR man Glenn Greenspan
and Williams -- just got even smaller.
The trail of cast-offs in Tiger’s wake is already big.There was his first agent, Hughes
Norton, caddie Mike "Fluff" Cowan
and swing coaches Butch Harmon and,
more recently, Hank Haney.
In the case of Haney, Tiger didn’t even
need to officially fire him.He
simply gave him the cold shoulder for a few weeks.Hank got the
message loud and clear and quit by text message.
senses he’s out, my guess is he would do the same.He may have earned an image as a gruff bully as he tried to
protect Tiger at tournaments, but Williams is his own man.Nor was he at all happy to learn of the
double life Tiger had been leading
right under his nose.
In 12 years on Tiger’s bag, Williams has
made millions and he is presumably financially set.He also has plenty of other interests, especially auto
racing. He could walk away and
live a full life back home, with his fellow Kiwis.
Remember just a year or so
ago when it was a foregone conclusion that Tiger
Woods would break Jack Nicklaus’
record of 18 majors?
These days, the only
foregone conclusion about Tiger’s
future is that his image will never be the same.
On the eve of the U.S.
Open at Pebble Beach, the scene of
his most remarkable single achievement – his 15-shot victory in the 2000 Open --
the odds makers still say Tiger is a
favorite to win, along with Phil Mickelson.But I don’t see it.I don’t think his game or his head are
in the right place to win major No. 15.
Considering how he dominated
golf like no one ever before him – not even Nicklaus – this current state of affairs is tragic and almost
inconceivable.For the first dozen
years of his career, this guy was the prohibitive favorite to win any
tournament he entered, especially the majors, where he somehow managed to find
And yet, when he sticks a
peg in the first tee tomorrow, the Open will be only the fifth tournament Tiger has played all year. If not for his fourth place finish at
the Masters, his first tournament
back after his self-imposed post-scandal exile, Tiger would be much worse than his current 145th ($405,300) on the PGA Tour money list.
In his three other
tournaments, Tiger’s showing has ranged from bad to embarrassing: He shot 74-79
at Quail Hollow to miss the cut, he
WD’ed from the Players Championship
with a sore and he finished tied for 19th at the Memorial, a tournament he has won four
Despite his insistence that
his game is coming around, most indicators suggest otherwise.He is spraying tee shots left and
right, his putting isn’t what it once was, and, most ominous, he seems to have
lost his aura of invincibility.
I used to stand on the
practice range at tournaments and watch Tiger
arrive.He would stride to the end
of the range, past the other pros, without so much as a smile or a glance in
their direction.He was sheriff,
the man, and they knew it.Half
the guys averted their eyes, as if they felt unworthy in his presence.
Those days are over.They all know Tiger is human, vulnerable, beatable, from Phil to Steve Stricker
to Lee Westwood and beyond.Many knowledgeable observers are coming
to believe that Tiger’s best golf
could very well be behind him,
In his personal life, the
bad news just keeps coming.Reports of his impending divorce from Elin are as incessant as those vuvuzelas horns at the World Cup.In his pre-Openpress conference at Pebble Beach, when a
reporter asked if there was any resolution between he and Elin, Tiger replied
testily, "That’s none of your business."
Only today, the New York Daily News reported that porn star Devon
James, who claims to have had a 2½ affair with Tiger, also claims that he is the father of her 9-year-old son.
I don’t care how strong you
are mentally, or how much money you have to insulate yourself, standing up to
the pressures and humiliations that hang over Tiger like a dark cloud takes its toll.Even when he finds sanctuary between the ropes at a
golf tournament, it is only temporary – and Tiger surely knows from the hoots, catcalls and thumbs-down
treatment that he has alienated half the fans at the tournament and at home
watching on TV.The man has made a
mess of his life, and how can it not be eating away at him?
If he can ever get his game
to the point that Jack Nicklaus’ Mt.
Everest of a record once again appears to be scalable, Tiger will have demonstrated himself to be even better than we once
all thought.That’s saying
I don’t expect it to start
happening this week at Pebble Beach.
Just got an email from Neil Oxman, frequent caddie for
Tom Watson and Philadelphia-based
political consultant, reminding me that tonight (June 14) at 9 p.m., the Golf
Channel debuts its documentary on the late, great Bruce Edwards, Caddie
Based on John Feinstein’s book of the same name,
the documentary chronicles the life of Oxman’s
good friend and Watson’s longtime,
loyal caddie, who died in 2004 of Lou Gehrig’s
Below is the PR release from
the Golf Channel:
Golf Channel’s ‘Caddy for
Life: The Bruce Edwards Story’ Goes Beyond the Game
platform to raise ALS awareness
ORLANDO, Fla. (June
9, 2010) – The June 14 premiere of the
Golf Channel documentary, Caddy for Life: The Bruce Edwards Story,
not only will recall the inspirational life of one of golf’s pioneers, but also
will shed light on the disease that tragically took his life and how his family
and closest friends continue to fight for a cure.
Based on The New York Times
best-selling book by John Feinstein, Caddy for Life is an amazing and
emotional remembrance of the extraordinary relationship between one of
history’s greatest golfers, Tom Watson, and his longtime friend and caddy,
Bruce Edwards. It also recounts Edwards’ battle with amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, until his untimely and
tragic death in 2004.
Watson and Feinstein were inspired to
tell their stories to remember a great man, but they knew that participating in
the documentary also would provide a great platform to raise awareness for a
disease that afflicts one in 100,000 people every year – and one that has
"This gives me the bully pulpit to
speak about ALS," said Watson when interviewed about the documentary. "It
took his (Edwards’) life, and still is taking people’s lives. We need to
continue this battle and make sure we’re doing everything we can to slow this
deadly disease down."
Says Feinstein, "A lot of people aren’t
aware of the story and we can educate them about ALS. If we are able to
raise awareness and funds for research, then the documentary has done a major
As part of the Caddy for Life
documentary project, Golf Channel has donated $25,000 to The Robert Packard
Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins. The Packard Center is the
world’s leader in aggressive, collaborative ALS research. The Bruce Edwards
Foundation donates 100 percent of its proceeds to the Packard Center, aiming to
provide more tomorrows to today’s ALS patients.
Caddy For Life: The Bruce Edwards
Story premieres June 14 at 9 p.m. ET on Golf
No. 10 on SI’s list was the 1971 Open,
in which Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus, the two best players in
the game at the time, finished regulation tied for the lead.
On the first tee of the 18-hole
playoff, Trevino remembered that his
daughter had left a rubber snake in his bag.He proceeded to pull out the snake and toss itand Nicklaus’ direction, amusing the Golden Bear. Trevino,
however, went on to shoot 68, winning by three shots.
went on to win the Canadian and the British Opens over the next three
No. 4 on
the SI list was the famous 1950 Open at Merion, which saw Ben Hogan, 16 months removed from a near-fatal head-on collision with a bus, with his legs heavily wrapped, limped his way to the
second of his four Open titles.
It was the ’50 Open, of course, that was
immortalized in the Hy Peskin photo
of Hogan lacing a 1-iron into the 72nd
green, setting up a par that led to a three-man 18-hole playoff with Lloyd Mangrum and Philadelphia’s George Fazio.
Count Terry Tumolo, longtime general manager at
Commonwealth National GC, as among those who believe the private club side of
golf is beginning to climb out of the doldrums.
"I would say we are
a former board member of the Philadelphia chapter of the Club Managers Association of America with a big-picture sense of the club scene."At times I would almost call it
Tumolo’s optimism, however, does come with a measure of caution."It’s fragile," he said the upturn."This could all blow up and the
positive momentum that a lot of us are enjoying could stall, if there is
another dip in the economy or a world event."
At Commonwealth National, which
is one of several clubs in the area that offer corporate memberships, it’s that
side of their business that is slower to recover.
"It’s tough to depend on
that segment of the market to energize your club," said Tumolo.Instead, he said, it is the "core
golfers" who had been forced to drop their memberships in the past year or two,
who are beginning to return to the club.‘A lot of those folks are either back or motivated to get back," said Tumolo.
Surprisingly, perhaps, Tumolo believes
junior golf is driving at least part of the recovery at Commonwealth National and at
other clubs with junior programs.
"We didn’t lose one member to
attrition – not one – whose kids play golf," he said."Families are joining so their kids can
play.And we’ve had a bug surge in
female junior golf."
Even with these encouraging
is also quick to point out that many clubs have decreased or altogether dropped
their initiation fees and that only a handful of clubs currently have waiting
lists, even among top-tier clubs.
"Those clubs with $70,000,
$80,000, $90,000 initiation fees, there’s no market for that right now," said Tumolo.
Author Robert Lusetich, golf columnist for FoxSports.com, spent the entire 2009 season tailing Tiger; the result is a mother lode of
insights into life on the PGA Tour, the World No. 1 golfer and the small, tight
circle of intimates that constitutes Team
Of course, when he pitched
the book to Simon and Schuster, Lusetich had no
idea about the whole other secret life Tiger
was living in the shadows.He sold
the publisher on a book about Tiger’s incredible
return from knee surgery to repair a ruptured anterior cruciate
ligament, enabling him to resume his quest of surpassing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles.
Like virtually all other Tiger-watchers in the media, and most
of Tiger’s inner circle, Lusetich was
oblivious to the infidelities.
Indeed, having journeyed to his
native Australia, where Tiger won
the Australian Masters in November, Lusetich
was at home in Los Angeles, putting the finishing touches on his manuscript,
when the news broke of that fateful car crash in the wee hours after Thanksgiving
that changed everything.
As shocking and unseemly as
the revelations about Tiger’s "other
life" have been, Lusetich
did not completely rethink and rewrite the narrative of the book.He still told the tale of Tiger’s ’09, only with a new final
chapter entitled, "The Reckoning."
Like most members of the
who is a colleague and pal of mine, was embarrassed to have to admit that he
knew nothing of Tiger’s secret life,
nor had he ever seen anything that gave him reason to be suspicious.
"My view of Woods – admittedly from
observations made at the distance of press conferences or media scrums after
rounds but also interspersed with the occasional brief off-the-record
conversation – was that even though he is flawed, he is essentially a
good guy," writes Lusetich.
not cooperate with the book.Lusetich did seek
his cooperation through agent Mark
Steinberg, but "Steiny," as Tiger calls him, said, "No."
Lusetich has no idea if Steinberg,
who routinely rejects similar requests out of hand, ever bothered to discuss
the matter with Tiger.Lusetichnow can’t
help but wonder if Steinberg perhaps
had concerns about what a book of this type might eventually turn up.
Official cooperation or not,
duly notes that over the course of 2009, Tiger
was both "kind and generous with me."
What I especially enjoyed about
Unplayable were some of the details
about Tiger’s relationships, with caddie
Steve Williams and other players,
picked up over the course of the year. A few examples:
On Phil Mickelson:
-- ...(Steve) Williams confirmed
what most inside golf’s highest circles long knew: Woods didn’t like Mickelson.
-- After Williams got in hot water for calling Mickelson a "prick" during a trip home
to New Zealand, swing coach Butch Harmon,
who had been fired by Tiger years before
and now works for Mickelson,
remarked that golf was a game of "honor" and said he didn’t believe Williams’ comments reflected Tiger’s feelings about Mickelson.
presumably grew after making that last remark.He, perhaps more than anyone, knew that Woods had had worse
– much worse – to say about Mickelson,
who Woods considered to be a phony
whose public and private personas didn’t exactly gel.
On the Masters:
After shooting a lackluster
70 in the third round, Tiger was furious,
and he headed straight to practice tee at Augusta
National, trailed by his small entourage.First, he chewed out his caddie, Williams, who slipped away to find a sandwich, leaving swing coach Hank Haney alone with Tiger.
remained and bore the brunt of a tirade."Tiger was just livid and Hank had to sit there and take it,"
Witnessed by a handful
writes, The incident led to stories that
angered the admittedly thin-skinned Haney.Haney
would over the next week send text messages to several writers admonishing them
for stories suggesting he was on thin ice with Woods.
On Hank Haney:
Among top swing gurus, the
long knives were often out for Haney.
"My philosophy as a teacher," Haney writes, "is to teach my students to become their own best teacher
by getting them to understand the flight of the golf ball and how it relates to
the swing, with emphasis on swing the golf club on their own correct swing
Innocuous enough, except that virtually every swing
guru in golf believed Haney’s ideas
were wrong.(Butch) Harmon became the chief antagonist, telling anyone who’d
listen that Woods was ruining his
career, though he was hardly alone in that belief.
A Tour winner, a disciple of 1980s swing guru Jimmy Ballard, told me that Haney had cost Woods countless majors and "should be strung up for what he’s done
to the kid.
On Tiger’s awareness of fans around him:
One of the misconceptions about him was that he was
robotic on the golf course.The image served him, se he perpetuated it, but it was a myth.Woods
knew precisely what was happening around him and was extremely observant.When an Asian man with a very
effeminate voice called his name several times from outside the ropes at a
tournament, I’d assumed Woods was
too far away to have heard.Later,
I discovered that he’d not only heard him but described him perfectly.
On Tiger’s sexcapades:
None of Tiger’s infidelities shocked Lusetich any more than the one
that occurred at during the Buick Open,
which he won thanks to shooting 63-65 on Friday and Saturday.As it happened, the whole thing was
going on while Lusetich
and Tiger were staying just a few
doors apart in the same Marriott
Courtyard in Flint, Mich.
The sometimes pornographic actor, Joslyn James, whose real name is Veronica
Daniels, alleged that she had been having a three-year affair with Woods.Perhaps that was true, perhaps it wasn’t.But after reading text messages she
said were from Woods, I had no doubt
that she’d spent Thursday night a few doors down from my room in that Flint
Woods was indeed
in room 201, as her text messages alleged.He’d flown her in, as he often did with women during
tournament weeks, for a brief rendezvous, most of them lasting two or three
nights.James said Woods warned
her he needed to get up at 4:15 a.m. for the following day’s round, yet she
said after they’d had sex earlier in the evening, he’d had trouble falling
asleep and called her back to his room for another tryst just a few hours
before he had to wake up.She
estimated that he’d had perhaps two hours of sleep by the time the unsuspecting
Williams drove their car to the
hotel’s side entrance.
Contrary to YouTube legend, it was CBS golf analyst/jokester David Feherty,
not Tiger, who launched the fart
heard millions of times on the internet. Lusetich
knows because he was out on the course at the Buick Open, standing under a shade tree with Feherty, when the whole thing
Feherty then gave
me the news that he’d eaten beans for lunch and his stomach was grumbling."I’ve got one locked and loaded in the
chamber," he said, like a proud parent.Feherty
and Woods had long engaged in farting
contests on the course...
Feherty sensed that
it was his moment to pounce.While
Woods bent over to stretch, Feherty launched
a sick-sounding fart from nearby, so long and loud that both Woods and Williams immediately looked over to him and began laughing.Unfortunately, Feherty had forgotten to turn
his microphone off...
In the days and weeks after Tiger’s car crash that brought his
world crashing down around him, Lusetich was busily trying to piece together the story that
was being kept largely under wraps by IMG, the golfer’s management group.Where was Tiger?Why wouldn’t he
talk to the cops?
sank to his lowest ebb.His wife,
whose financial security had been sweetened in the immediate wake of the
scandal in a desperate attempt to keep her from leaving then and there, was
devastated by his betrayal.She
consulted divorce lawyers and didn’t want him under the same room.All of her husband’s golf trophies,
which had filled the family home, were removed.
Woods moved into
another home at Isleworth
and changed his phone number.He
was in "the fetal position," according to none source, and didn’t want to talk
to anyone.Long-standing friends,
including Charles Barkley and Mark
O’Meara, publicly lamented the fact that they could not reach Woods.Steinberg drew
much fire from many of Woods’s
friends who were unable to get through to him."He became very reclusive, he was depressed, devastated, and
most of all, I think, embarrassed," said a source close to Woods.
On what might have motivated Tiger to cheat:
There is some speculation
among Tiger’s circle that, unable to
control his sex addiction, he essentially self-destructed, almost deliberately
allowing himself to get caught.
But the friend also offered another view, one echoed
by others I’d spoken with about Woods’s
marriage: that it was never the idyllic union it seemed.
"He was a late bloomer.Even when he was at Stanford, he was kind of
nerdy.Then suddenly his body
changed and he matured into this confident guy and he made up for lost
time.What I’ve always wondered
is, Did he get married too early?I think he just got caught up in the idea of getting married.I think he jumped into it too soon."