Planet Golf — 12 March 2012 by Bob Sherwin
Tiger injured: Masters in jeopardy?

For a guy who went about a dozen years looking invincible on the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods finally is showing he’s human. He has an Achilles heel.

Rather, his Achilles heel is what’s making him vincible.

Woods drew bigger headlines and more attention Sunday for withdrawing from World Golf Championships-Cadillac than did winner Justin Rose.

Woods, who began limping by the fourth hole at the Doral Country Club course, finally had enough after his tee shot on No. 12. He withdrew when his heel was too sore to continue. He took a cart to his car and departed.

“I felt tightness in my left Achilles warming up this morning, and it continued to get progressively worse,” Woods said in a statement later. “After hitting my tee shot at 12, I decided it was necessary to withdraw. In the past, I may have tried to continue to play, but this time, I decided to do what I thought was necessary.

“I will get my Achilles evaluated sometime early next week.”

Everything Woods does creates a stir on Tour. He’s a compelling love-or-hate guy who commands attention everywhere he goes. Whether he’s in contention or misses the cut, his score is always is prominently mentioned. When he enters a tournament, TV ratings rise; when he’s not entered, they slump.

There’s a multitude of reasons for that, primarily because of his past success, as he is within four ‘majors’ victories of catching Jack Nicklaus for the most ever. But more recently, it’s his personal turmoil – mistresses, payoffs, car accidents and divorce – that has divided the golf community’s view of him.

The fact that he hasn’t won a Tour-sanctioned event since 2009 has pleased, puzzled and perplexed. In fact, in the 33 events Woods has entered since his personal calamities, he has finished in the top 10 just six times.

However, he finished second a week ago in the Honda Classic, charging up the field Saturday and Sunday. He also played well in helping to win the President’s Cup last November then won a lower-scale tournament, the Chevon Open, on Dec. 3.

He was on a roll, playing better than he has in a couple years. His new swing was paying off. He simply needed a little more putting success and he might have been back to where he was before his troubles and knee surgeries.

Now where is he? And, as always, the long view is, where is he with a ‘major’ coming up – the 2012 Masters beginning April 5.

This can only be viewed as a setback. His schedule has him playing just one more time before the Masters – the Arnold Palmer Invitational – in two weeks. It’s uncertain whether he’ll be ready for that or whether he might need to drop out and perhaps add the Shell Houston Open March 29. If he doesn’t play at all between now and Augusta, how ready will he be?

You only get so many viable chances at the majors and this injury may be enough to prevent him from competing at a high level.

“It’s a shame, because he looked like he was coming out this year, swinging it really well, playing good, getting himself into contention,” Rory McIIroy told the media after his round. “It’s probably just precautionary, but I really hope he’s healthy for the Masters, because obviously it would be a great week with him there.”

There’s a pattern here for Woods, all involving his left leg, which has undergone four surgeries. Woods said he hurt his knee when hitting a shot from underneath a tree in the Masters’ third round last April. He still managed to finish the tournament.

He walked off the course at the Players Championship in mid-May last year after re-injuring the leg. He did not return until the WGC-Bridgestone Aug. 8.

In 2008, after winning the U.S. Open, he had major knee surgery and did not play a Tour event the rest of the year.

Woods is 36. He hasn’t won a major in nearly four years. Now every news conference will include questions about his left leg because that could be what holds him back from reaching Jack.

“Tiger Woods has been the face of golf for the last 15 years,” McIlroy added. “Feeling like he’s coming back to his best or something near his best, it’s great for the game. He can spark an interest in golf that no one else can.”

Rose budding

Justin Rose, who started the final round three strokes behind Bubba Watson, shot a steady 70 to win by one stroke. It was as much as Watson’s fading 74 that helped produce the victory.

It was Rose’s fourth win on the Tour in his fourth start this season. Over his past three tournaments, he is moving up the board, T33rd, to T13th to T5 to 1st.

The key was his putting, 26.25 putts per round, tying for sixth in the field.

Watson, who may be the most exciting player in the game to watch because of his crazy long drives, needs to find something in his game to be a consistent winner. He makes foolish decisions at times, believing he can drive his way over trouble only to drift into it. He is now 1-for-6 when he has the lead entering the final round. That one win, the 2011 Zurich Classic, is his only win and it came in a playoff.

His length can get him into contention – as he has six top 20 finishes in six starts – but he hasn’t learned how to close the deal effectively.

Field of Dreams

This was the best field of the season as every one of the top 50 players in the world competed. The Europeans are beginning to show their dominance, as they did last year, after Americans won the first nine events this season. Europeans grabbed six of the top seven places (Watson’s runnerup was only American).

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIIroy showed no lapse after ascending to No. 1 in the world last week. He finished third, two strokes behind.

England’s Luke Donald, who was No. 1, is rounding into shape, finishing in a tie for sixth, four strokes back.

Could this result be a precursor to the Masters?

Blue Monster No More

The Doral Course is called the Blue Monster but you might wonder why. The players ate it up. There were course records. McIIroy shot a front-nine 30 on Friday and toyed with the idea of a perhaps a rare 59. Great courses don’t yield 59s. Or even 62s. Or 16-under par.

Technology and improved skills has made the course virtually obsolete. The only way to challenge the golfer is to trick it up. Except for the par-4, 18th, with water creeping in a couple times on the left side (tricked up), this course was a most unappealing visually. Comparing it to the top 20 course even on the West Course would be futile.

Donald Trump purchased the course and hotel for $150 million this month and has big plans for renovation in a couple years. Can’t imagine how you make a flat, long course interesting unless he has more tricks to conceive.

Trump, America’s favorite blowbag and clownish presidential candidate, has to know something the rest of us don’t. Maybe it’s his chance to get his mug in the news every year for this event, but, for me, it would be a better suited for a Nationwide Tour stop.

Notes:

    • Paul Casey had a hole-in-one on the par-3, 15th with an 8-iron from 166 yards.
    • Sergio Garcia had a 12 on the par-3 third hole as he finished with a 4-over 76. It is the highest score on a hole in his career, one more than the 11 he posted last year on the par-5 third hole at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
    • The par-5 first hole yielded 34 eagles and 184 birdies this week, 74 percent of the scores.
    • The par-4 18th hole was the toughest, yielding a 4.539 average.

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Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 46th year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 10 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur the 2015 U.S. Open and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for golf magazines. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, the Members Club of Aldarra near Seattle. Despite (or perhaps because) of his 14 handicap, he won the 'Super Senior'' (65 and older) championship in 2017. He has a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle, and spends part of his winters in Marco Island, Fla.

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