Category Archives: Tiger Woods

Tiger and The Masters

(Getty Images)

When we had dinner a couple of Saturdays ago at the house of my neighbor Andre Borromeo, I posed this question to a group of Cebu’s top golfers. There was Atty. Jovi Neri, Marko Sarmiento and Bayani Garcia. All are former club champions of the Cebu Country Club.

Can Tiger Woods win another major?

The response was easy: Yes.

These diehard TW fans reminded me of his 2018 Tour Championship win. They were confident, despite knowing that Eldrick Tont Woods was already 43 years old, that Tiger would win someday.

Will “someday” be Sunday? As you read this, the third round of golf’s most illlustrous tournament has concluded. I don’t know how Tiger performed on Saturday but for the first two rounds of The Masters, he was as good as anyone.

He shot a 2-under 70 last Thursday and a 4-under 68 last Friday for a 6-under scorecard midway through the event held in Augusta, Georgia. He’s just one shot behind the leaders.

Unfortunately for Tiger, the leaderboard is littered with a who’s-who of former major champions: Scott, Oosthuizen, Molinari, Jason Day and one of the hottest players today, Brooks Koepka, who has won three of the last six majors that he’s played.

But the golf stage this weekend belongs to Tiger. One incident highlighted the second round: After his approach shot on the 14th hole, Tiger was nearly mobbed by the crowd as a security guard sprinted towards Tiger and slipped, hitting Tiger’s right foot and nearly injuring the golfer.

Can you imagine if Tiger sprained his ankle and had to retire because of an injury? Another injury! But, no, Tiger’s shot landed 20 feet from the hole and he calmly putted it for birdie.

“Accidents happen,” Tiger said. “I’ve had galleries run over me, it’s just, you know, when you play in front of a lot of people, things happen.”

The security officer had a more amusing response: “Well, he made birdie, so I guess it all worked out. Man, I am really glad he made birdie.”

If Tiger’s lucky out-of-the-woods escape and good fortunes continue this weekend and he wins the 85th Masters, it will be one of sport’s greatest combacks.

Consider this: Tiger is 43 years old. Although Jack Nicklaus was 46 when he won The Masters exactly 33 years ago, very few 40-plus year-olds win major titles. The last time Tiger won a major was the 2008 US Open.

Injury after injury; scandal after scandal.. Tiger’s playing some of his best golf.

“If he wasn’t Tiger Woods and you didn’t know him, say he was a guy coming off the web.com Tour, you’d say: ‘This is a guy who is gonna win at any time,’” said Tommy Fleetwood. “So I wasn’t that surprised when he did but I think it’s an amazing comeback, from not being able to swing a club or even move. He showed at the Tour Championship that, once he gets it in play, he is the best iron player in the world. It’s sometimes easy to forget that he is the greatest golfer of all time, you just judge him as a competitor.”

Let’s hope Tiger’s someday is Sunday.

  

The return of golf’s almost-greatest

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(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Tiger, who? It’s funny how, back in 2008 after Eldrick Tont Woods won his 14th major crown at the U.S. Open in Torrey Pines, the sporting world was sure that he’d break the all-time record of Jack Nicklaus.

Nobody saw his demise. Nobody saw that club-smashing wallop from Elin. Nobody predicted, eight years forward as he returns to competitive golf after a 15-month absence, that Tiger Woods is forgotten, balding, winless in 40 months, irrelevant.

Today at the Hero World Challenge tournament in the Bahamas, TW returns to swing his TaylorMade M2 driver and to caress that Bridgestone ball using his Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter. Tiger’s back. But he’s not supposed to join. Ranked a lowly 898th in the world (if my research is correct, our top-ranked Pinoy golfer Miguel Tabuena sits at 156), Tiger is playing in a field who’s lowest ranked player is No. 38. And when he last joined two years ago, guess how he placed? Last place. But, hey, he’s Tiger Woods — and so he’s playing.

How bad are Tiger’s injuries? Hobbled by a back injury that required two operations, he hasn’t competed since August last year. Prior to that, his physical maladies were unfathomable. Here are excerpts of a piece I wrote entitled, “Tiger Woods, diagnosed by Dr. Tony San Juan:”

“Golf isn’t like MMA. It’s not like football or basketball where injuries abound. It’s not Pacquiao punching Bradley. Golf is a gentleman’s game. It’s a sport of leisurely walks, effortless 9-iron swings, soft putts, gingerly handshakes. Golf is not a sport of injuries. That’s what I thought. But Tiger Woods has suffered repeated injuries. Consider these afflictions: Surgery on left knee to remove fluid inside and outside the ACL. Arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage. Two stress fractures of the left tibia. Surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee by using a tendon from his right thigh. MCL sprain. Lower back spasms. And, just last March 31, surgery for a pinched nerve.”

That article was dated April 2014. After that, Tiger’s physical woes did not improve. When asked if the possibility of retirement loomed, he said recently: “Not being able to get out of bed, not being able to move, how can I expect to come out here and swing a golf club at 120 miles an hour and be ballistic when I can’t even get out of bed? So, yeah, there was a lot of trepidation and times where I thought… was it realistic?”

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JACK NICKLAUS. Yesterday, Nicklaus was interviewed by BBC Sport and asked about Tiger’s comeback.

Ever the optimist, he believes that Tiger has at least 10 more years of competitive golf ahead of him. What’s troubling Tiger, he was asked, apart from his injuries?

“That probably is the five inches between his ears that is the part that he’s having trouble with,” Nicklaus said. “(Tiger) has got to re-evaluate… and find out what’s going to happen to him and how can he mentally get himself back into the idea of playing golf again.”

Golf is mental. Most of sport is mental. But golf is the most mentally-challenging of ballgames. Steve Elkington once said, “The mind is your greatest weapon. It’s the greatest club in your bag. It’s also your Achilles’ heel.”

How about the possibility of Tiger breaking Jack’s record? Nicklaus won his 18th major at the age of 46. (He won his 16th and 17th at 40 years old.) Tiger turns 41 on Dec. 30 and he has amassed 14. Can he win five more at this late stage to surpass The Golden Bear? The two-letter answer is No. If he does triumph in one more major or accumulates a few more, it will be akin to Donald Trump’s improbable upset over Hillary. But if there’s one human being who can do it, it’s TW.

“I don’t think anything is safe,” Nicklaus said, of his record. But first, the 76-year-old Nicklaus said, he’s got to prove it.

“I think Tiger has got the physical and the mental ability to be able to handle that but then he has got to go out and do it,” he said. “We’ll see. I wish him well.”

Will Tiger ever be Tiger again? Bayani responds

The two-letter answer is NO. At his peak, TW soared with invincibility like Michael Jordan, was as dogged relentless as Rafael Nadal, and as famous as Manny Pacquiao is in GenSan.

Consider this: From 1997 to 2008, he won 14 major trophies and achieved a career Grand Slam three times. His 79 PGA Tour wins is second only to Sam Snead’s 82. Tiger is acknowledged as the sporting world’s first billionaire, a feat he pocketed at the age of 33. He was en route to besting the likes of Ali, Pele, MJ, Lance (pre-doping revelation) and Phelps as the greatest human being who ever played sports.

This was then; pre-Elin Nordegren. Now, he can barely walk. At the Farmers Insurance Classic last week, he limped and quit after 11 holes. The week before, he shot a horrendous 82 — the worst number he’s recorded as a professional.

“His golf game is in shambles,” said former pro Paul Azinger. “It’s sad to see that. But what we get to see is the most confident golfer of all-time try to claw his way back.”

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Mentally, during his peak, we know that he was unbreakable. It was Tiger who uttered these words: “My mind is my biggest asset. I expect to win every tournament I play.” Sure, up until today, he can summon his brain to conjure up images of success. That’s in the mind.

But the bigger problem is everywhere else in his body; his physical maladies. Tiger is Nadal: he’s the most injured man among men. A quick listing of his ailments will give you a headache. He’s had afflictions related to the ACL, MCL, pinched nerve, tibia, cartilage damage, back spasms.

BAYANI GARCIA. I sought comments from Cebu Country Club’s 2010 and 2013 club champion.

Here’s Bayani Garcia: “Tiger’s number one priority is to get healthy. For a person to undergo as many injuries and surgeries as he has, recovery takes longer and not to mention he isn’t as young he thinks he is. Once you get older, recovery takes longer. Also, I really feel like he needs to submit to the fact that there are certain swing thoughts and movements that he used to do 10-15 years ago that he cannot do anymore because of his age and injury. He is always talking about speed and explosiveness in his drives and getting it back to where it used to be where in reality, its not. He has to humble down and admit that he won’t be hitting it as long as he used to and these younger players will, and are hitting it past him on a regular basis.

“The only statistic that matters in golf is scoring and Tiger is arguably the best in this category in the history of the game. He is probably the most mentally tough golfer to ever play the sport and he will always find a way to score. His performances over the last 3 tournaments was rust in his game plus trying to revisit a new swing theory with his new swing coach. As golfers, we know that with any major change we introduce or re-introduce in our technique, the results take a long time to bear fruit.

“I have no doubt that he will be back. He will be back to winning golf tournaments and even snagging a few majors along the way. I still believe that he has a good chance at beating Jack Nicklaus’ record. He has the drive, the mental toughness and most importantly his experience in winning. The only way he can achieve his goals is if he remains healthy throughout the duration of his career.”

When I reminded Bayani that Tiger is getting old — he’ll turn 40 this December — he added: “There have been some 40 year olds who have won and won majors. Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Angel Cabrera (twice), and Phil Mickelson (who won 2 of his majors when he was 40).”

True. Jack Nicklaus won his 18th and final major (Masters 1986) at the age of 46.

“These guys haven’t got an ounce of the mental toughness that Tiger has,” said Bayani. “Golf is a relatively forgiving game where you can play at a high level even to your 50s. Tiger just needs to get healthy and remain healthy. That is top priority right now. Once he does, he will find a way to score and win. Not dominate perhaps but still win.”

GIO GANDIONCO. Gio Gandionco, another top golfer from CCC who’s now in the U.S. with a golf scholarship, had this to say: “I think Tiger right now is facing a slump and if he doesn’t stay healthy, his game will continue deteriorate. He’s had many injuries and back issues and I think that’s really affecting him. His swing mechanics are coming into place, he’s recently been working with his new coach Chris Como to  get his swing back to what it was like at his prime. I think at this point, it’s also a mental issue that Tiger needs to overcome. He has never played this bad consecutively before and he needs to find a way to bounce back and gain his confidence. No doubt he has the capabilities to win again, if he stays healthy and continues to work hard, I’m sure he can win more majors.”

Tips for Tiger

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Two days from now, the world’s top golfers will converge in Augusta, Georgia for the “Super Bowl and Wimbledon of Golf.” It’s The Masters. But “The Master” himself, Tiger Woods, won’t be joining. The 14-major winner and current world number one is injured. Last Sunday, I chronicled a litany of injuries that have befallen the sporting world’s first billionaire. Yes, Tiger is that rich. He’s universally acclaimed as the wealthiest among athletes.

Plus, among golfers, he’s the fittest. Standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 185 lbs., his height and weight are like Rafael Nadal’s. Comparing bicep to bicep, Phil Mickelson will cry with envy.

But sporting an eight-pack abdomen and standing tall and robust like Tiger doesn’t make one injury-free. In fact, it appears that Tiger has spent too much time on the gym.

“He will have to slow down on bulking up and lifting heavy weights off the floor or with his back unsupported by a bench and concentrate instead on conditioning of golf swing specific muscle groups.” Dr. Tony San Juan said those words.

Hank Haney, the former coach of Woods, concurs: “He does a lot of the gym stuff. I know you need to do some for golf, no doubt about it. You need to be in shape, you need to avoid injury, but my opinion is he really overdoes that … He looks like he’s gained more muscle mass. When he was thinner and younger he was actually faster then. The strength maybe helps you get out of the rough but I’d agree that he’s overdone it. But he loves to work out.”

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Last Sunday, top sports and orthopaedic physician Dr. San Juan outlined the reasons why Tiger repeatedly got injured. (Doc Tony is a Class A golfer who started the sport at the age of 8 and whose best handicap is 7; he’s preparing to do multiple triathlon events soon, including the Ironman 70.3 this August.)

I asked Tony if Tiger, after his latest surgery, will be able to play competitive golf in the PGA Tour. His reply? A resounding… “Definitely!” But, for Tiger to compete longer, these are words TW has to heed… Here are Tony’s Tips For Tiger:

1) Less time in the gym (mentioned earlier).

2) “Make a few adjustments to his swing if he were to consider staying in the Tour for several more years.”

3) “Work on precision and course management more than outdriving the opposition and making them eat his dust off the tee. We do know, however, he is one of the best already in the former from years back.”

4) “Execute a shorter swing with less twisting (but potentially more torque as not to compromise distance and power) that comes with a lower risk for more injuries and accelerated wear on his back.”

5) “Go for quality practice rather than quantity practice in the practice tee or range.”

I’m sure Tiger is as frustrated as his fans about his ailments. The reason why Doc Tony is confident Tiger can hurdle all of his afflictions?

Because of his support group. “Tiger has the best possible top-tier team surrounding him, the best that the best golfer can afford — from his caddie to his therapist to his conditioning coach to his swing coach to his sports docs,” he said. “They all have the same aspiration as he does. And like every other Tiger fan, like myself – we’d like to see more of the Sunday Red shirt on the last flight on as many more tournaments and majors in the coming years.”

There’s no doubt that Tiger will be back. The question is: For how long? He’s one of humankind’s greatest competitors. But what use is a strong heart if the body parts are weak?

Interestingly, Dr. Tony mentioned that not all of Tiger’s woes are golf-swing related. “He didn’t tear his ACL on his left knee playing golf,” he said. “While he had the tear, however, Tiger and his golf swing really suffered.”

How did he get injured? He had a misstep and twisted his knee and ankle. While running!

My common sense advice for Tiger? Stick to golf. Quit running, weight-lifting and skirt-chasing.

Tiger Woods, diagnosed by Dr. Tony San Juan

When The Masters begins this Thursday, one name will be missing: the world No. 1.

Golf isn’t like MMA. It’s not like football or basketball where injuries abound. It’s not Pacquiao punching Bradley. Golf is a gentleman’s game. It’s a sport of leisurely walks, effortless 9-iron swings, soft putts, gingerly handshakes. Golf is not a sport of injuries. That’s what I thought.

But Tiger Woods has suffered repeated injuries. Consider these afflictions: Surgery on left knee to remove fluid inside and outside the ACL. Arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage. Two stress fractures of the left tibia. Surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee by using a tendon from his right thigh. MCL sprain. Lower back spasms. And, just last March 31, surgery for a pinched nerve. (Not to mention his head nearly getting chopped off by that golf club swing of his ex-wife Elin!)

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Perplexed at Tiger’s injuries, I sought the advice of the country’s top sports and orthopaedic doctor.

Dr. Jose Antonio San Juan is one of the most in-demand physicians in town. Call his clinic (Cebu Orthopaedic Institute) and you’ll be lucky to get an appointment this week or the next. I queried Doc Tony about Tiger. I asked him not only because of his medical authority but also because he’s a Class A (9-handicap) golfer of the Cebu Country Club.

“First, we weren’t born as immortals or with nine lives,” said Dr. San Juan. “Over time, the use and abuse we have put on our bodies will slowly show its true colors. We can’t deny the fact that there are limits to what our bodies can take from the physical standpoint and such is the point Tiger Woods is in right now.”

Jim Litke (of the AP) explained: “He (Tiger) broke into big-time golf at 20, thin as a 2-iron and swinging with all the abandon of a kid. He putted without nerves, hit the ball farther and passed so many career signposts so breathtakingly fast, and with such ease, that his future seemed to be on cruise-control already. But Woods is 38 now, and despite sparking the fitness craze that revolutionized professional golf, he’s falling apart like a used car.”

Dr. San Juan continues: “Whatever beating and moving parts God has given us only come as one unique part that is irreplaceable even by the most advanced of medical or surgical techniques. Once any of these parts start to malfunction or fall apart whether by injury, wear and tear (degeneration in medical terms), when one overcomes such conditions be it by medication, physical therapy and conditioning or by surgery, they never return to normal despite the fact they may seem or may be used like normal.”

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“Second, while the physicality in golf is not like other contact sports (basketball, MMA – except of course when you get hit by a ball or a wayward club which, by the way, has happened to me), the golf swing is so dynamic and involves practically your whole body from the head down to the toes that repeated swings will definitely lead to injuries or body aches and pains from wear when the basic principles of a good golf swing and conditioning are not followed.”

When a child learns the game of golf at a young age, added Doc Tony, the body adapts to the kind of swing. “Tiger’s swing was very athletic from the start but as he started to get into his late twenties, he realized that the kind of swing he had that was making him bomb 300-yard drives wasn’t going to give him longevity in the PGA Tour.”

Tiger adjusted. He went through several changes. “As Tiger changed swing coaches from Butch Harmon to Hank Haney to Sean Foley,” he said, “his body that had gotten used to certain repeated movements was now adjusting to new dynamics and now causing more wear on body parts that weren’t used to that amount of stress as he was growing up. Unfortunately, it involved body parts that don’t grow back – cartilage in his knees and the cartilage equivalent in his back (intervertebral disc that was pinching his nerve).”

Can Tiger fully recover? Find out the prognosis of Dr. San Juan this Tuesday.

Gen, Marko and Jovi on Bubba Watson

(Reuters/Mike Segar)

In Cebu golf, Marko Sarmiento is one of the longest-hitters off the tee. He averages 290 yards and, when the fairways are dry, that number can exceed 340. Just like Bubba Watson. “Yeah we’re both long hitters that aren’t great putters!” said Marko.

Here’s Marko’s assessment of the new champ:

“It’s no secret the key to winning the Masters is great putting. When Tiger won his first green jacket in 1997 he didn’t have a single 3 putt!

“Bubba? He’s one of the worst putters on tour. He’s ranked 154 out of 182 but.. he’s ranked 1st in driving distance (313 yards!) and 2nd in greens in regulation. In other words, he gives himself a lot of chances for birdie because of his superior power which leaves him mostly wedges for a 2nd shot. He’s also known to be able to shape the ball any way imaginable and this has to do with his inability to hit fairways off the tee because of how much club head speed he generates. And because of his creativity, he won the Masters!

“This could not have been more evident with his 2nd shot on the 2nd playoff hole. He had to hook his ball 40 yards with a pitching wedge! Trust me, this isn’t easy to do. Having a Masters champion like Bubba is great for golf. He’s known to be very outspoken, uses a pink Ping driver and cries like a baby on national television every time he wins a tournament. The saying “drive for show and putt for dough” didn’t hold up last week!

“Unlike Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald (the 2nd and 1st ranked players in the world), Bubba (who’s now at number 4 after his win) isn’t as well-rounded. But because of creativity, raw power and a new found confidence, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him challenge them. Go Bubba!

“When Tiger won in Bayhill two weeks before the Masters, he said his swing is still at 70%. He’s been revamping it with new coach Sean Foley and I guess it’s safe to say the remaining 30% showed up in Augusta. I have no doubt that his new swing has the potential to get him back to number 1 in the world but what I do doubt is his health. With four surgeries and a WD in the World Golf Championships earlier in the year because of some soreness, who knows how sturdy that left knee is. He’s only 36 and in golf years that’s still fairly young. If you also consider his incredible work ethic, he may not have enough left in the tank to break Nicklaus’ record of 18 Majors.”

JOVI AND GEN. I also asked help from Atty. Jovi Neri to comment. Here’s Jovi:

“Gen Nagai, CCC’s star rookie in the PAL Interclub, is perhaps the biggest Bubba Watson fan in the entire island of Cebu. Just recently, he even had his driver painted pink.

“Last year, Gen was able to visit the headquarters of Bubba’s equipment sponsor, Ping Golf, in Scottsdale, Arizona, to be fitted for clubs in their special driving range. Of course, the first thing he asked the people there was about Bubba.”

Said Gen Nagai: “They said Bubba always visits there as much as twice a month just to hang out. He is quite friendly and fun. But he is also weird because he tries shots that no other pro would try. For example, he would face the other way and try to hit the ball under the roof, then over the trees, then into the putting green.

“Bubba is also the only Ping-sponsored pro who can hit it over the boundaries of the range which is over 350 yards away. Other Ping pros include Lee Westwood, Louis Oousthuizen, and Mark Wilson.

“They said that while Bubba is known for hitting the ball very long, he has incredible touch and feel, and attempts a lot of shots out of the ordinary using his creativity and imagination.

“Bubba also loves hot colors, with the text of his clubs having colors such as pink.”

Jovi continues… “After hearing Gen’s stories about what the people in Ping said about Bubba and his incredible shots in their facility, it was less of a shock to see his 40-yard hook with a wedge from over 150 yards below and around the trees in the second playoff hole that sealed the victory in the Masters.

“My take on Tiger: two tournaments ago in Bay Hill he just won convincingly. He may have struggled in the Masters but it’s just one tournament. Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald quietly had mediocre performances too but it slipped under the radar because they are not scrutinized as much as Tiger.

“If a Filipino got invited to play the Masters and made the cut, he would probably be hailed as the greatest Filipino golfer of all-time. But if Tiger just makes the cut and fails to contend, people think he is a goner. Tiger is a victim of his greatness.

“Tiger upped the ante during his heydey, and the new breed of players led by McIlroy have risen to the challenge elevating their games to that level. At 36 years old and with new young and fearless competition, Tiger will never dominate like he once did but that doesn’t mean he will not win anymore. Nicklaus won 3 majors after turning 40. The more pressing X-factor would be Tiger’s health.”

Schwartzel who? No Tiger roar from Rory

A non-golfer, I woke up early yesterday. Like a golfer. You see, if you play this sport of hazards, hooks, hole-in-ones and handicaps, you’d have awoken early the past four mornings. Nilo Domingo, the best golfer from our Rotary Club of Cebu West (handicap: 9), had wide-open eyes yesterday from 1 to 7 a.m. He watched The Masters. Like most golfers. It was the 75th anniversary of the greenest of all greens. And, it might have been the most tumultuous finale at Augusta.

“This Masters had the most topsy-turvy leaderboard with perhaps the most lead changes ever,” said Jovi Neri, one of Cebu’s best. “This is probably what makes it unique, but all the Masters are always exciting.”

A lawyer by profession and golfer by obsession, Jovi Neri, the 2002 Cebu Country Club champion, analyzes golf as accurately as his tee shot.

The champion? Rory McIlroy! Was he? No. Supposed to be. Yes. It was Tiger Woods. A four-time winner of the green jacket, he led the field with only nine holes to play. At that late stage, TW1 is unbeatable. He won. No? He lost. Was it K.J. Choi, whom Koreans in Cebu cheered wildly while watching Samsung TV? He came close. But, no, he did not win. How about a trio of Aussies, Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, and Jason Day? They were close — but preserved the tradition which states, “No Australian will win The Masters.”

The champion? Charl Schwartzel, a player I had never heard of before. Was he German? A famous brand of sausage? Why was his name pronounced “Sharl?” “The last time a winner finished four under over his last four holes was 25 years ago when a certain Jack Nicklaus won his 6th green jacket at age 46, and defied father time. What a way for Schwartzel to commemorate that historic `86 Masters with his own version of a strong finish,” said Jovi Neri.

(The Canadian Press)

Early yesterday, I watched those final four holes. It was dramatic. You didn’t know who’d win. Would Tiger’s 10-under be enough for a play-off spot? Then, all of a sudden, this South African ranked 26th in the world made birdie after birdie after birdie after birdie.

A Filipino almost won. A Fil-Aus, to be exact. As we’ve been accustomed to seeing Fil-Europeans banner the Azkals, here’s a top-notch half-Filipino who’s day, surely, will soon come. Atty. Neri explained: “Before his PGA Tour stint, Jason Day played in the Nationwide Tour (their developmental tour) and in `07 was the younger ever winner in that tour.  He is only of the most promising young players but his rise should in no way be connected with the golf development programs our country has.  If you check this interview, it seems like (1) he has never been to the Philippines, (2) he can’t speak the language, (3) he can’t even name the town where his mom was from.  So while he is a rising star and has Filipino blood running in his veins, I don’t think we can easily proclaim him as ours.  So far, Tiger is more Thai than Day is Filipino based on how they connected to their roots at the same age and stage in their careers.   http://pinoygolfer.com/2010/07/jason-day-interview-pinoygolfer-com-gets-a-few-minutes-with-the-highest-ranked-pinoygolfer-on-the-planet/”

How about today’s version of Jean Van de Velde? The man who led for three days and was poised to become the victor? “At 21,” said Atty. Neri, “you really cannot expect a golfer to handle that pressure well immediately even if he is Rory – one of the best players today. The only time a 21 year old handled Masters pressure with such ease was Tiger Woods back in `97, but then again Rory is one of the best today while Tiger is arguably the best of all-time. Rory’s time will come.”

Woods? “Vintage Tiger is having a lead and running away with the tournament.  Tiger has never won coming from behind.  He could have easily run away with this tournament if not for his putting.  Nicklaus was pronounced washed up until he won two majors in 1980 at 40 years old and then one more in the `86 Masters – so that is three majors after turning 40. You can never count Tiger out, and I am sure he has taken a lot of positives from his performance this tournament.”

Finally, explains Jovi: “The Masters is special because of traditions the tournament has that makes it unlike any other.  There is no corporate sponsorship, the field is very limited, all past champions have lifetime invitations, and they put great importance to the amateurs and pamper them well.  This is because the founder of Augusta National and the Masters Tournament is Bobby Jones – the greatest amateur golfer ever – who was the only man to ever win a grand slam in a calendar year.”

Nike supports Tiger

Thanks to my good friend Steve Ferraren for this forwarded email/photo:

Nike Pays for Plastic Surgery to Fix Tiger’s Lips after Accident

Although there still remains speculation on how Tiger got his lips cut up the other night….some say his lovely little wife did in fact take a 9 iron to his mug as a result of a domestic dispute over another woman.  Others are saying that he did a face plant into the steering wheel or windshield when he hit a fire hydrant and then a tree, because he couldn’t sleep that night thinking about the upcoming tourney he was hosting and the problems he has had driving it straight…so he was out practicing bare foot in his escalade!

But, NIKE has once again shown complete support for their prize athlete and have paid for reconstructive lip surgery….

Despite the sorry, Tiger not out of the woods

(Lori Moffett-Pool/Getty Images)

When Jasmin and I arrived home the other night, we switched on CNN. It was 12:35 a.m. We had just arrived from a late family dinner after watching the terrific show, ONE: A CONCERT FOR A BETTER WORLD, of our school, Bright Academy.

It was TW1. Yes, the only athlete to have climbed the $1,000,000,000 mark in earnings; the most gifted sportsman in all of golf–and possibly, in all of sports.

Watching the replay of his press conference minutes after it was shown live by CNN, I sat down in my bedroom couch. Jasmin wouldn’t glance. She detested Tiger. “He’s a fake,” she said.

Tiger spoke. What an awkward moment. For the Tiger we’ve grown accustomed to seeing was Tiger in full command: pumping his first after sinking that 22-foot birdie putt or strolling confidently on Augusta National’s green grass. Always, Tiger appears self-assured, decisive, poised.

Not the other night. Tiger looked scared. Gloomy. Unsure.  His face was anguished. It was obvious, based on the body language and his stammering… to say… the right…. words… out… loud… that this… was… all rehearsed for that maximum, I’m-so-sorry effect. “It looks so scripted,” said Jasmin.

What did Woods achieve with his appearance? Mixed results. Some further lambasted Tiger. Wrote Eva Rodriguez of The Washington Post yesterday, “I’ve never been more disgusted with Tiger Woods. I found his apology unbelievable, insincere, self-serving, self-indulgent, and narcissistic. (Long winded and repetitive, too.) The more he spoke about redemption, about becoming a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better Buddhist, a better role model for your children and mine, the more I wanted him to just shut up…. He did not owe us — you and me — an apology. That he delivered one just shows how meaningless it really was.”

Others, possibly from diehard fans, applauded his statement. Said Ruth Marcus, also of The Washington Post: “Well, that was excruciating. I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed a more public, more extended self-flagellation…. The man walked in looking stricken. He walked out the same way. Maybe it was all an act, calculated to save sponsorships. If so, it was an extended and, I thought, convincing one. I’ve watched a lot of apologies in my day, mostly from politicians, and most of them annoy me. This one didn’t. Imagine having to do that, not only in front of millions, but in front of your mother.”

Mixed results. As for me, I’m glad Tiger has spoken. To recall, that mysterious tree-smashing car accident happened in Nov. 27. Now, finally, he’s emerged from the woods.

I’d have preferred, though, that he spoke sooner, maybe a week after? But Tiger is Tiger. He’s a control freak. In the same way that he controls his golf swing and the outcome of tournaments (mostly, to his favor), he wanted to control this bizarre situation. But, from what we’ve witnessed the past 2 1/2 months, he couldn’t. This story has transformed into a jackpot for the tabloids.

Or maybe Tiger could have opted for one-on-one with Larry King or Oprah. (Absolutely not in The View, for he’d have been roasted by Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg!) With either Larry King or Oprah, he’d have appeared more human and personable, less stiff and less scripted.

Still, his actions won’t be forgotten soon. Not tomorrow. Not in 2010. Maybe never. Just look at the sorry examples of Hugh Grant or Bill Clinton or A-Rod or Boris Becker or Kobe Bryant or maybe even our own Manny Pacquiao to note that, while forgiven, these acts are rarely forgotten. Worse because of his clean-cut persona, he has to forever repair the damage inflicted upon the brand labeled “Tiger Woods.”

For now, he’ll have to do more. More weeks of therapy. More time with Elin. More time away from the public and our tsismis-filled minds. And, when he returns, he’ll have to do more: win more major trophies to remind us of his greatness–and to catch up on his pal Roger Federer who now has 16 Grand Slam titles versus his 14.

Go on, be a Tiger? Uh-uh, says Jasmin.

Tiger Woods not as wise as Manny Pacquiao?

This is damaging. The most savory, intriguing and luscious topic of today has wreaked havoc on golf’s First Family, on the sport of woods and irons, on the entire sports hemisphere. The repercussions travel farther than Tiger Woods’ 340-yard drive. For here was a human being unlike any on earth. He was dubbed “Mr. Perfect.” He amassed a billion-dollar fortune—the first in sports history. His 10-letter name—Tiger Woods—wasn’t a first name coupled with a family name; it’s a global brand—much like Coke or Google or Apple.

Tiger Woods owned everything… plus, plus, plus. A beautiful smile. A skin color that broke racial barriers. A swing that was emulated by 77-year-olds and 7-year-olds. Plus, he had an indestructible mind. A mental strength that was stronger than any bicep or tricep muscle. Sadly, it was this same strength—his mind—that caused him to blunder.

To me, as shocking as all this was, here’s something more perplexing: How the wisest athlete on earth bungled on his response. Because, I ask, would it not have been better to have seen Tiger himself hold a three-minute press-conference explaining, in his own voice and with a humble and sorry heart, what happened? Not to elaborate on details. Not to answer questions in a never-ending Q & A session. Not to say he slept with three dozen or 69 bargirls—but to explain, in simple yet contrite words, his transgressions and sorrowfulness.

Not in his website. In person. Never mind if his face was swollen (from the golf iron club that his wife, Elin, whacked on his forehead during that fateful night?), his personal admission would have been essential. Wasn’t this what Kobe Bryant did? The same with Michael Jordan? Did they not speak to us on TV and apologize to their families and to their fans? Too bad TW did not consult his buddies, KB and MJ.

For here’s what happened the past 20 days. Because of the “no-news” from TW, bad news erupted. Bloggers gossiped. Tabloids buzzed. Columnists babbled. This controversy has been transformed into one of 2009’s most sensational of stories.

Or maybe Tiger should have copied our very own, Manny Pacquiao. Days before his victory over Miguel Cotto and, worse, hours after he annihilated the Puerto Rican, weren’t we all, instead of celebrating Pacman’s victory, talking tsismis about Krista Ranillo? Absolutely. It was an intriguing and tempting story. And didn’t we all see, on TV, how Jinkee cried during the victory mass and wouldn’t even kiss his seven-time world champion husband? The non-stop tsismis began. So much so that when Manny and Jinkee flew back to Manila from Los Angeles, weren’t we all-too-curious on their marriage? Divorce! we shouted.

But Manny is smart. Never mind if his alleged tryst with KR was untrue or true, the minute the Pacquiaos stepped off the plane, they smiled. They held hands. They hugged. At the Mall of Asia concert, they appeared on stage as if on a honeymoon, holding hands, kissing on the lips.

What happened after that? The rumors disappeared as fast as Manny’s left hook. Of course, all thanks to Jinkee who appeared unaffected by all the scandalous talks. But MP did his part: He did not hide. He did not evade.

Not Tiger. For each day that he recluses himself at home, it’s an extra 24 hours for the billions worldwide to chastise him and inflict gossip on him that will forever tarnish and impair his brand-name.

Appear on Oprah? That’s probably a good move. Although I’m not sure if he’s willing to tell-all—because, based on the fascinating stories these women have poured out in public, their illicit affairs have been wild and spectacular. Still, the point is clear: Tiger should face the world with his own face.

TW1

Late yesterday, I ran with Frederic Chiongbian, one of my best friends in marathon-running. As we spiraled around the Cebu Country Club golf course for 10.5 kms., our talk, naturally, centered on golf and a certain Mr. Woods.

I knew Tiger won the Buick Open but did not know an astounding fact until Frederic mentioned it: On Day One, Tiger scored 71 and placed 75th. With a poor Day Two showing, he’d be booted out of the tournament—just like the British Open. But, no, Tiger shot a 9-under 63 and, by day’s end, ranked fifth—a whopping jump of 70 places. Astonishing.

“Have other players missed a cut only to win in their next appearance? Absolutely,” wrote ESPN’s Jason Sobel in “Tiger’s good is better than anyone else’s” two days ago. “It never works in the way it did for Woods, though. His worst golf—during the second round at Turnberry, Tiger played a six-hole stretch in 7-over-par for the first time in his career—left him a single shot shy of making the cut. His best golf—Woods was 7-under-par through seven holes in that opening stretch during Round 2 of the Buick—is purely mercurial. And his average golf—he made 15 pars in the final round and birdied only one non-par-5—is enough to ensure a Sunday coronation.”

In the battle of No. 1s, does tennis beat golf?

Tonight at 9 p.m. (RP time), over the Star Sports network (SkyCable channel 22), when Andy Roddick and Roger Federer meet in the final of the world’s oldest tennis tournament, the winner will defeat…………. Tiger Woods.

What??? Let me explain. I’m proclaiming Sir Roger as the champion. Yes, the game is yet to be played. True, the yellow ball is round and it can twist and turn in varying directions and thus reward the underdog the trophy. Yes, Roddick owns the fastest ever recorded serve at 249.5 kph and will out-ace the Swiss Ace. And, true, 48 hours ago, Andy The American beat Andy The British in an upset. So, Andy can upset Rog— Continue reading In the battle of No. 1s, does tennis beat golf?

A personal visit to golf’s finest, The Masters

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Picture-perfect swing

While Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson fanatics stayed up all evening last night to watch the U.S. Open final round, I’d like to share with you the experience of a top-notch golfer who was a recent spectator at the event called “The Wimbledon of Golf.”

Maria Johnson, whose former name was Maria Teresa “Bebot” Pacaña before she migrated to America 33 years ago, is one of the top amateur golfers in her home state of Georgia. She sports a 4-handicap. Here’s Maria’s story…

“To all golfers and fans out there, Augusta National, a tradition laden golf course, rings a familiar tune. It is home to The Masters, considered by many to be the grandest of the four majors where all of the top professionals come to win the coveted green jacket. Thousands of people all over the world flock to Augusta National every spring to witness this spectacle. Continue reading A personal visit to golf’s finest, The Masters

The twin brother of Michael Jordan

Kobe Bryant fans, sorry, it’s not him. With how KB24 has performed thus far—and how his team’s going to lose the NBA Finals this Wednesday morning—he’s far from being compared to MJ23.

There’s only one man who can be likened to the greatest-ever athlete who stepped foot on earth. He’s of the same color, slightly shorter, of the same muscular build. The only difference? While MJ dribbled and dunked, this superman putts and pars.

Know him? Of course, you do. Because while 96 percent of the populace—in my far-fetched estimate—can’t afford to play golf, 1,000 percent know him.

TW1. Isn’t he amazing? Isn’t he talented beyond anyone, possessing steely nerves unlike anyone, with the perfect swing and the handsome face and the bulky biceps and the Nike red shirt-every-Sunday and the screaming pump-fist unlike anyone?

Yes. There can only be one. Tiger Woods. Continue reading The twin brother of Michael Jordan