Look no further than the recent hot-button issues to understand
golf's image problems. Casey, Martha and Annika are about
inclusion, and much of America has been told it's not welcome.
Tiger's Falling Star Power
Woods's pre-Open lull continued with a quiet week in Germany
Tournament organizers at last week's Deutsche Bank-SAP Open
offered Tiger Woods the use of an orange Lamborghini Murcielago,
but he opted instead for a Volkswagen sedan. "It's a bit too
flashy for me," Woods said of the Lamborghini. Unfortunately,
Woods also blended into the crowd with his play, finishing a
ho-hum 29th, nine strokes out of a Padraig Harrington-Thomas
Bjorn playoff, which was won on the first extra hole by the man
Woods calls Paddy.
May 25, 2003
Woods was attempting to become the first player in European tour
history with a three-year win streak at different events--he had
taken the WGC-NEC Invitational from 1999 to 2001--but last week
he was betrayed by a balky putter or, to hear him tell it, by the
fungus-ravaged greens at Gut Kaden golf course in Alveslohe,
This was Woods's first tournament since the Masters, four weeks
earlier, and his second consecutive missed opportunity to make
history. At Augusta he was trying to become the first player to
win three straight Masters. Woods's final-round blowup there
marked his third straight major without a victory. His autobahn
ride to golf immortality has created impossibly high
expectations; it must be noted that if Woods doesn't defend his
championship at next month's U.S. Open, it will mark the first
time he has gone four consecutive majors without a victory since
1998-99, when he was putting the finishing touches on his swing
Making matters more interesting is that Woods will play only once
more before the Open, at next week's Memorial. "Usually I get
three tournaments in before the U.S. Open, this time it's two,"
he said last week when pressed about his scheduling. "It's not
that big a difference."
No, but his long break and middling return in Europe has
coincided with the media frenzy surrounding Annika Sorenstam.
Coming hard on the heels of Martha Burk's skirmish with Augusta
National, it seems like ages since Woods has been the biggest
story in the game. Maybe that's by design. Woods builds his
schedule to ensure that he will have plenty of energy for the
summer, when there are three majors in the span of 10 weeks. His
December knee surgery has given him another reason to slack off.
"The doctors said it's in my best interests long-term to take it
slow for now," Woods said in Germany. "Then I can play as many
events as I want over the next few years."
But Woods is such a high-octane presence that even a couple of
winless months from him seems to drain much of the game's
horsepower. His little respites also embolden the competition.
"There's a lot of players out there who can give Tiger something
to worry about," said Harrington, who now tops the European
tour's money list.
No doubt Woods will file that away and blow Paddy's doors off the
next time they meet, but last week Woods was stuck in neutral. He
made only three bogeys in four rounds but could never find a cure
for fusarium, the fungus that attacked Gut Kaden's putting
surfaces, necessitating a local rule allowing players relief from
dead patches on the greens. The politic Woods would allow only
that, "It's frustrating because I'm hitting good putts, but there
is nothing you can do about it."
Woods's struggle may also have had something to do with his
rolling a new rock. He put into play last week a prototype Nike
ball that sounds as if it will be perfect for the British Open.
"More than anything else, it's a lot better in the wind," Woods
In this era of exotic gear, Woods has always demonstrated that
he's not obsessed with power, which also helps explain his taste
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Gossett Gets a Paddling by Fax
Brad Faxon has long been the PGA Tour's unofficial putting guru,
but at the Nelson last week he added a new role--Ping-Pong
consultant. David Gossett, who recently bought a table for his
new digs in Orlando, asked Faxon to give him some pointers on a
Ping-Pong battlefield that was set up next to the players'
lounge. "Fax is the best there is," says Gossett. "Tiger's pretty
good too, but Fax is tough."
Hank Kuehne may be one of the Tour's breakout performers this
year, but on May 11 he got a lesson from his older brother and
occasional caddie, Trip, as did Jerry Kelly. In a match at the
TPC Four Seasons course, in Irving, Texas, Trip threw a
front-nine 30 at the boys en route to sweeping all the bets.
"When I play with Tour guys, it's like my U.S. Open," says Trip,
who lost the 1994 U.S. Amateur final to Tiger Woods and is now a
Dallas-based venture capitalist. "I only wish there had been more
money on the match."
Goofing around with his four-year-old daughter, Whitney, last
Thursday morning, Jay Williamson was poked in the left eye hard
enough to have it swell shut. Thirty minutes before his tee time
Williamson was still being treated by an eye doctor. "He put
enough drops in my eye that it finally started to open up,"
Williamson said. He was able to see his way to an opening 70 and
a 75th-place finish.
The European Ryder Cup committee has voted to amend its
qualifying criteria--finally. For the 2004 Cup at Oakland Hills,
in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., the top five players in the World
Ranking will automatically qualify, as will five others from atop
the Order of Merit (instead of the traditional 10). Europe's
mystery captain--to be named in July--will make the final two
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