Greetings from PGA National this rainy Tuesday evening! Honestly, it was a relatively uneventful day — but that doesn’t mean you should stop reading because I still have a few fun tidbits of info — because it rained all morning and then again in the late afternoon, so not that many guys were around. The “big” names, aka Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, won’t show up until tomorrow when they have to play in the pro-am and do their pre-media requirements.
Perhaps it’s just me, but it didn’t feel like a “normal” Tuesday, where there’s more hustle and bustle out in the practice areas and more guys to shoot the shit with. I guess it’s been a pseudo-quiet day, but here’s what you need to know from today… Oh wait, we should probably discuss the Tiger Woods news that took a life of its own as I was flying across the country yesterday.
It all started on social media. Naturally. Longtime golf writer Robert Lusetich tweeted about Tiger’s supposed current condition, as the 14-time major champion is recovering from his third back surgery in the span of 18 months.
I’m told #TigerWoods condition worsened. He can’t move well; painful to sit. Sits in car with seat fully reclined. No forseeable return. Sad
— Robert Lusetich (@RobertLusetich) February 22, 2016
I mean, maybe he was taking a nap in the passenger seat? On Sunday, the anonymous Twitter handle “Secret Tour Pro” (who I think is a phony and not an actual tour pro, but perhaps someone who works around the tour) tweeted something similar, but with more alleged details.
The speculation that Woods had endured a major setback in his rehabilitation process started a firestorm. Neither Lusetich or Secret Tour Pro attributed their reporting to any sources or anyone close to Woods.
Agent Mark Steinberg felt compelled to vehemently refute the tweets.
“The tweets that appeared this weekend about Tiger’s health are ridiculous and absolutely false,” Steinberg said in a statement Monday. “It’s reprehensible that every few months someone makes something up and it’s treated like a real story. Tiger continues to work on his rehabilitation and we will have an accurate update at the appropriate time.”
Steinberg told ESPN.com that there is no update on Woods’ status at this time. The last we heard was from Woods himself in early December, where he revealed that he could barely walk and had yet to begin rehabbing his back.
Who knows when we’ll learn more, but from what we heard from Woods, the prognosis doesn’t look good.
I’ve been spending the last hour reading “War and Peace” by Padraig Harrington, the defending champion of the Honda Classic. I kid, I kid. It’s just that Paddy is infamous for his very detailed, thorough answers in press conferences. Which is great, of course. Today’s edition was six pages, which isn’t *that* bad, especially since there are some fantastic nuggets. Here are some of the highlights.
*On being the defending champion of a tournament: “It is obviously always interesting coming back as a defending champion, puts a little bit more pressure and stress on the week. There’s a lot more going on. So in many ways, you can’t treat this just as another normal week. It’s a different week and you have to take a little bit of a different attitude coming into it.
“Certainly kind of it’s like coming to a major. You have to actually reduce your workload during the week because there’s lots of things going on. You practice a little less. You kind of arrive with the feeling that, right, I’m here to play golf and I’m ready to go. I don’t need to do anything more or find anything more this week. You know that if you’re going to have a big week and you get in contention on Sunday, you’ve got to stay fresh, and obviously with everything else going on during the week, that means a lot more maybe stepping back a bit and a little bit more rest on a given week like this.”
*On the current state of his game: “I’m very comfortable with my game. The long game doesn’t really change much, I’ve got to say, over the years, but my putting has been struggling a bit and that has come back well. So I’m pleased about that.
“I know it’s a cliché in the game, but when you start holing putts and you’re holing out better, it does lead to a lot less stress during the round, and a lot easier, a lot more confidence in your game, in your long game, when you’re holing out putts for pars and birdies.
“Yeah, I see an improvement in my putting, which really bleeds through my game. Clearly wasn’t there on Sunday. Probably the last two Sundays I’ve played. But what I’ve been doing in my game, I see some nice things about it, and you know, I need to carry it through 72 holes, but I’m happy that it’s going in the right direction.”
*On Bernhard Langer being the golfer he looked up to as a kid: “Professional’s professional. Got the most out of his game. Came back from the yips twice. That’s just unheard of. Absolutely phenomenal how much he got out of the game from his work rate and dedication. I’ve always admired that much more so than people who it comes easy to. Bernhard Langer, it never came easy to him and definitely a hero of mine.”
*On whether he’s fully come back from the yips: “I don’t think you ever fully come back from it, no. But certainly feel a lot better on the greens, a lot less stress knocking in 2- and 3-footers. But it has not quite cleared up, but I’m pretty positive about it all, and I see some good signs going ahead. A lot less work involved on the greens for me at the moment.”
*On who the best hustler is out on Tour and on how he learned how to hustle: “We haven’t got all day.
“I learned my hustle at Stackstown Golf Club competing with my brother, competing with my friends.
“I remember one story — there’s many stories, but I’ll give you one story playing against my brother, Columb, in a game. I was just coming to the stage where I was able to beat — he’s nine years older. So maybe I was around 14 years of age, and we were playing for a pound. Back in the 80s, it was enough.
“And the fifth hole, I’ve got like this little putt to go 1-up, and just as I’m about to take it, he says — I missed the birdie putt. He says, “Oh, it’s a pity there are no more birdie holes.”
“As I’m standing over this, I’m thinking, “But the par 5 is reachable in two and I’m going make birdie on that one.” Of course I was thinking about the 7th and missed the putt. He completely put off to take me out, distracted me. That pound note hung on my kitchen, or my mother’s kitchen, I should say, for probably 20 years. So I looked at that; that was the last pound he won off me, and it was pinned on the wall for 20 years.
“That’s what we were all about in our house. Whether we were playing cards, whether we were playing snooker, whether we were playing golf, it was all about trying to get the edge and everything. I’m still that way. I’m playing with cards with my brother at Christmas — I know I’m getting distracted.
“We’re playing for a couple of hours. And I realized two of my brothers are ten years, nine years — so four of them are there, and when we’re playing the cards, I obviously bluffed a few times, I did a few things, a little bit of verbal here and there. They thought I was eight years of age. They had no concept that I had actually bluffed them. It was amazing that all of the brothers actually still see me as a little kid. It was one of the greatest things ever to get away with all of this bluffing of verbal and they are thinking, no, he wouldn’t do that (laughing).
“But when you have four older brothers, that’s what you grow up with and the golf club I played in was particularly competitive. If you wanted to play in the games that we played in the golf club, every day you would have a 3- or 4- or 5-footer on the last four or five greens, that meant the difference of you winning or losing. If you couldn’t hole those putts, you couldn’t play the game. It was all about that in the club for sure.
“Outside of that, on the Tour, who is the best, if you’re allowed talk, you’d probably give it to Phil Mickelson. In terms of pure being able to give verbal out there in a friendly game, obviously you haven’t do that in a competitive game, Phil is pretty good at hustling and bustling his competitors.”
*On the difficulty of PGA National: “This golf course plays like a major tournament, no doubt about it, this one in particular. A lot of big shots out here. You’ve got to man up quite a bit out here and hit some tough shots and take them on.
“You can’t afford to — like 6, you can’t afford to bail out right. It could be just as bad hitting it right as hitting it in the water left. There’s a lot of big shots here, just like a major tournament. 6-under par won last year. I got to 9-under at one stage. It’s that type of thing. You don’t generally see people getting to a score and coming backwards unless it’s on like a major golf course. This is everything a major would be; well capable of holding a major, except it’s not a major by name. But it’s a big tournament and the best players are turning up. You see all the best Europeans that are coming over.
“If you can win here, you can win a major and that’s why you see guys here. This is definitely a warmup in terms of attitude that you need in a major tournament, if you’ve got the skills to get around here, you know you can win in any major golf course.”
Max Homa was bored at breakfast and came up with an interesting idea.
Once a year the golf media should play a televised round for charity and then field questions from top players in the world
— max homa (@maxhoma23) February 23, 2016
Brilliant idea, but it’d be awful for TV. I mean, the announcers would be like, “Oh, he shanked another one OB!” But, anyhow, I’d love to see that happen. We’d also like the players to take it a step further and write stories! You can’t do it halfway!
I was a little surprised to see Fluff (Mike Cowan), Jim Furyk’s caddie, on Sung Kang’s bag at Riviera, but I figured he was probably doing some temp work since Furyk is injured. Why not just take the time off? Fluff doesn’t need the money at this point. Well, people get addicted to circus life out here and just want to work. I get it.
I saw Kang and Fluff on the range this afternoon and confirmed that my speculation was fact. Perhaps Fluff’s experience is helping Kang, who appears to be trending in the right direction. In his last two starts, he’s finished T17 at Pebble Beach and 8th at Riviera.
Ollie Schniederjans, the 22-year-old former world no. 1 amateur and Georgia Tech All-American, is trying to earn Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour via sponsors exemptions — or he’s trying to replicate what his pal Patrick Rodgers achieved last year (he won his second start as a Web.com Tour member and then earned Tour status with a runner-up finish at the Wells Fargo Championship).
Schniederjans got through the Final Stage of Web.com Q-School to earn membership in the PGA Tour’s equivalent of Triple A ball. This week, he is playing on his sixth sponsor’s exemption — and he only gets seven as a non-member. Either at the Honda or wherever he takes his seventh exemption, he needs to earn equal to or greater the amount of FedExCup points won by the 150th finisher in last season’s final standings.
If Schniederjans can secure a couple of strong finishes, then he can become a Special Temporary Member, where he’s allowed unlimited sponsors exemptions and then needs to earn equal to or greater than 125th on the FedExCup points standings and/or money list.
So far, Schniederjans has a couple middle of the run finishes, with his best being T38 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
“It’s very relieving knowing that you have a full schedule no matter what,” he said. “I’d have to do something really great in this event or my seventh sponsor invite to get status out here before the end of the year.
“So knowing I have a full schedule out there and get to play a ton of golf this year no matter what, yeah, it’s nice, like he was saying, to know you’re starting out level with everybody at the beginning of the year on the Web.com Tour. Excited to go out there and try to win some tournaments.”