Dec
4
2017
Super Hero! Rickie rules, Tiger schools
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

I’m fairly certain that headline makes zero sense, and what’s worse, it is so basic that it makes me want to seethe in a bath of self-loathing sewer water. Okay, I can’t believe I just typed those words together because I am physically cringing and cowering at the thought. But in this rare occasion, I don’t care if the headline is dumb and trite because I like it.

What a week! Rickie Fowler went absolutely nuts in the final round at Albany Golf Club, kicking off the day with seven straight birdies and posting an eight-under 28 on the front nine. Fowler cooled off a bit on the back nine, but still fired an 11-under 61, setting a new course record, tournament record, and his personal career-low score. Rickie ran away with the victory by four shots.

And then there was Tiger Woods, who successfully completed his comeback and posted four-under 68 on Sunday — three of his first four competitive rounds were sub-70 after yet another long layoff. I was one of those people who is still trying to find my eyeballs after how far back in my head they rolled last year after this tourney when the over-hype machine exploded because Tiger finished 15th out of 18 players! He was OMG back! I mean, he had the most birdies in the field! I was very confused.

MAIN TAKEAWAYS:

1) Tiger Woods’ swing looks damn good. The distance he gained is incredible. This Fusion surgery thing — man, I wish that would cure me. Seeing Tiger happy and healthy and playing pain-free is inspiring to me in a personal sense. If Woods can find a way to be pain-free again, then there’s hope for the rest of us. I know what it’s like to not be able to get out of bed, to sit, to do much of anything but feel like shit. I feel you, Tiger. He represents hope now, which is one of the characteristics that his fans have always found inspiring.

“I’m excited,” said T-Dubs. “This is the way I’ve been playing at home and when I came out here and played, I was playing very similar to this. Not quite hitting it as far, but I had the adrenaline going and overall I’m very pleased.”

2) This week was a massive success for Tiger. I mean, holy shit, he played four straight rounds pain-free! I know he’s said that in the past and has repeatedly lied about his injuries and pain, but like I’ve said, I actually believe him now . Maybe he took up acting classes this year, but I don’t see him being great at as ator. He could be lying, but my gut says no, and I’ve been right, like every single time in the past four years about Tiger. It’s important to note that he didn’t reveal last year at the Hero that he was in pain when he played — that was only something we learned early in the week.

3) It doesn’t matter what place Tiger finishes (T9, -8 total), he finished! Four straight competitive rounds! Yes! Baby steps!

4) Dude, can you imagine the “old” Tiger shooting 3-over and making five bogeys in the first 10 holes and saying afterwards how happy he was just to be able to compete? hell no.

5) Damn, Tiger’s driver looks like it might be a strength if he continues striping it the way he has!

6) HE’S PAIN-FREE after four competitive rounds!!! I know I already mentioned it, but that’s so huge.

He doesn’t have a great rep of being truthful or honest about his pain and injuries, but I have believed him this week. And I would’ve been able to spot it in a heartbeat if he were in pain.

Q. If you were really hurting, would you even tell us? TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I would tell you. Q. Are you hurting right now at all? TIGER WOODS: No, uh-uh. Q. How much confidence do you take from that, just the physical aspect if you’re feeling fine? TIGER WOODS: No, I’m excited. I’m excited the way this week has gone on. With not only as the competitive rounds but also all the functions at night. I still got my training in. It was a very good week.

7) Hopefully this last surgery will stick and he’ll have a few more years left in him. It’s fun having him around now that the new generation has taken over and the “aura” isn’t dictated by the old Tiger Woods.

8) I will still not bet on him to win the Masters.

9) Tiger flushing that 2-iron.

“I hit a couple good ones on 9, the 3-woods I laced in there,” said Woods. “But that 2-iron at 3 was — it was money. Unfortunately it didn’t end up on the green. It ended up in a tough spot, sitting into the grain again, sitting in a little hole, too, on top of that. Well, that figures.”

———-

The weirdest part: I am rooting so hard for Tiger Woods. This is insane. I think longtime readers know that I’ve never been a huge TW fan. I was until the first time I saw T-Dubs hit a shot in person during the 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee, and I was done. He was ruined for me. Scarred for life. But I’m also a sucker for the underdog. It’s fascinating that Woods, who was Goliath for most of his life, has now become a David-like character.

“When I was struggling with my back, the world seemed very small,” said Woods following his round on Sunday “Just tried to, you know, day-to-day stuff was very difficult for me to do. Now I’m able to sit back and enjoy it a little bit, talk to more people, go out to more dinners and it’s been really nice.”

I have been thinking about this all week because I feel like there is a noticeable change in Tiger that has been brewing after a tough couple of years, where he went through hell and back. While he’s still not exacstly breaking down and pouring his heart out at press conferences, I can’t emphasize how different he is now. He’s, like, at peace. He’s been humbled. He’s pleasant. He’s kind. He’s laid-back. He’s gracious. It’s still a work in progress and the fact he’s even sort of started to let his guard down a bit.

For 41 years of his life, Woods has been like teflon and heeds extreme caution in what he will reveal. He doesn’t like to stoke the flames too much, especially when it comes to anything personal or political. Unless it’s a golf political issue, like with the rules. He would use one of his stock lines. He had about 5-8 phrases and terms he would use and repeat some rendition of to avoid a straightforward answer. He was more guarded than any other athlete I’ve covered or spent time around. He was standoffish. He was distant. He was an asshole. He had the kind of stare and aura about him where he made others feel invisible or intimidated.

Woods, a living legend as he recounted a story about how his daughter equated him as such, has gone through a fair share of shaming and humiliating moments that were recorded on video during his DUI arrest in May, which were disseminated around the internet and watched by millions of people around the world. From what he’s revealed, Woods attended a rehab program this past summer, but we don’t know for how long and/or any details.

He’s trying. He’s been positive, thoughtful, patient and as genuine as I’ve ever seen him. I think he’s been forced to feel vulnerable and deal with shame and find a way to be at peace with it. I hope someday he will feel comfortable enough making stronger statements and sharing intimate yet personal experiences — he has the ability to be an influential voice and spokesperson for causes that impact millions of Americans. Like with his golf game, give him time.

In his pre-tournamemt press conference, there was something different about Tiger. Now, this new Tiger — the guy who is one of the boys and hanging with the kids — has been a work in progress for years now, but he’s finally reached a point where he’s had to face hard truths and he’s hopefully working on dealing/processing all those still.

“As I said, it’s just very flattering that people really enjoyed what I’ve
done over the years,” said Tiger. “I’ve had some tough times through the years with my back and then finally come out on the good side and be able to go back out there and play, pretty cool.”

WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH TIGER WOODS??

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This is rare, but I had never covered this event until this year. I feel like it was a combination of reasons — one being that it coincided with the old PGA Tour Q-school finals (RIP!), and secondly, I saw it as a pointless 18-player exhibition that no one cares about and I had already covered 30 tournaments at that point (in my youth).

I thought I might regret it, but I definitely don’t. Tiger Woods making yet another comeback in the Bahamas was not the big sell, though. I think I had already written him off before I applied for credentials. And I’m so glad I did.

Thank you, TW. And keep it up!

Here’s a highlight package, Tiger! — your kids might enjoy seeing more of the “YouTube Golfer.”

—–

Congrats, Rickie! When you win, we all win. P is for POW!

Fowler opened with seven straight consecutive birdies. Then he totally choked and made a par on the 8th to break his birdie streak. At least he birdied the 9th, though. We’ll cut him a break this time. But holy shit, he shot 28 on the front!

“You kind of just try and ride her till she bucks ya, you know?” quipped Fowler. “Ride until the horse kicks you off. I’m looking at it, the first three holes, I birdied the first three the first day, and when I made the putt on 4 just because it wasn’t an easy putt. ”

“It kind of wiggled in the middle and found its way to the middle of the hole, and to make the bunker shot on the next, and after those two it was kind of just keep the gas pedal down and, you know, make a par on 8. Like I said earlier, it’s better to end the streak with a par than something else.”

And yes, obviously, 59 watch was on his mind.

“I knew when I got n there on 13 that was going to be a bonus, and I knew if I made that putt that 59 was a chance because 14 and 15 ahead are birdie holes,” said Rickie. “The biggest thing is I just kept telling myself, stay in the moment, keep focusing on each shot, don’t get ahead of yourself.

It is fun to think about different shots that are coming up, but really kind of dialing yourself back and  cusing on that certain shot at that time. I felt like I made a lot of good swings coming in. I mean, I made a great swing into 16, and then 17 wind drifted it just a fraction more and 18 didn’t move it. So I was definitely happy with the way I played the last six holes or so not really knowing the situation, but obviously with a little bit of that 59 thought in there but I wasn’t going to necessarily press for it.”


Tiger and the kids are already setting up games to play next week.

“I’m sure the guys will have some denominations they want to play for,” said Woods, referring to the crew in the Jupiter area. “JT was already alluding to that as we were playing today so when we go home, these guys are awesome, they want to play almost every day. They want to compete, they want to see me back out there, and it’s really nice to have that type of camaraderie.”

“It was nice to hear the sound of the ball coming off of the face again and him hitting quality golf shots and driving the ball long and straight, him being able to work it both ways in crosswinds. I don’t want to say that I felt intimidated because I don’t want his head to get too big. I don’t want to talk him up much.”

I actually think the young guys have the mental edge/intimidation on Tiger now! He loves hanging with the cool kids!

“Obviously Tiger has a presence, and to be able to go and have matches together at home and kind of push each other, it’s fun because it brings out I feel like the best in each other. To help each other, helping me kind of get ready for the two events that I played through the fall and ultimately getting him to where he can come and play this week.

“Not that I had a big influence, he can do all this on his own. He’s Tiger Woods. He’s obviously had a decent career. He’s all right. No, but yeah, I wasn’t surprised with the way he played this week. I know yesterday was a bummer for him. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was in contention coming down the last nine holes today. I think he exceeded a lot of people’s expectations.”

Indeed. But let’s not start feeding into the hype machine. Deep breaths.

Tiger, don’t push yourself too hard! Take the time to be healthy if you sudeenly start feeling pain again.

Caption this FTW: