March 14 — In a statement worthy of satirist Andy Borowitz’ “Duh Magazine,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem told NBC Sports that Tiger Woods’ return to competitive golf will be “huge.”
View photos of Ernie Els’ decisive win at WGC-CA Championship
Wow! Finchem sure must have some inside dope about Tiger’s comeback.
If he did, Finchem wasn’t sharing. The tour honcho would only point out the obvious, which was that “we’ll hear soon” whether Woods will tee it up at the Masters.
See ya real soon. Really? A quick ciphering indicates that the Masters will occur in less than a month. That gives Woods, oh, about the same timeframe to let everyone know if he’ll go for his 15th major at Augusta. So, yeah, that qualifies as “soon.”
Indeed, Finchem sounded just like many Boston golfers; he said he had no idea when Woods planned to return to competitive golf, but he was “excited as anybody else to see him back.”
Finchem had other “insights” to share about Woods, such as how Tiger will handle his return.
Interesting? “It’s going to be an interesting thing to watch,” Finchem said, “how he reenters the game, how he plays, how he deals with the reaction to his statement.”
Oh yeah, the “statement.”
Finchem must be the only person on the planet who viewed Woods’ staged mea culpa with a less than a cynical eye.
“I feel this huge change in the atmosphere because of what he said,” Finchem said. “I was impressed not only about him talking about personal issues but about talking about the game…when he comes back, a renewed respect.”
Tour’s on its toes. And not to worry. The tour’s ready for Woods’ reentry, whenever and wherever Sir Tiger lands.
“[Woods] recognizes we need time to deal with [his return], although we feel we’re prepared in any particular week that he comes back,” said Finchem, who expected Team Tiger to provide “good notice” prior to Woods’ return.
Commissioner Finchem, a final word?
“I hope [Woods comes back] this spring,” he said, “but my sense is we’ll know pretty soon.”
Hope that clarifies it.
Detract and distract. A Woods compatriot, Steve Stricker is one tour golfer who urged his friend to stop with the prima-donna crap and come back before the Masters. To make his return at Augusta would detract from the tourney itself.
“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,” Stricker told ESPN. “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.”
Uh, yup. But hogging the spotlight even more than when he was on the course seems to be Woods’ M.O. these days (see Chevron World Challenge, Accenture Match Play Championship, LPGA season-opening tourney, and this week’s contest at TPC Blue Monster at Doral).
Stricker, a Tiger pal who won last year’s Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, said he had no inside info about Woods’ plans, but he had tired of the diva act.
Make up your damn mind. “Until you hear it from Tiger Woods and his agents, it’s still speculation,” Stricker told the Augusta Chronicle. “We’d like to know one way or another for sure. Everybody would. It gets to the point where you’re like, ‘C’mon, just make up your mind and tell us where you’re playing because we’re all dying to know anyway.'”
The easy-going Stricker has not been afraid to speak his mind about Woods in the past. The number-two golfer in the world had the chutzpah to concede during the 2009 Deutsche Bank event that he’d “gotten over” whatever other-worldly aura Woods had employed to intimidate his PGA Tour playing partner into submission.
“I am comfortable playing with him,” Stricker said at TPC Boston. “I guess I’m comfortable with what I’m doing, and I’m really not worrying about him.”
Faxon the new Stockton? Meanwhile, the boys put on a show in the final round of the WGC-CA Championship, and New England golfer and NBC newbie analyst Brad Faxon may have had something to do with it.
Winning the tourney at 18-under, Ernie Els solved the putting woes that plagued him down the stretch of Saturday’s round. With a smooth putting stroke, Els drained a huge, 20-foot putt for a scrambling par on 14.
Sweet bunker shot. The 40-year-old Els followed that with a beautiful wedge shot from the green-side bunker on 15 for a tap-in par. With a smooth, rhythmic fluidity, he easily hit his shot as easily as if he were tossing a softball underhanded.
With 10 one-putts after a birdie at 17, Els led the field in putting this week. Perhaps he met up with Faxon again before Sunday’s round. The Rhode Islander mentioned he had worked a bit with the Big Easy and that Els had switched to fatter grips like those Faxon uses on his sand wedge.
Phil Mickelson, who’s well-documented efforts with putting guru Dave Stockton have resulted in a modified stance but not necessarily better results, reportedly worked some with Faxon prior to the final round, according to the Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson.
Another Mickelson tweak? With a slightly narrower position over the ball (thanks to Faxon, perhaps?), Mickelson rolled the ball well Sunday, posting five birdies and one bogey for a closing-round 4-under 68. Lefty finished at 8-under for the tourney.
About those two drivers, though, Phil. Using a longer club for distance this week and a shorter one into the wind sure didn’t help, as Mickelson was dead last in driving accuracy this week.
Too bad Faxon can’t help him with his shots off the tee.
Your guess is as good as Finchem’s and Stricker’s about when Tiger Woods will make his way back to the PGA Tour. Read how you can vote on which venue Woods will choose for his golf comeback.