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Archive for March, 2010

Furyk Wins Again

March 22nd, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Lost in all the Tiger interview hoopla was the fact that Jim Furyk won the Transitions Championship yesterday.  Furyk doesn’t mind the fact that his win is relegated to story number 1001 behind 1000 Tiger stories.  He’ll happily take the trophy and cash the check in the quiet, humble, unassuming way he always has.  It was his first win since 2007 and fourteenth in his career.   It’s great to see another one of “the old guard” get it done on tour.  Furyk is too good a player to go so long without a win.  It goes to show you how tough it is to keep winning out there.  Jim’s the one with the trophy but that blue guy on the right could be his twin.

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Tiger Woods Takes His First Step

March 22nd, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Sunday afternoon we witnessed another chapter in the Tiger Woods saga when Tiger spoke to The Golf Channel and ESPN.  In what looked like a strategy a politician might use, (thanks Ari Fleischer) Tiger gave two, quick interviews to Kelly Tilghman and Tom Rinaldi.  It’s accepted political practice to use the Sunday morning talk shows to get your message across if you are a politician. OK, so it wasn’t Meet the Press or Face the Nation but Woods succeeded in getting his message out and appeared to be trying to start his journey back to being a golfer and some kind of normalcy.

You have to give credit to  Tilghman and Rinaldi.  They both asked the tough questions and tried to get answers to the questions we all have been wondering about for months.  According to Tilghman there were no restrictions on any subject matter but all the two of them were allowed was five minutes.  They did an excellent job considering the circumstances.

Some of Tilghman’s questions went deep into Tiger’s personal life and we may have seen a different Tiger if he truly believes what he is saying.

KT: “You went from becoming recognized as the greatest golfer in the world to becoming a punch line. How did that make you feel?

TW: “It was hurtful, but then again you know what, I did it. I’m the one who did those things and looking back on it now with a more clear head, I get it. I can understand why people will say these things because you know what, it was disgusting behavior. As a person, it’s hard to believe that was me, looking back on it now.”

KT: America was concerned when the world’s greatest golfer was lying on the ground with no shoes at 2:30 in the morning, bleeding, what happened that night?

TW: It’s all in the police report, they investigated it and they have it on public record; there’s a lot of stuff between Elin and I that will remain private and that’s about it.

KT: It’s been reported that members of your team, your inner circle were involved in your misdoings, is it true?

TW: That is not true; it was all me. I’m the one who did it, I’m the one who acted the way I acted, no one knew what was going on. I’m sure if more people would have known in my inner circle they would’ve, they would’ve stopped it … or tried to put a stop to it, but I kept it all to myself.

KT: What is the state of your marriage with Elin right now?

TW: We’re working on it and it’s a process that will remain private between her and I.

KT: How will you explain this to your children, one day when they’re old enough to understand?

TW: I will have that sit-down talk and it won’t be just one time, I know that. It will be numerous times and I take full ownership of it, I did it. No one else did; it was just me and that’s a responsibility that I will have. I will talk to my kids, for however long they want to talk about it. That is a conversation that will need to be had.

Rinaldi was just as comprehensive in the short time he was allotted.

TR: What’s the difference between the man who left Augusta national a year ago and the one who is about to return?

TW: A lot has transpired in my life. A lot of ugly things have happened. Things that…..I’ve done some pretty bad things in my life. And uh, all came to a head. But now, after treatment, going for inpatient treatment for 45 days and more outpatient treatment, I’m getting back to my old roots.

TR: You said you were in treatment. The simple question is, for what?

TW: That’s a private matter as well. But I can tell you what, it was tough, it was really tough to look at yourself in a light that you never want to look at yourself, that’s pretty brutal.

TR: Eleven months ago, here at Isleworth, I asked you, ‘How well does the world know you?’ What’s your answer to that now?

TW: A lot better now. I was living a life of a lie. I really was. And I was doing a lot of things, like I said, that hurt a lot of people. And stripping away denial and rationalization you start coming to the truth of who you really are and that can be very ugly. But then again, when you face it and you start conquering it and you start living up to it. The strength that I feel now, I’ve never felt that type of strength.

TR: I ask this question respectfully, but of course at a distance from your family life. When you look at it now, why did you get married?

TW: Why? Because I loved her. I loved Elin with everything I have. And that’s something that makes me feel even worse, that I did this to someone I loved that much.

TR: How do you reconcile what you’ve done with that love?

TW: We work at it.

Those are tough questions to ask and even though Woods avoided giving details of the accident and wouldn’t expand on his relationship with Elin he did offer more personal information about himself and his feelings in those brief five minute spots than he has in his entire professional life.  Much of what he said sounds very much like “Rehab 101” and certainly he has put much thought into what he would and wouldn’t say but at least he has said something.  This is really the first public step in his comeback.

As far as his answers are concerned, I saw what appeared to be a vulnerable and humbled Woods but on certain subjects he is still sticking to the party line. When he claims that no one in his inner circle knew of his affairs I have to doubt that and when he balks at the details of the night of the accident I understand why.  I can’t believe I am saying this but Tiger is doing the right thing here.  Woods is saying none of his circle was complicit in his affairs.  I don’t believe him, but I understand that he is protecting his friends.  When he refers to the police report for details of the accident he is protecting his wife.  I understand that also.  Could it be that there is still some thread of decency in Tiger?

Surely, Tiger and his team realized that something like this is required if Tiger expects to play professional golf again.  He’ll face more questions again at The Masters but now he can say he has already answered those questions and just focus on golf.

Say what you will about the depth of Tiger’s responses, this is still a significant step for Woods.  He needed to start somewhere to try and turn the tide in his favor and he may have succeeded here.  The true test for me and many golf fans won’t be played out in front of a camera and a microphone.  It will take place on the golf course.  Unless Woods changes the way he acts on the course towards the fans the press and most importantly the game, he will not have grown as a person at all.  We all love the magic that Tiger makes with his clubs but it’s time for Tiger to show that he really means to be a different person.  He needs to show he wants to become a person of integrity and commitment.  It won’t be easy for Woods.  It’s a journey of a million steps and he has only taken the first one.

Link to Tilghman’s transcript.

Link to Rinaldi’s transcript.

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Ogilvy’s Extra Trip Pays Off

March 21st, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

So you think life as a golf professional is easy. So you think these millionaires in spikes have it all figured out.  So you think these men of the world have everything planned out for them.  Well, think again.  Sometimes even these guys are knuckleheads.

Such is the case of former U.S Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy.  Ogilvy is no knucklehead on the course.  He has seven PGA Tour wins including three World Golf Championship titles and finished thirteenth on the money list last year with over $3.8 million in earnings.  But on Friday he pulled a bonehead move at The Transitions Championship.  Thinking he had no chance to make the cut he planned to board a plane to head home to Phoenix.  As he was having a few pops at the airport he realized he made the cut and needed to stay in Tampa.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t get his clubs of the plane so he elected to fly to Phoenix with his clubs and then fly back to Tampa.

Some guys might have stayed and played with a borrowed set .  Other guys might have said the heck with it and decided to go home anyway.  Ogilvy didn’t do either.  He never thought about not going back, regardless of what it took to get him and his clubs back.

What it took was a private plane from Phoenix to Tampa that got him in town about 5:00am for an 8:50am tee time, and a trip to the airport by his wife.  She had to bring him a pair of golf shoes.  See, Ogilvy had shipped his shoes and balls home by UPS, they weren’t on the plane.  He must have wanted to save on the extra charges the airlines charge. Are you kidding me?  $4 mil last year and you are saving fifty bucks by shipping them home!  What a knucklehead, or as Charlie Rymer of The Golf Channel called him, a Bonehead.

It looks like Ogilvy made a good decision by coming back.  He shot a 65 and climbed 51 places up the leaderboard into a tie for eighteenth place and a chance at some serious money.  Maybe next time he’ll fork over a few extra bucks to the airlines and takes his shoes with him.

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Whodunit? North Shore Country Club

March 20th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Here’s an interesting story about golf that has rumor, suspense and mystery…and it doesn’t include Tiger or any of his problems.  It seems a guy, a very wealthy guy, finally got to buy his favorite golf course.   But soon after the purchase, rumors started questioning the actual designer of the course.  For years the club was billed as an A.W. Tillinghast design and that is what the new owner thought he had purchased.

What appealed to Mr. Zucker most about the club: North Shore’s course was designed by A.W. Tillinghast, whose other famous creations nearby include Bethpage Black, Winged Foot and Baltusrol, all of which have hosted U.S. Opens. “I can’t believe I actually own this,” Mr. Zucker said as we toured the course here last week.

But within two weeks of the purchase, he began hearing rumors that maybe Mr. Tillinghast had not been the architect after all. “In the beginning, I paid no attention because I didn’t believe it. We asked some of the oldest members, and they all said, ‘It’s a Tillinghast course, of course it’s a Tillinghast course,’ he said.”

John Paul Newport spent some time with the owner, Donald Zucker and sheds light on who was really responsible for The North Shore Country Club.  Take a minute and read his piece in The Wall St. Journal. When you spend $12.5 million for something you expect to get what you pay for.  Let the buyer beware.

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More Tiger Texts…But Who Cares?

March 19th, 2010 2 comments

by Jeff Skinner

Just when we all thought the Tiger Woods scandal couldn’t sink any lower, one of Tiger’s mistresses, who can remember what number, Joslyn James proves there is no floor to this bottomless pit of sleaze.  At least for the last few weeks the sleaze front had subsided and we were left with the “when will Tiger comeback” speculation.  So as Tiger makes headlines with his “I’ll be back at The Masters” statement one of his seedy, ex-girlfriends let loose with the one of the most graphic missives yet: text messages from Tiger to James.

These texts are pretty damning and if they are legit it can’t help Tiger’s healing process with his wife and the fans.  (Link to DeadSpin and texts, be warned, very graphic.) But, really Ms. James, this is old news.  We all know Tiger is a skank chasing sleaze and you were one he happened to catch.  You missed your window of opportunity.  You and your lawyer, Gloria Allred misplayed this one.  Who cares about these texts?  Sure, the shock value will get you another 15 minutes of fame, maybe 5 minutes is more like it, but this is old news.  Ms. James should have struck while the iron was hot and got her checks from TMZ and the tabloids then.  This just seems like a pathetic attempt to get herself back in the news again.

Ms. James’s story is the same as the other dozen bimbos that Tiger had been bedding. “She loved Tiger and he said he loved me.”  Get over it Ms. James, he was using you for the sex and that was all it was.  If you were foolish enough to convince yourself that you had a long term future with Tiger you really need mental help.

How do educated people still continue to associate with these sleazeballs?  I have a tough time discerning who is the lower of the bottom feeders… these skanks or the lawyers that represent them.  But, that’s a rant for another day.

The bottom line here is that these sordid details are old news and no one really cares.  We’ve moved on to the “Tiger Returns Phase.”  It starts in a next month at The Masters.

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Tiger’s Return: Good for Tiger, Bad for The Masters

March 18th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The countdown to Tiger’s return at The Masters continues and while most people in and out of the golf industry have opinions on everything Tiger few have the perspective of Tiger’s friend Notay Begay.  Tiger’s old college buddy and close friend gave Brian Wacker of PGATour.com some insights to Tiger’s state of mind.

Begay is close to Woods and was one of the few friends that attended “Tiger’s Apology” last month.  He thinks that Augusta is the right fit for Tigers return but acknowledges that it could detract from the season’s first major.  “The one downside is I hope the hype and media attention doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a major championship, that it doesn’t take away from the other players that week.”

Begay is one of the few of Tiger’s inner circle that actually talks to the press about Tiger.  Granted, he knows what he can say and not threaten his standing with Tiger so he’ll never say anything that Tiger would disapprove of but he can give a perspective that few have.  “Being the competitor he is, Tiger is trying to create the best situation to make his way back and to compete. From a security standpoint, there’s probably not a better place in the world to play golf.”

Tiger’s decision to return at Augusta has given us all a new topic for debate: is it good or bad for The Masters?  There will be no discernable difference on the course for Tiger.  There will be the same number of fans on the grounds and these “patrons” are the most respectful in golf.  There will be no heckling or bad behavior.  The boys at Augusta won’t tolerate any uncivil behavior from anyone and those that do will be dealt with quickly by all the extra security covering the biggest sports event in recent memory.  The difference Tiger will see will come in the media center when the press gets to question him.  Surely there will be the prying, personal questions and surely there will be the rehearsed response that Tiger and his team of handlers are working on at this moment.  My money is on the “I’m not answering questions on my personal life, next” response to any thing aimed at the personal Tiger.  The overlords of The Masters will even keep a tight lease on the men of the media so Tiger couldn’t have selected a more hospitable venue for his return.  Woods and his team made the right choice here, the right choice for Tiger.

Whether or not it’s the right choice for The Masters is debatable.  Golf professionals and fans alike relish each of the four majors.  There is nothing like the majors but Tiger’s return here brings an unusual feeling to this one.  It will be equal parts circus and golf and it certainly will be a different Masters.

It is said that no one player is bigger than the game of golf but for the week of The Masters when Tiger returns he’ll definitely be bigger than The Masters and that’s a shame.

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Who Needs Tiger? Real Golf Today!

March 18th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Who needs Tiger? We’ve got golf today!  The Transitions Championship features plenty of great golfers on a course that some call the toughest on the Florida swing and unlike most tracks in the sunshine State it even has hills!  Old guys, young guys, major champs and youngsters trying to make their mark will be walking the hills of The Innisbrook Copperhead Course.  It’s worth a watch.

World #2 Steve Stricker is looking for win #2 this year.  Ian Poulter probably has some new pants to show off.  Paddy Harrington is back from his visit with The PrezRyan Moore brings his special style to Innisbrook.  Two of the most flamboyant and promising youngsters out there Ryo Ishikawa (back from his high school graduation) and Rickie Fowler return to play.  Old dudes looking to get it done are Freddy “The Funkmaster” FunkPaul “Sunshine”Goydos and “Mr. Cool”, Tommy Armour III.  Look at some of these groups:  Rocco, John Daly and J.P. Hayes, poor J.P. between Rocco’s chatting and JD’s bitchin he’ll have no peace.   Poulter, Sean O’Hair and Sergio Garcia gives us a clotheshorse, a string bean and a head case.  Do you think rookie Derek Lamely ever thought he’d be teamed in a “Winners” grouping.  He’ll spend two rounds with Stricker and first time winner Bill HaasLucas Glover, Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh form a trio of major winners and popular players.  There’s much to watch and look forward to at the Transitions.  Who needs Tiger to have a great tournament?  We don’t, at least not this week.

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Selfish Tiger Back At Augusta

March 17th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

So the next chapter in the Tiger Woods Saga is about to be written: The Comeback.  With his announcement that he’ll play in The Masters the “Tiger Watch” has shifted into overdrive.  It’s understandable why Woods chose Augusta for his comeback tournament.  The boys with the green jackets run a tight ship down there.  They won’t tolerate any heckling, screaming or hollering at Augusta.  So the press better watch out or they’ll be hustled out of there quicker than that guy who was caught running to get on line for a pimento and cheese sandwich last year.

Tiger’s decision to tee it up at the Masters can be described with one word: selfish.  Sure Tiger doesn’t want to miss a major but playing here just turns one of the most distinguished events in all of sport into a cheap circus.  If Woods had opted to make his return at another venue before The Masters the focus could be on the golf and not on Tiger’s return, but for his own self serving reasons Woods picked the biggest tournament of the season.

Somewhere there are a few Augusta members that must be grumbling about the spectacle that their beloved tournament will become when Woods and his travelling troupe come to town.  Publicly they’ll say they are glad Tiger’s back but they have to be wishing that he played before their tournament and gave someone else the pleasure of Tiger’s Circus. Jay Busbee of Devil ball echoes these sentiments and calls his decision short sighted.

The players can’t be too happy either as the first major is relegated to second tier status after everything Tiger.  “Whenever he comes back it’s going to draw a lot of attention to that tournament and the focus is going to be on him coming back,” Steve Stricker said last week. “I don’t know if Augusta would like that to happen, you know? To turn it into Tiger’s comeback instead of the Masters tournament itself.”

I can’t wait for The Masters, heck I can’t wait for any tournament, especially a major, but I’m not thrilled that The Tiger Show will get more coverage than the golf.  Maybe we’ll see a different Tiger: one with a lot less ego and little more humility…a guy can dream can’t he?

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Jack Nicklaus Plays It Off His Left Heel

March 16th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Up here in the Northeast the heavy rains of last week has washed away most of the remaining snow and that brings us a few days closer to opening day for the local golf courses.  With the memory of the Florida golf trip fading fast I’m anxiously awaiting the day when I can tee it up and once again walk down a fairway.  Now’s the time each swing is perfect, each drive lands in the fairway, every approach sits on the green and every putt dies in the hole.  It’s the time when we visualize all those great rounds we’ll be playing.  Hope springs eternal this time of year.  But before I run out and hit a few I’ll check out Jack’s video tip and be comforted in the fact that I haven’t blown it yet this year.

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A Special Week for Ernie Els

March 15th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

This is a special week for Ernie Els.  This is a special week for a special guy.  This week Els has seen more than his share of good fortune and winning the WGC CA Championship is only a small part of a wonderful time for Els and his family.  Every golfer at one time or another has paid homage to “The Golfing Gods” and Els is no different.  This time however it seems like The Gods are smiling upon Ernie.  Ernie is being deservedly rewarded by The Gods for all the hard work he has put in both on and off the course.  You see this week isn’t just about winning a golf tournament; it’s about much more than that for Ernie.

This has been an interesting time for Els.  Ernie was as happy as any golfer could be as he grabbed his first PGA Tour trophy since the 2008 Honda Classic.  Els played spectacular golf as he shot a 66 to finish four shots clear of his countrymen and friend Charl Schwartzel.  Els and Schwartzel were thrilled to be paired in the final round together but the seeds of this relationship were sown years ago in South Africa.  Twenty three years ago Schwartzel was two when his father and Els won a club tournament together.  The young Schwartzel also was a member of a junior golf team sponsored by Ernie’s foundation in South Africa.  As Gary Player was a mentor to up and coming South Africans, so has Els been to golfers like Schwartzel.   Schwartzel isn’t a regular PGA Tour player but he was here to play in the two WGC events so Els asked him to stay at his home while he was here.  I would venture to say it worked out fine for the both of them.  Els got to see one of his protégés perform very well on a big stage and he completes his comeback to the world’s elite golfers with the win.  Schwartzel gets to play with his hero, take home a check for $850,000 and establish himself as a player on the 2011 PGA Tour.

That alone would be enough to classify as a great week for Els, but there’s much more.  Last week Ernie was named as the winner of the Charlie Bartlett Award by the Golf Writers Association of America. The award is given a golfer for their “unselfish contributions to the betterment of society.”  Much of that betterment will take place today when Els hosts the 2nd Annual Els for Autism Charity Pro-Am Golf Tournament.  Els and his wife, Liezl started the Els for Autism Foundation to help raise funds for autistic children.  Their son Ben, 7, is autistic and they have committed the foundation to raise $30 million towards a school and research center.  Last year’s tournament raised over $500,000 and this year’s is expected to raise more.

Els is pulling out some big guns for his tournament as Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd will play as well as many other PGA pros like Stricker, Appleby, Allenby, Calcavecchia, Scott, Rose and Sabbatini are all scheduled to play.

Ernie Els is one of the more forthright players on tour.  He is honest, sincere and involved.  Certainly his win this week is very significant to his career but his play on the course is only a part of his life.  Els established his willingness to give back long ago in South Africa with his foundation and now he continues his benevolent work here.  This is one of the aspects that makes Els such an appealing and likable player.  He’s “The Big Easy” and he’s back.  Can he add “Masters Champion” to his list of titles next month? He thinks he’s ready to contend at Augusta and wouldn’t that be a special week for Ernie.

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