GOLF CHRONICLES
Tiger at Aronimink 
 
 
What if this is the new normal for Tiger?
Sunday, July 4, 2010
By Joe Logan

After a 70 on Saturday that gained no him no ground in the AT&T National, Tiger Woods stepped to the microphone for his usual post-round debriefing.

 

Still grinding out there?

 

"Always," said Tiger.  "Always."

 

Tiger didn’t look happy, and why would he?  He didn’t look happy on Friday, either, when he also shot even par 70 and said more or less the same thing.

 

For Philadelphia golf fans getting their first up-close look at Tiger this week at Aronimink, the bummer is that he is out of contention – a non-factor in the tournament -- and he will be streaking home on his private jet before leader Justin Rose tees off, let alone finishes.

 

Obviously, this is not fans, tournament organizers nor the PGA Tour want, certainly not for the long term.  The current state of affairs calls to mind the old salt: "As goes General Motors, so goes the nation." How about, "As goes Tiger Woods, so goes golf?"

 

These are not good times for Tiger, in his personal life or in his golf game. The possibility that nobody wants to ponder is, what if this is the new reality, the new normal?

 

What if Tiger’s best golf is behind him and that he will never again achieve the kind of dominance and success that made him a global icon?

 

We still see flashes of the old Tiger, like that third-round 66 at the U.S. Open that got everybody excited over the possibility of a major charge on Sunday.  Didn’t happen.  He fizzled.  It was hard to tell who was more disappointed, him or golf fans.

 

As the huge and enthusiastic crowds following Tiger at Aronimink have demonstrated, the worst of his personal problems are in the rearview mirror and fans seem willing to forgive and forget.

 

What they want, and what golf needs, is the old Tiger back.


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Sinking another putt 
Itís Tigerís putter, stupid
Friday, July 2, 2010
By Joe Logan

For as long as Tiger has been on the scene, what wowed fans the most was his awesome power.   Up close, his tee shots sound different.  The ball flight looks different, higher, longer.

 

But while his power game is what drew all the oohs and aahs, it was his putter that really won tournaments and made him the No. 1 player in the world.

 

Remember a few years ago, when the standard line in trying to describe Tiger was often, "He’s is like Nicklaus, only with a better short game."

 

No question, Tiger was the No. 1 putter in the world.  Ask any player on the PGA Tour who they’d want to putt a 6-footer to save their life and the answer was always, "Tiger."

 

It wasn’t so much that he sank long putts, although he sank more than his share of them; it was that he almost never missed a putt from 10 feet, and he literally didn’t miss anything from inside 5 feet.  The more the putt mattered, the more certain Tiger was to make it. (See U.S. Open, Torrey Pines, 2008.)

 

But lately, Tiger isn’t making all those putts.  He missed a baker’s half-dozen makeable putts during his first round at Aronimink, none more telling that the 5-footer for birdie at the 18th , which followed a 329-yard blast off the tee and a perfect little half-wedge.  He needed that put to get him into better position for Friday, yet he lipped it out.

 

I was standing 20 feet away, with a good look at the line, and it wasn’t a tricky putt – not for me, let alone Tiger.  More to the point, It was exactly the kind of putt he used to bury 99½ times out of 100.

 

If you watched the highlights on the Golf Channel, it surely wasn’t the only formerly sure-thing putt Tiger missed during his first round.  Same thing at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and the Memorial before that, and...

 

None of this is news to Tiger.  "I putted awful," he said after his round Thursday.   You can say that again.

 

If Tiger is going to get his mojo back, the putter is the key.


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Aronimink GC  
Tiger isnít hosting, but it feels like he is... sort of
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
By Joe Logan

If Tiger Woods’ image is at a rock bottom, you wouldn’t know it from the reception he is getting at the AT&T National at Aronimink GC.

 

Not only did Tiger have the largest following during Wednesday’s pro-am, around the golf course he was greeted with applause and pre-scandal respect and awe.  No catcalls, no hoots or hollers, no thumbs-down, no embarrassing banners being towed overhead behind airplanes.

 

It almost feels like Tiger is still the host of the tournament, despite the fact that he was famously dumped by communications giant AT&T at the wake of his personal life meltdown and his name was scrubbed from the tournament.

 

On Tuesday, Tiger was ushered into the media center for his pre-tournament press conference, which felt no less official than when did them as the host of the three previous AT&T Nationals at Congressional CC in Bethesda, Md.

 

And late yesterday morning, Tiger was seated front and center at the tournament’s opening ceremonies on the back lawn behind Aronimink GC’s ornate clubhouse.  He was right there with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and rocker Jon Bon Jovi.

 

So confusing is his role here this week that earlier today CBS Sports, which will  broadcast the tournament Saturday and Sunday, issued a press release headlined:

 

TIGER WOODS HOSTS AND AIMS TO DEFEND TITLE IN "AT&T NATIONAL" ON

FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND, JULY 3-4 ON CBS SPORTS

 

Minutes later the network sent out a corrective press release:

 

PLEASE NOTE PREVIOUS RELEASE ...."TIGER WOODS HOSTS AND AIMS TO DEFEND TITLE AT AT&T NATIONAL" .....

 

TIGER IS DEFENDING TITLE, NOT HOSTING

 

Of course, whether Tiger is hosting or defending doesn’t seem to much matter to golf fans.  All they seem to care about is that they’re finally getting to see the No. 1 golfer in the flesh. 


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Tiger at AT&T National media day 
Except for Tiger, Sean and Furyk, AT&T field is so-so
Monday, June 28, 2010
By Joe Logan

Not to rain on the parade that is this week’s AT&T National at Aronimink GC, but have you checked out the field?

 

It’s so-so, at best. 

 

Tiger, 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 Woods Foundation.

 

Besides Tiger, hometown favorite and Aronimink member Sean O’Hair is also in the field, as are semi-hometown favorite Jim Furyk, 2009 U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, three-time major champion Vijay Singh and rookie sensation Rickie Fowler.

 

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 Hollow Championship.

 

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 Championship.

 

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 Open.

 

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 (No. 5).

 

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 (No. 10).

 

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 fallen status?

 

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 official.

 

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.


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Ed[6/28/2010 1:24:04 PM]
Good blog. There wonít be a lot of star power at Aronimink. Iím going anyway.

Tiger and Stevie 
Is Steve Williams a goner?
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
By Joe Logan

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.

 

If Williams 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.

 

If Williams 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.

 

If Stevie 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.


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Tiger at 2000 U.S. Open 
Donít expect a miracle from Tiger at Pebble
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
By Joe Logan

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 another gear.

 

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 times.

 

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-Open press 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 something.

 

I don’t expect it to start happening this week at Pebble Beach.


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The Muni Golfer[6/17/2010 9:08:31 AM]
I couldnít agree more with your comments Joe.
Eric[6/16/2010 5:50:06 PM]
Tiger is toast. His game is gone, his image is shot.

Tom Watson and Bruce Edwards 
Bruce Edwards: Caddy for Life
Monday, June 14, 2010
By Joe Logan

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 for Life.

 

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 disease.

 

Below is the PR release from the Golf Channel:

 

 

Golf Channel’s ‘Caddy for Life: The Bruce Edwards Story’ Goes Beyond the Game

Documentary provides 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 no cure.

 

"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 thing."

 

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 Channel.


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