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Here we go again: Tiger Woods in contention at the Masters

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Stop me if you’ve heard this line before, but Tiger Woods is in contention at the Masters. Yes, that Tiger Woods; the same one who returned to the game of golf last year at this very tournament after a hiatus away from the game. While last 2010 was all about Woods finally being back, this this year’s tournament has been all about Woods trying to find his way back.

One year after Hydrant-gate and we still don’t have a lot of answers about where Tiger’s game is at the moment. But on Friday, under another day of perfect conditions at Augusta National, Woods gave us another glimpse of the game we all used to remember. After starting with a mix of birdies and bogeys, Woods found another gear starting on the 8th hole, as he birdied seven of the next eleven holes to get in the clubhouse at 7-under for the tournament, just three shots back of leader Rory McIlroy.

Woods was on, rolling in birdie putts and hitting picture-perfect iron shots. He capped things off with a birdie putt on the 18th hole, something that Woods hadn’t done in some time. The funny thing about the round was that we’ve seen this sort of performance recently, when Woods blistered Pebble Beach during the third round of last year’s U.S. Open to get in contention.

But instead of capitalizing on the moment, he gave it all away, falling out of the race on Sunday in a round that was, for all intents and purposes, a major letdown. That’s why it’s hard to figure out what were going to see on Saturday. If you’ll recall, Woods’ biggest problem has been putting four rounds together. He hasn’t been able to do it since he returned.

So what should we expect on Saturday? Honestly, I’m just not sure. But I can tell you this: I saw something in Woods I hadn’t seen in a long time, and that was a golfer swinging with confidence. If you’ve been watching Woods’ new swing progression, then you know he’s been fighting things, always looking a little uncomfortable with his posture and position.

That wasn’t the case on Friday. Woods was ripping through the ball with confidence, and looked good doing it, I might add. That’s why even if you aren’t fully sold on Woods staying in contention, you at least have to like his chances going forward for the rest of the season. The swing finally looks good, and Woods doesn’t appear to be over thinking things.

If he can go out there and worry about firing sticks, as opposed to analyzing his swing, there’s a good chance we may see Woods right there on Sunday with a chance to capture his fifth green jacket. On the 25th anniversary of one the greatest Masters ever, it only seems fitting that the game’s best player could give us a new memory that could be remembered for a long time.

Written by Jonathan Wall

04/08/2011 at 11:17 pm

Posted in Tiger Woods

Sean Foley calls out Tiger Woods’ critics: Look how many cuts he’s made!

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As Hank Haney and Butch Harmon can tell you, being Tiger Woods’ swing coach comes with a whole new set of rules of regulations that most coaches don’t have to live by. One of the biggest changes is the media interest, good or bad, that is suddenly part of your every day life.

While Sean Foley was able to deflect most of the questions and talk early on, Woods’ recent run of poor form has the sharks in the water sniffing for blood. And boy does Foley realize what’s going on, because he’s getting mighty defensive with the media and some of his prize pupils biggest detractors. In a recent interview with Golf Canada, Foley went after a number of talking heads and former players who recently tried to poke holes in the Foley swing.

“They don’t know the truth,” Foley said in the interview. “They don’t even have a clue. They just wait until he hits one to the right, then put it on the bizhub (a slow-motion camera) and slow it down. But he might not have committed to the club. He might not have trusted where the wind is and so on.”

Not a clue, huh? I understand Tiger isn’t there just yet, but why not just let the swing speak for itself? I guess Foley feels the need to defend his swing — especially when there are still stories out there questioning if he’s using the Stack and Tilt principles with Woods. That’s an old story, but I’m pretty I’d be defending my player’s honor if rumors like that were floating around.

But that wasn’t even the best part of the interview. Foley also called out Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee and questioned his knowledge of Woods’ swing, right before he used Tiger’s made cuts to finish off the former pro.

“The crap that these guys are writing – golfchannel.com and all these different avenues of pure judgment on Tiger,” Foley said.

“When did (Golf Channel analyst) Brandel Chamblee and (NBC’s) Johnny Miller and guys like that forget how hard golf is when you have conflict and you don’t have clarity?

“Brandel Chamblee made 180 out of 398 cuts on the PGA Tour (in his playing days). Like, when did this become so easy for him? That’s like 43 per cent. You’re talking about a guy (Woods) who’s missed six cuts in his life. It’s just sensational. That’s what they do.”

That’s what we look to call a “burn,” folks. I don’t think there’s anything Chamblee can say to come back from those comments. It’s clear Foley has some pent-up anger, and a lot of that has to do with being in a situation he’s never experienced before. With a high-profile player like Woods in his stall, he’s going to take criticism like this until Tiger wins. One victory and a lot of the criticism goes away.

Written by Jonathan Wall

03/09/2011 at 1:02 am

Should we care that Tiger Woods committed to Doral? Probably not

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It’s official: Tiger Woods has decided to make Doral his next tour stop, passing over a chance to get more reps at this week’s Honda Classic to take care of some “existing commitments.” Doral is pretty predictable when you look at how Woods has gone about things in the past. Sure, he may say things are different now, but he continues to stick to his guns and play the same tournaments he played in the past.

While media outlets continue to announce his next tour stop (including this site), you have to wonder when people are going to wise up and just shrug their shoulders when he adds his name to the field. It used to be that Tiger playing a tour event was a big deal. Considering how few tournaments he played per year, every time he teed it up seemed to be a cause for celebration for the fans, and the network that was lucky enough to broadcast his event.

But since his game has gone into a tailspin, his “aura”, as Rory McIlroy called it in his recent SI article, has disappeared. Tiger announcing his next tournament no longer seems like a cause for discussion; it really just seems like a way to fill space and discuss a golfer that continues to disappoint with a new swing and a fragile psyche.

So the big question is: should we even give Tiger his own article when he announces his next event? Probably not. Assuming he gets things in order, then maybe we start talking about his tournaments like we used to in the past. For now, I just don’t see the point. Maybe it’d be better if we just let Tiger do his own thing and took the spotlight off of him for awhile. Yeah right, like that would ever happen.

Written by Jonathan Wall

03/02/2011 at 11:02 pm

Posted in PGA Tour, Tiger Woods

Euro Tour one-ups competition across the pond, pairs top three in Duabi

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As the final leg of the European Tour’s desert swing, the Dubai Desert Classic has been known in recent years to draw the game’s best players to the UAE for one of the most highly anticipated tournaments of the early season.

While the field alone is reason enough to watch, the European Tour decided to add a little more intrigue to the event by pairing Tiger Woods, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, the top three players in the world rankings, together during the first two rounds of the event. As ProGolfTalk noted, it will be the first time since the first two rounds of the 2008 U.S. Open that the top three players in the world have paired together in the opening rounds of a tour event.

Truthfully, this is something the PGA Tour probably would have done at some point — if all three players had been Stateside for a non-major. But with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer opting for full-time membership on the European Tour, the chances of that happening were slim-to-none.

Taking a look ahead at the pairing, there is are some serious question marks about two of the three players in the group. Kaymer’s two starts this season produced a win (Abu Dhabi) and T28 finish, so he’s probably the most in-form golfer of the bunch. At the time, he could be the top golfer in the world.

Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods, on the other hand, have had very questionable starts to the season. Woods’ only start at Torrey Pines was a mixed bag, while Westwood has only a T64 and a missed cut in his first two tournaments of the year. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jonathan Wall

02/08/2011 at 11:37 am

When will Tiger Woods get his mojo back?

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It used to be that playing with Tiger Woods on the weekend was an intimidating proposition for any golfer. The intimidation factor alone was enough to make a player fold like a cheap lawn chair.

But times have changed. On Saturday, during the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open, Jhonattan Vegas not only match Woods shot-for-shot, he bested him by five shots, something that would have be unheard-of for a tour rookie.

But times have changed. Woods is no longer the black knight with the impenetrable armor; he’s come out looking more human after his personal problems came to light last season, and since then he hasn’t been the same player.

His four-shot collapse at the Target World Challenge was just another sign that Tiger just isn’t Tiger anymore. While he’s still in the midsts of reworking his swing, it’s clear golfers aren’t afraid of him like they used to be. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jonathan Wall

01/29/2011 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Tiger Woods

How far can Graeme McDowell go after his recent victory over Tiger Woods?

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What’s a major championship worth to a golf career? That’s not a rhetorical question, I really think it’s something worth asking when a first-time major winner hoists the first major trophy of his career. Forget about the so-called other major championships (the Players comes to mind) and think about the four majors we all consider to be the creme de la creme of the golf world.

To some, winning a major championship can define your career, for good or bad. Think about some of the major winners from the past 10 years: Todd Hamilton, Shaun Micheel, Paul Lawrie, Michael Campbell; all of them won a single major championship during their career, before they promptly falling off the face of the earth. And not one of them has ever made it back to their major championship-winning form. It’s quite sad when you think of it that way.

You have to wonder if all of them would give up their one major title for a successful, long-lasting career. Graeme McDowell seemed like that sort of player until earlier this year. With only four European Tour titles to his name — his last one coming in 2008 — McDowell didn’t strike anyone as a player to be reckoned with; if anything, he seemed like the sort of player that was just hanging on, never getting too high or too low. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jonathan Wall

12/06/2010 at 10:58 am

Golf Channel’s PGA Tour pitch? Controversy sells in 2011

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Take a look at the Golf Channel’s commercial promoting the PGA Tour’s 2011 season (sorry, this was recorded on my iPhone). No, this isn’t somebody’s idea of a joke; this is the actual commercial that ran across my television screen, on Sunday afternoon, during the Children’s Miracle Network Classic (that’s a mouthful).

So, what do we make of it? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jonathan Wall

11/15/2010 at 4:04 pm

Posted in Tiger Woods