Archive for March, 2010

The Masters Can Show Some Love to Davis

March 31st, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

It’s the week before The Masters and the field is set except for one very coveted spot.  The winner of the Shell Houston Open will get the last remaining space in the field for The 2010 Masters.  Davis Love III is in the same position he was last year.  Having not yet qualified under one of the criteria that The Masters selection committee uses to determine the field, Love will have to win this week.  He’ll have some support from real golf fans in Houston but most of them will be rooting for their adopted son and hottest Champions Tour golfer, Fred Couples.

There are 32 golfers playing at the Masters that will be teeing it up at Augusta but so far Love isn’t one of them and there is something wrong with that.  Love deserves to be at Augusta.  He certainly is worthy of a special invitation from the guys in the green jackets.

The Masters uses eighteen different criteria to determine its players.  Many players earn their way on through world ranking points, money lists, past major victories and finishes in prior major events.  Of course The Masters past champions make up one of the most appealing aspects of this tournament.  The Masters also invites many amateur champions that otherwise would never play at Augusta.  Unfortunately for Love he has failed to meet any of those criteria.  But the folks at The Masters boast about their commitment to grow the game and they certainly have taken steps to accomplish that.

Last year, in an effort to grow and broaden the game they issued a “special invitation” to Asian sensation Ryo Ishikawa.  He ended up missing the cut but during the season he went on to prove their decision right.

So why can’t they invite Love as a special invitee.  This guy has twenty PGA Tour wins, including a PGA and two Players Championships. It’s not like he’s John Daly! He’s as dedicated to this game as any professional and cherishes Augusta.  You want to talk about growing the game?  Talk to Davis Love III.  He campaigned for two years to get a PGA tournament at his beloved Sea Island Golf Club in Sea Island Georgia.  Growing the game?  How about the golf academy that Love’s father started there in the seventies.  Growing the game?  How about Love and his buddy Zach Johnson hosting the PGA Tour in Georgia during The Fall Finish and bringing the spotlight to Georgia once again.  How many kids and juniors and newcomers get to participate in clinics at Augusta?   Do you think that more kids will be able to spend some time with the pros and take part in the activities at Love’s event or Augusta?  The Masters looks great on television but if you really want to grow the game, Love’s event has a better chance of getting kids turned on to golf with all the activities and the fan friendly environment  that Love will put forth at The McGladrey Classic.

The Masters is as special a tournament as there is in golf.  We all relish everything from the azaleas to Amen Corner to Butler Cabin and everything in between.  The Masters should make this year’s tournament even more special and award Davis Love III a special invitation.  Since they make their own rules they can do anything they wish.  They could even say that Love earned the invite based not only on his play on the course but also for his efforts to grow the game.  That is something The Green Coats and Love certainly have in common.


Michelle Wie Can Win The Kraft Nabisco

March 31st, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The women of  The LPGA Tour are set to take center stage this week as they open the major season at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.  The LPGA season seems a bit dysfunctional at this point in the year.  This is only the fourth tournament of the season and they have played only one full field event prior to this week’s championship and only one on US soil.  Compare that to The PGA Tour which will have played thirteen tournaments before they play The Masters.  This sparse, start and stop season hardly gives the players a chance to get their game in championship shape.  One of the players that doesn’t mind the abbreviated start must be Ai Miyazato as she has claimed two of the three titles.

It may be difficult for Miyazato to claim another win this week.  The short hitting Miyazato will be facing one of the longer courses on tour this season at 6702 yards.  If a long hitter is to take home the trophy you don’t have to look to far past the headlines of women’s golf.  Michelle Wie currently is in second place in driving distance at 269 yards.  She is off to a very good start.  She has gone from a T22, T15 to a T6 last week which could have been a T2 if the rules officials had viewed her slip in the hazard a bit differently.

Wie has always been able to hit the ball a long way, she was fourth in driving distance last year but the difference this year is her putter.  She finished tied for 37th in putting last season and this year has improved enough with the short stick to be tied for 5th in putting average with 27 putts per round on the tour.  With her driving and putting working well together, she is tied for tenth in scoring average, she could be primed to win her first major and give the LPGA a much needed boost.

Last year’s champion, Brittany Lincicome is teamed with Wie for the first two rounds and that looks to be a long ball hitters dream.  Lincicome is nicknamed “Boom Boom” for her length off the tee but her driving has been an issue this year.  She is averaging twenty five yards less than last season.  That has given her a rough start with two T26’s and a missed cut.

Cristie Kerr is one of America’s best bets to contend at The Kraft.  She has started well with a T4, 2nd and T14 last week.  She is T3 in scoring average and second on the money list.  Kerr will be trying her best to add another major to her resume along with the 2007 US Open.

Suzann Petersen is healthy again and was off to a great start with two top tens to start the season but a T52 last week may have derailed her.  Pettersen plays well here with second place finishes two of the last three years.  He driver is fine, with 262 yards off the tee, so she has the length but her putting has been dismal.  You can’t win a major when you average 31 putts per round.  She’ll need to putt better if she is to contend.

The Koreans once again put forth an impressive contingent at The Kraft.  Hee Kyung Seo won last week on a sponsor’s exemption and knows how to win.  She has eleven wins on the Korean LPGA and could claim her first major.  Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Jiyai Shin is rounding into form with a pair of T3’s in the past two outings but her lack of length off the tee (233 yds) will make this course a real challenge.

Yani Tseng, from Taipei, is 6th in the World Rankings and off to a good start with two top tens and is tenth is scoring average.  She has the game to compete here.

Easily over looked is the number one player in the world, Lorena Ochoa.  Although she is off to a slow start, Ochoa can win anywhere in the world.  Her game is far from where it should be with a T39 in scoring average and her best finish a T18 at The Honda.  That being said; how can you discount the best player in the world? You can’t.  Ochoa has the skills to win her third major and second Kraft Nabisco Championship this week.

It should be an interesting week for the ladies and a good chance to really move The LPGA Tour season into high gear.


Major Week, It’s The Kraft Nabisco, Not the Masters

March 30th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Major Season is upon us.  Forget Tiger and all the conjecture about his partners, his pairing and his press conference.  This week the LPGA beats the PGA Tour to the punch when they hold the first major of the season at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.  It isn’t The Open Championship but this tournament has a lot of history.

It started in 1972 when it was called the Colgate Dinah Shore, named after one of the most influential and supportive women in the history of the LPGA.  It was designated as a major championship in 1983 and called the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2002.  Look at these past champions since 1983: three time champions, Amy Alcott, Betsy King and Annika Sorenstam, and two time champions Juli Inkster, Dottie Pepper and Karrie Webb.

Not only does this tournament have an impressive pedigree it has one of the greatest traditions in golf.  This is where the champion jumps into the lake that borders the eighteenth.  Amy Alcott started it in 1988 and the players have taken the tradition to heart.  So has the tournament, they put a filtration unit in the pond a few years ago to keep the water a little cleaner and the jumpers a little fresher.  It’s a wonderful tradition and one of the highlights of the tournament.  They call the winner the “Lady of the Lake.” Check out the video of some of the past jumpers.  My favorite is Karrie Webb; she lands a killer cannon ball.


Michelle Wie’s Expensive Penalty

March 29th, 2010 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

The people at the LPGA Kia’s Classic knew what they were doing when they extended a sponsor’s exemption to Hee Kyung Seo of South Korea.  She played well enough to dust the field by six strokes and claim her first victory on US soil.  The top American finishers in the tournament were Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie who tied for sixth.  Pressel shot her lowest round of the tournament with a 68 to finish and Michelle Wie carded a 72, a disputed 72 at that.

Wie thought she was entitled to a 70, not the 72 that included a two stroke penalty which the rules officials had accessed.  It happened on the eleventh hole with Wie’s ball sitting in a water hazard and she attempted to hit it with her right foot ankle deep in the water and her left foot on the bank.  She struck at the ball and it popped out with a huge splash, it hit the bank and rolled back within the boundary of the hazard.   At that point she looked to be trying to keep her balance and she struck the ground inside the hazard with her club.  She played out the hole with a par.

On the face of it, that’s a two stroke penalty, it’s in the rules, rule 13-4.  Wie was convinced that she was trying to maintain her balance and stop from falling back into the pond.  Later on during the round she had a discussion with a rules official and was informed that she had indeed violated the rule and she was assessed a two stroke penalty.

After her round was complete she went to the television compound and watched the footage of her shot with the rules officials.  There she offered her best Stanford Law School defense when she claimed she was losing her balance and trying to stop from falling in the water.  After repeated attempts to convince the officials she grew frustrated.  She certainly acknowledged she did ground her club but she said she felt off balance and thought that should have been enough to convince them that she didn’t deserve the penalty.  There was a lot of “it doesn’t seem right” and “I know that I felt it (off balance)” and “it really seems unfair to me right now.”  I thought her best line was that “It leads to a belief that I’m wearing a white skirt and I might fall in the water.”

I thought she had a fair argument and it appeared like she may have felt off balance but the rules officials said they needed more than just being off balance.  As anyone would be when they get hit with a penalty, she was upset and declared her belief that the penalty was unfair.  Without the two strokes she would have finished in a tie for second place, instead she was tied for sixth.  It cost her about $100,000.  She can chalk it up to another learning experience on tour and get ready for the first major of the season next week.


Els & Pavin Lead the Pack

March 28th, 2010 No comments

Ernie Els is looking to become the first double winner this year on the PGA Tour as he hangs on to a one stroke lead over Ben Curtis at The Arnold Palmer Invitational.  Els is playing as loose and relaxed as he ever has and could be ready to claim that green jacket in two weeks.

Chris Couch scored the shot of the day when he bounced his approach off the rocks not once, not twice but three times.  The Golf Gods smiled upon him and he is only three back of Els.

Fred Couples, Nick Price and Larry Mize have to be feeling a little shell shocked.  The trio all carded 66’s but could climb no higher than second place at The Cap Cana Championship.  Corey Pavin went really low with a new course record 63.  He had nine birdies, including four straight to finish the round.


Great Leaderboards, Great Courses

March 27th, 2010 No comments

Okay, so there was plenty of compelling golf being played all over the world yesterday.  The Euro Tour is in Spain being hosted by Miguel Angel Jimenez.  The ladies of  The LPGA are in California with Michelle Wie lurking two strokes off the lead.  The flat bellies of PGA Tour are at Arnie’s place in Orlando with a leader board stacked with major winners.  Davis and Ernie share the lead with DJ Trahan and Ben Curtis at -7 but Phil and Goose are only one back.  It should be an exciting weekend at Bay Hill.  But yesterday’s real show stopper was not any of those tournaments.

The real star of yesterday’s cornucopia of golf on The Golf Channel was the Punta Espada Golf Club in Cap Cana, Dominican Republic.  The Champions Tour is making their annual trip to The Dominican for The Cap Cana Championship and it’s easy to see why they love it so much.  That course looks absolutely amazing.  So many holes are right on the ocean, I mean right on the ocean.  These guys are getting splashed from the crashing surf they are so close.

Jack Nicklaus really used as much coastline as he could and the result was an absolutely captivating layout.  If you watched any of the coverage you saw all the pros spending as much time staring at the breathtaking views as they were lining up their putts.  Watch as Tom Kite birdies the very challenging thirteenth hole.  His playing partner is doing what all the guys did all day, watch the waves crash on the rocks and revel in the magnificence of the islands.


Tiger’s First Mistress: Nike

March 26th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Here’s another sign that Tiger Woods is ready to come back to his old golf routine.  TMZ is reporting that Woods was seen filming a new commercial for Nike.  It’s been full speed ahead for Team Woods since he announced he will play at The Masters.  He shot off duel “exclusive” interviews with The Golf Channel and ESPN and announced he will hold a special “Tiger Conference” on Monday of The Masters.  It looks like he and his guys have formulated a plan of attack and the five minute interviews were the start of his grand plan.

A new ad for Nike, a few practice rounds at Augusta, Hank Haney with him on the range at Isleworth must make it feel like the old days for Woods. But something is still missing in Tiger’s life; his family.  Reports have Elin and the kids spending time away from Tiger as Elin has spent the last few days out of the house and on their yacht.  Since those graphic text messages from Joslyn James were released Elin and the kids haven’t been around Tiger too much.

It may be that Elin has finally had enough and realizes that Tiger might not be able to change his stripes enough for her liking.  As odd as it sounds, if Tiger and Elin were to separate it would allow Woods to play more golf.  If they are “working at it” as Tiger said they are, his return to the game would be limited because of the time and commitment needed to rebuild their marriage.

Only Elin and Tiger know how deep their commitment to stay married is.  It won’t be easy to reconcile a bond so horribly broken.  From the looks of things now, with Elin on the yacht and Tiger back to his “golfing” routine, they have a long way to go.


Thursday Chips

March 25th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Chip Shots…

One popular phrase that has been tossed about for years in golfing circles is the need “to grow the game.”  The players love to use that line when they travel around the world to pick up their huge appearance fees.  Well, one golfer this week is putting his money where his mouth is, his own money.  Miguel Angel Jimenez is home in Spain to bankroll the Open de Andalucía.  He feels it is so important to showcase his hometown he is willing to put up his own cash if needed.  Once again he proves that he is the coolest guy in golf.

Do you think new LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan is employing a different management style than his predecessor? Absolutely.  He is the Anti-Bivens.  Last week he caddied for a Futures Tour Player for a day and he just knocked the players for a loop at his first LPGA Player’s Meeting.  This guy is loaded with personality and is running an open and energized tour.  The next two years are critical for the LPGA and it looks like they have a real leader at the top.

Can golf save the planet? Well it may be a stretch but golf does a lot more good to the environment than most people realize.  Golf courses are being hailed for their role in “carbon sequestration.” That’s environmental speak for “cleaning the air.”  You’d be surprised how a golf course can help the environment.

It’s Arnie’s week at Bay Hill The King is enjoying the spotlight as the tour tees it up on his own Bay Hill Club and Lodge.  No single player has done more for the advancement of golf than Arnie.  1960 was a pivotal year for The King and golf in America.  Curt Sampson recounts the year that saw golf at a crossroads.  Hogan, Palmer and Nicklaus all crossed paths and the changing of the guard was underway.  As Palmer has said, “ He (Hogan) was not a great guy.  He was a great player.”  Arnie was a great player and an even greater guy and Nicklaus was just about to start his journey to becoming the greatest of all time.  Check out Sampson’s article in Golf Digest. For lack of a better word, it’s great.


Jean Reynolds Is Not Your Typical LPGA Rookie

March 24th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The LPGA Tour finally starts its domestic season this week when the ladies tee off tomorrow at the KIA Classic in Carlsbad, California.  The LPGA was last seen a month ago in Singapore and all the LPGA players are chomping at the bit to get the 2010 season restarted.  This will be the first tournament of the season for many players as many didn’t qualify for the first two events of the season or opted not to travel to Asia to compete.

Most of the top players in the world will be teeing it up at The La Costa Resort and Spa with the notable exception being Paula Creamer who is recovering from a thumb injury.  The ladies will all be doing their best to try and turn this tour back into the LPGA Tour and not the Ai Miyazato Tour. Miyazato has opened the season with back to back wins in both tour events and the field will be trying to derail her unbelievable start.

2010 brings another class of quality rookies to the tour.  The 2009 rookie class proved to be one of the best ever in LPGA history and claimed seven tour victories.  Jiyai Shin had three wins, Anna Nordqvist had two, including a major, and Michelle Wie broke through with her first win as did M.J. Hur.  Popular rookies Vicki Hurst, Mika Miyazato and Stacy Lewis rounded out a rookie class whose accomplishments make it a difficult act to follow. Amanda Blumenherst brings the most impressive resume to the LPGA this season.  She was the 2008 Women’s Champion and three time NCAA Player of the Year.

The 2010 rookie class may not have the pedigree of the 2009 class, but it certainly doesn’t lack for talented and interesting players.  One of those talented and appealing players is Jean Reynolds.

Reynolds snuck into the national spotlight last year when she played superb golf at the US Women’s Open.  She was one of only three players under par after the second round and threatened to challenge for the championship.  Her putter failed her during the third round and she admittedly learned a lesson the hard way during the fourth round, “Don’t go at pins on Sundays.”  The USGA appreciates that, they like teaching lessons that way.

In a phone conversation with Reynolds we spoke about her game, her life and her priorities.  While professional golf is important in her life, she has taken the road less travelled to the tour.  She was one of the rare, gifted amateur golfers that didn’t rush to turn professional and even put down her clubs while playing for the University of Georgia.  Many young golfers let their golf define their lives but Reynolds made a conscious effort to be more than just a golfer at college.  She chose to be a normal college student first and a golfer second and she doesn’t regret that decision one bit.

Like many players she was introduced to the game by her father, brothers and her grandfather.  She started playing around age six and stuck with it. Reynolds had a very good junior and amateur career claiming five Georgia State Golf Association Championships and was a member of the winning USGA State Championship Team from Georgia in 2005  She played well on the Duramed Futures Tour, finished second on the money list and earned her shot on The LPGA.

After being recruited by many SEC schools she choose to attend the University of Georgia on a partial scholarship, not because of the money or the golf, but because she already has plenty of friends in Athens.  It’s that kind of attitude that made Reynolds the atypical college golfer.

I asked her to tell me a little bit about herself and in a sweet, gentle, southern drawl she offered honest, open and thoughtful answers.

Jean Reynolds: “I grew up in Newnan, Georgia, small town, both sets of grandparents lived here, two brothers is what started me in golf, my dad’s a big golfer.  I kind of tagged along with him.

(I had a) pretty successful junior & amateur career, Georgia recruited me to play college golf there. I went there and red shirted my freshman.  I kind of got burned out, just with all the practice regimen and I was enjoying college and being a normal college student at the university and decided to walk away from it.  Then I picked it back up I believe my junior year. I studied abroad my sophomore year in Innsbruck, Austria. So I probably took a good year and a half off of competitive golf and then (I played one Georgia State Tournament before I left for Innsbruck). You know, my junior year, the competitive juices started flowing again and I played in the USGA State Team Championship. The captain was Pat Clark who is a dear friend of mine and we ended up winning that and that just got the competitive juices flowing again. I decided to try both Q-Schools, ended up finishing 5th at the Futures Tour and gave that a run.  My first year, I think that was ’07, I had just kind of a mediocre year, more than anything I just had a terrible attitude.  At the end of the year I just sat down and reevaluated what I needed to work on because the golf game was there, even after the time off I had taken.  So my coach, Charlie King, he’s out of Reynolds Plantation down here in Georgia, he helped me tremendously with the mental thought of it just figuring what I really wanted out of this lifestyle and career and you know once we cleared all of the garbage out between the ears it was just, kind of go out and play golf and have fun again. That was the biggest thing for me for this past year and the success I had I think is due to just going back to your junior days and just playing golf and have fun.

LLG: So you actually went to college on a scholarship, prepared to play?

JR: I mean it wasn’t a full scholarship or anything like that, but you know I already had tons of friends at Athens and that was just kind of where I always wanted to go.  My two brothers went to Ole Miss and I had a lot of Southeastern Conference schools looking at me but Georgia was two hours from home. That was just kind of the best option

LLG: It sounds like you enjoyed your college life.

JR: I did, I loved it. I met some wonderful people there, some of my best friends.  I’ve got a very tight knit group of friends and I think that’s very important to keep a balance in your life.

LLG: What was the craziest thing you and your sorority sisters did in school?

JR: Oh goodness! (I can almost hear her blush as she laughs) There were probably a lot of them I don’t need to tell.  We lived in a six girl room in the sorority house which is kind of fun.  We all had bunk beds and I mean we were like little mice packed in there but we just had a good time. We really did. I mean everyone there has got a different personality, everyone’s got a different story and for me it was just nice to get away from the golf.  You know everyone associated me with golf, you know she’s a golfer, but there no one cared.  They didn’t understand golf and it was just a nice break.

LLG: So you didn’t want your life defined by golf? You wanted to explore everything else in college?

JR: Yeah, I mean I think your identity should be, obviously what you’re passionate about, but I mean there are other things that I think people want to be recognized for.

LLG: When you stopped playing, did you think you were going to play professional golf after you graduated?

JR: You know, deep down, I knew I was not quitting.  Of course I had a lot of people questioning me…you know “she burned out, she quit.” As far as I knew I was going to go back to play competitive golf. I didn’t know if that was to continue playing amateur tournaments or if I was going to turn pro. But it was kind of later in the year, probably (end of )06, early 07 that I did some research and I was like why not, let’s try it, do it for a couple years and see how it works out.

LLG: So now you’re a full time player on the LPGA Tour, how’s that feel?

JR: Pretty awesome!  It’s kind of a dream come true. Once you get there it’s not easy and you’ve got to keep bustin it and keep your focus at hand.  But for me I’m just enjoying the opportunity.  I think it’s going to be a fun year and you know I’m not going to put any expectations or pressure on myself. I’m just going out there and play golf and have fun.

LLG: Do you have any specific goals for the season?

JR: Obviously, to secure my card for next year, that would be a huge bonus.  Anytime you can avoid Q-School that is saving a huge headache.  So, to secure my card and I would just like to play well, and in order for me to do that I have to have fun.  So I’m just going to take it as it comes. (I’ll be very disappointed if I couldn’t finish in the top 90).

LLG: Are there any events you are looking especially forward to on the tour this year?

JR: Absolutely, my first one in San Diego (The Kia Classic). It’s been quite awhile since I’d teed it up.  But you know it was the same way last year. I’m kind of superstitious so I’m starting the routine I did going into my first tournament last year and that obviously worked out pretty kind of good.

LLG: What routine is that?

JR: I’ve been working out tremendously. But I didn’t play competitive tournaments going into my first event.  I went down to Orlando… and got a lot of good practice in and played a lot of golf down there. And I just got ready and felt good about my game going into that first tournament.  I’m kind of sticking with that routine.

LLG: Who, other than your parents, did you admire growing up, as far as a golfer?

JR: I’ve always been a big Fred Couples and a Davis Love III fan.  I just love their attitude.  I like the way they handle themselves on the golf course.

LLG: What do you think is going to be the most difficult adjustment you’ll have to make to the LPGA Tour?

JR: Probably just getting into the routine of things, kind of figuring out, travel and things.  I learned a lot through the Futures Tour with the travel.  Of course this will be a step up. But once you step in there and get your feet wet and observe what’s going on, I think you just kind of take it hand in hand.  I mean there are obviously some things you want to stay away from, but from there it’s a learning experience. I’m a fast learner.  So hopefully I can make adjustments in time to not have to worry about it during tournament week.

LLG: What are you looking forward to most on the tour?

JR: Getting to play golf with some of the different girls out there and learning a lot from their games.  Obviously, they are extremely talented or else they wouldn’t be where they are right now.  Just watching them, especially the short game, I’ll be observing a lot of that. It should be interesting as far as practice rounds.

LLG: Have you set your schedule for the season?

JR: Yea, I’m playing…I have committed to everything.  In order for me to play in the Kraft this year I’ll have to finish top ten In San Diego (Kia Classic).  After that I’m signed up to play everything and then of course the US Open, I’ll have to qualify for that…and then the British Open.   But everything, full field I’ll play.  (She’s hoping to qualify for the Evian Masters also).

LLG: Do you have a full time caddy?

JR: I do.  His name is Paulie Maggiore.  He’s from Pittsburgh.  I met him on the Futures Tour he was caddying for a good friend of mine all last year and he caddied for me at the Open this past year.  More than anything he is just good at keeping me relaxed and keeps me smiling.  For me that’s the most important thing on the golf course.

LLG: Sounds like you already have a good relationship with him?

JR: We’re good friends and like I said he just keeps me relaxed and that’s when I play my best golf.

LLG: Do you have some friends on the tour now that you played with on the Futures Tour?

JR: I’ve got Samantha Richdale, I played a lot with her and Mina Harigae and there are a few out there but I’m looking forward to meeting many more.

LLG: Do you have a favorite club, or a go to club?

JR: Oh gosh, I’m a fairly consistent driver of the golf ball.  I mean I can get it out there pretty good for my size.  I can rely on driving the ball.

After talking to Ms. Reynolds I was left with the impression that while she is passionate about her golf game, she’ll not let it define her life.  She knows what she wants and right now that’s to perform well on tour.  She said her key to playing well is being relaxed and happy.  That philosophy should serve her well not only on tour, but in her life as well.


Feinstein Says “Still the Same Tiger”

March 23rd, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

As we all continue to digest Tiger’s dueling interviews, one thing is clear: Team Tiger is still trying to control the story.  Team Tiger is in full recovery mode now as they try to take as much heat off Tiger before he tees it up at The Masters.  The decision to give short, controlled interviews to a few selected outlets looks more like a type of damage control then it does a full, open dialogue between Tiger and the press.  Tiger’s people also offered an interview to CBS but they declined because of the time limitations on the questioning.  The Golf Channel and ESPN are really entertainment outlets and they chose to go ahead with the interviews with the time restriction.

Tiger did appear to look more like a real person as compared to the robotic, uncomfortable delivery he displayed during his “apology statement” last month.  He is still trying to call all the shots here.  He answered most questions with the same prepared statements and played the “between Elin and me” card anytime the questions turned to the events of November 27th.  It was the intent of Team Tiger to make him look a little better in the public’s eye after these chats.  Maybe they succeeded in some respects but the ones who came out looking really good were Kelly Tilghman and Tom Rinaldi.

Tilghman and Rinaldi preformed very admirably in a tough situation.  They both knew Woods would stonewall them on the personal questions but they at least tried to get something out of him.  With the time limit they had little chance to follow up any of Tiger’s vague responses.  Some have said they should have touched on the area of performance enhancing drugs, but with so little time all the questions couldn’t be answered.

Tiger and his team are surely counting Sunday’s interviews as victories for Woods.  He got through them unscathed and to most he appeared to be making strides towards his return.  But in reality we learned nothing new about Tiger and his last four months.  He again displayed his obsessive need to control everything.  John Hawkins says Woods hasn’t really taken any steps at all.  He’s still the same Tiger. John Feinstein says that Woods followed the classic Ari Fleischer strategy:”say you’re sorry but don’t get into anything too specific.”  That’s exactly what Woods did.  Feinstein goes on to say “he was still selling himself, that was what this was all about…as far as I could tell he is still the same Tiger Woods he was before November 27th”.

Let’s hope for his sake, for golf’s sake and his family’s sake that Woods has at least changed a little.  He’ll only be in for more heartache if he hasn’t.