Thursday, January 27, 2011

Look out golf world -- Woods has that eye of the Tiger again

Tiger Woods strolled into Torrey Pines on Wednesday, albeit without the famous limp

he used when he won the U.S. Open in thrilling fashion in 2008.

Woods and Rocco Mediate had a tantalizing duel in a 19-hole Monday playoff, but Woods is back for the first time since then.

We remember that Monday, an extra- ordinary round filled with vivid images

of a grimacing Woods doubled over in pain. Yet with each wrinkle of the face and gimp in his step, he still executed impeccable shots.

Woods remembers that Saturday.

"Saturday probably hurt more than any other days I played," Woods said Wednesday at a standing-room-only news conference for this week's Farmer's Insurance Open. "So to perform at that level while I was feeling that much pain was something I look back on. I'm very proud of."

Woods is feeling confident and pain-free despite a winless 2010 in which he took a hiatus from the scandal of numerous affairs that led to divorce.

Nothing about his gameplan has changed, except that wins seem more plausible now.

"My expectations are the same," Woods said. "Whatever event I enter is to win the event."

He might be a different man off the course, and even though he didn't win last year he still expects it will happen with every field he joins.

Woods had the smile going and a relaxed vibe about him. He seemed comfortable and confident heading into today's start to his 2011 PGA Tour season.

The previous day, Mediate said he figured Woods would win at least four events. Woods joked, "I think the commissioner (Tim Finchem) would like me to play more than four events."

The confidence that propelled Woods to win a major with a torn anterior cruciate ligament is back. It's just if his swing will cooperate.

Woods has had so much success at Torrey Pines, winning six times as a member of the tour and Junior Worlds as well.

Even if Woods didn't have that confidence, his colleagues feel it.

The roars might be back and reverberate around the North and South courses this weekend.

"I expect that he'll be the Tiger that we've known for over a decade," Phil Mickelson said. "Unfortunately."

Woods fell to No. 3 in the rankings last week while Martin Kaymer moved to No. 2. And if European pro Ian Poulter's playful nickname "No. 3" bothers Woods at all, he wouldn't let on.

Poulter and Lee Westwood, the top-ranked player in the world, tried to entice Woods into a friendly debate Tuesday on Twitter, but Woods didn't oblige.

"It's just Poults," Woods said. "He's probably just bored and has nothing to do. I was at home and working on my game and flying out here. That's just Poults being Poults, and that's fine."

The way Woods played in the Ryder Cup and at his Chevron World Challenge - he had a four-shot lead going into the final round but squandered it to Graeme McDowell - gives him glimpses of his star power. But it would take a victory to solidify his swing change and confidence are back in championship form.

Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman tweeted: "looking fwd to him winning again and watching most media talking heads hurt themselves jumping back on his bandwagon."

Fans surely will be hoping to be rooting for a Woods who's in contention. He's playing with Mediate and Anthony Kim for today's first round and Friday's second round.

"I don't know how the computer did that," Woods said laughing. "It's kind of a surprise, isn't it? Just randomly put us together."

Mediate, asked if he thought Woods would play better this year, was immediate in response.

"Absolutely. Because he's Tiger," Mediate said. "He's tired of seeing what he's seeing. He'll fix it. He'll definitely fix it. He's not going away. I still think he's the best player. I don't care what the rankings say.

"He's had a little bit off year. A lot of things happen, we all run into those weeks or months or years for that matter of not being able to get it done. Even him, he got to feel that."

Woods felt that gimpy knee here and still won the U.S. Open. He's got that confidence back, and this time there's no hiccup in his gait.

Monday, January 17, 2011

McDowell and Mickelson tied for 4th in world rankings

With Phil Mickelson making his season debut in Abu Dhabi this week, and Graeme McDowell already having come tantalizingly close to earning a playoff berth in Kapalua, a significant storyline for the week will be if McDowell can pass the Masters champion for 4th in the Official World Golf Rankings.

As of Monday, they are tied. With the release of the new rankings, McDowell and Mickelson each average 6.24 points per event.

Just like last time McDowell played in the United Arab Emirates, the Ulsterman can surpass a rival in a key ranking list. Last time he was there, McDowell had a chance to overtake Martin Kaymer for the Race to Dubai title in the Dubai World Championship.

Ultimately, number one is the ranking that matters, but as McDowell’s starts from this time in 2009 burn off – and he presumably retains form well enough to replace them with better finishes – he could easily hop into the top three, leaving Mickelson in his dust. Or, maybe more appropriately, sand.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Open spots on offer for Aussies at IFQ

Australia’s top golfers will be bringing their A-game to Kingston Heath Golf Club tomorrow with arguably the most sought after prize in world golf up for grabs- a spot in the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George’s.

A total of three spots in The Open field will be available on Tuesday when International Final Qualifying (IFQ) Australasia is contested over 36 holes.

The top three finishers will earn a place at the 2011 Open Championship to be played at Royal St George’s, which this year will host its 14th Open Championship.

The Open was last contested at Royal St George’s in 2003 when American Ben Curtis won by a stroke over Vijay Singh in what was his first ever Major appearance.

This year some of Australia’s best will again be vying for their chance to tee it up in The Open with Peter Senior and Peter O’Malley among those looking to qualify.

“The IFQ for the Open Championship in Australia is a great opportunity for all Australian players to play in what i believe is the best tournament in the world,” said Peter Senior who gained a spot in the 2010 Open Championship after qualifying at IFQ Australasia.

“Last year was great to have it at St Andrews where it is always exciting and full of atmosphere, but this year the players are in for a real treat as we head back to Royal St George’s which I'm sure will throw up its own unique challenges to all of the players lucky enough to get through the qualifying.”

“Of all The Open courses Royal St George’s is probably the most demanding off the tee and high rough awaits anything that is off line.”

O’Malley shares Senior’s sentiments.

“The Open is the best tournament in the golfing calendar. It is the one tournament I want to play every year. I would look forward to playing at Royal St George’s if I was to qualify,” O’Malley said.

“Royal St George’s is a great test of golf, very demanding off the tee which suits my style of golf.”

Also in the field will be yesterday's Victorian Open winner Paul Sheehan, Craig Parry, Matthew Griffin, Stephen Allan, Peter Fowler, Andre Stolz, Stephen Leaney, James Nitties and Alistair Presnell.

Young hopefuls Kieran Pratt and Rohan Blizard will also be teeing it up hoping to earn their first starts in a Major tournament.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

World Golf Glance

Site: Kapalua, Hawaii.

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday.

Course: Kapalua Resort, The Plantation Course (7,411 yards, 6,777 meters, par 73).

Purse: $5.6 million. Winner's share: $1.12 million.

Last year: Australia's Geoff Ogilvy successfully defended his title in the winners-only, season-opening event, closing with a 6-under 67 for a one-shot victory over South Africa's Rory Sabbatini.

Notes: Ogilvy won the Australian Open on Dec. 5, then lost a playoff to Peter Senior the following week in the Australian PGA. ... Ernie Els set the US PGA Tour record for relation to par in a 72-hole event in 2003, finishing at 31 under. He's coming off a victory on Dec. 19 in the South African Open. ... Stuart Abbleby (2004-06) and Gene Littler (1955-57) are the only players to win for three straight years. ... Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy and Louis Oosthuizen are skipping the tournament. Tiger Woods failed to qualify. ... Francesco Molinari earned a spot in the field with his HSBC Champions victory in China. ... Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore designed The Plantation Course on a pineapple plantation in the foothills of the West Maui Mountains. ... The Sony Open in Hawaii is next week at Waialae. ... Hyundai is the third title sponsor in three years.



Site: East London, South Africa.

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday.

Course: East London Golf Club (6,770 yards, 6,190 meters, par 73).

Purse: $1.3 million. Winner's share: $215,340.

Last year: South Africa's Charl Schwartzel beat countryman Thomas Aiken by a stroke.

Notes: British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen is in the field along with Schwartzel, 2009 winner Retief Goosen and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke. ... The European Tour opened its "2011" schedule in December with two events also sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour. Pablo Martin won the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek and Ernie Els took the South African Open at Durban Country Club. The tours will team again next week for the Joburg Open.


Sunshine Tour site: