Saturday, February 24, 2007

Tiger's post-streak press conf.

Here are highlights from Tiger's streak-snapping loss to Nick O'Hern in the Accenture Match Play on Friday
Q. What, did the ball hit on a spike mark?
TIGER WOODS: No, it was a ball mark. I was so enthralled with the line and where I had to start it. It was just left center, just go ahead and hit it, and I didn't see the ball mark.

Q. So you just forgot to fix --
TIGER WOODS: I wasn't even looking. I was just looking at my line. I knew if I hit it inside -- left center, the match is over. That's my fault for not paying attention to detail.

Q. So it was a fixable blemish?
TIGER WOODS: Totally, yeah.

Q. Do you think the extreme change in the weather from one day to the next not just affected your mental attention but your physical being, as well?
TIGER WOODS: Well, physically I felt fine. My golf swing didn't feel very good, did not feel good all day. I just battled through it, and the only thing I knew I could do was putt and just try and get on the green somehow. I felt anything inside -- anything on that green I had a chance of making today, but I just couldn't get there consistently.

Q. You had a battle with cactus and everything else.
TIGER WOODS: It was a struggle. I just didn't have control of my golf swing. I had a two-way miss going today. I hit it right because I was hitting it left, and it's one of those things where -- if you can hit it right or left you can play for it, but I had a combo thing going today.

Q. Can you remember the last time you were that off for a four-hole or a similar stretch, maybe Muirfield, but that was pouring that day in 0 2?
TIGER WOODS: I was pretty off because obviously I've been playing pretty well. It was disappointing. The only thing that saved me coming in was the holes were downwind, so I couldn't hit too far off line.

Q. Could you just repeat what happened on that four-footer? The ball mark was -- your ball hit the ball mark?
TIGER WOODS: Hit the left side of the ball mark and kicked it right. All I had to do is just fix it and it's in. It was a very simple thing to do. I was so enthralled with just left center, left center, left center and the match is over. I just didn't pay attention.

Q. Almost continual vision on the line --
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I get that way at times. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad.
Q. Just curious what happened on 17. Did you just overcut that? What club was it?
TIGER WOODS: No, it was 3-iron. I hit straight on the toe. It was a terrible shot.
Q. That's the only place you can miss really, the worst place you can miss?
TIGER WOODS: Well, that's probably the best place to miss is long and the worst place to miss is where I missed it. Anything short of the green it's a pretty easy pitch. You know, it was 220 yards dead down with a 3-iron. It was pretty simple to carry that and I hit it straight off the toe.

Q. You go from looking as bad as you've ever looked to mounting one of the more impressive and unlikely comebacks that you've ever had. What did you do between the 7th hole and -- what happened?
TIGER WOODS: It wasn't anything. I was struggling, and I just said, Just give myself looks at putts. That's all I can do because I know I was putting really well today. You know, it felt like every putt I was -- except for the putt I hit on 3 the first time around, I blocked that putt, but other than that every putt I hit was right on-line. So just gave myself plenty of looks and I just felt like I was going to make them. But could I give myself the looks was the question. Starting out, no. But I kept telling myself, At least it's downwind and my two-way miss won't go too far off line dead downwind.

Q. You talked about the most disappointing loss was with Darren in the final because you worked so hard and won five matches to get there. Granted, it's a PGA TOUR streak as you call it, but you work so hard. Seven in a row is still seven in a row. You worked so hard to get there. What's the disappointment level regarding the streak?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it's not the streak. It's the fact that I'm disappointed I didn't pay attention to detail, something so simple. I got so enthralled and so focused like I normally do on the line, and I just -- something so simple like that just escaped me.

Q. A word about Nick O'Hern, and did he win it or did you lose it today, you think?
TIGER WOODS: Well, obviously I had a chance to win the match with a little four-footer. Nick played very consistent golf. You know, he's not very long, but all he had to do was just keep putting it in front starting out on the front nine, because obviously I couldn't, and he won two holes with bogeys. That's not very good on my part.

Q. When you look back at the seven in a row, it's still something I assume you're pretty damn proud of.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, very proud of. To go basically from July until now without ever finishing out of the top three, that's not bad.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Fuzzy fuming

Maybe Fuzzy Zoeller isn't so warm and fuzzy -- at least not when it comes to his reputation.

Check out this story from the AP...

MIAMI (AP) -Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller is suing to track down the author who posted what he considers a defamatory paragraph about him on the Internet reference site Wikipedia.

For the rest of the story, click here.

Prediction: Tiger v. Ogilvy on Sunday

After one glimpse at the Accenture Match Play brackets, how can you not predict -- and hope for -- a Sunday showdown between Geoff Ogilvy, defending champion, and Tiger Woods, the streaking wunderkind?

With Phil Mickelson getting unexpectedly dismissed 3 and 1 in the second round by Justin Rose, Tiger's biggest hurdle to reaching the finals would appear to be Charles Howell III, winner of last week's Nissan Open and a man who is riding his own hot hand. If they meet in the semi-finals, however, expect Howell to wilt under the heat of Tiger.

On the other side of the brackets, Ogilvy, the U.S. Open champ, has a rougher road to the finals. If he can get past the Niclas Fasth, a formidable Swede, today, he would face the winner of the match between European Ryder Cup member Paul Casey and Shaun Micheel, the former PGA Champ who took down Tiger last year in match play in Europe. And after them, three U.S. Ryder Cup members remain: David Toms, Chad Campbell and Stewart Cink. Still, my money is on Ogilvy to survive.

Upsets aren't just possible, they're probable; my hoped-for scenario could spoiled very quickly. But I can hope for a reason to watch the final match on Sunday.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My round at The Gallery

Watching the Accenture Match Play at the new venue, The Gallery, outside Tucson, reminded me of my memorable round there in 2000.

Here it is, retrieved from the Inquirer data base...


By Joe Logan

Looking back, I was probably a fool. I stood to lose a
little money and even more dignity.

I refer, of course, to getting fleeced in a skins match with
a very fast crowd.

I got myself into it thanks to my obsessive desire to play
yet another fabulous golf course. Pinehurst No. 2, Medinah,
Merion, Pebble Beach and the Old Course at St. Andrews, to
mention just the brand-name tracks, weren't enough for one
year. I needed more.

So naturally, when I was in Tucson last week trailing Mike
Schmidt in his failed quest to qualify for the PGA Senior
Tour, I couldn't help myself when a golf-writing buddy
remarked: "Before you leave town, you've got to play this
new Tom Lehman course, the Gallery. It's the one with the
725-yard par 5. Unbelievable course. "

Excuse me, I thought you said a 725-yard par 5.

"Yeah," he said, "Golf Digest did a piece about it. "

Suffice it to say, three days later I was standing in the
pro shop at the Gallery, fretting that an unusual frost
delay was going to push back my tee time so late that I
would not get in all 18 holes.

"You're in luck," said the pro, turning to me as he hung up
the phone.

Some guy named Don had just called to cancel because of a
bad back. The rest of his threesome was off in 10 minutes,
and I could take his place.

In no time at all, I was standing on the first tee trying to
take in the beauty of the clubhouse, the greenery of the
course, and the surrounding desert and mountain, as well as
introducing myself to Tom and Jim, a couple of Michiganders
down for a week or so of Arizona golf.

Tom, like me, was in his mid to late 40s. Jim was younger,
maybe 30, and a strapping specimen to boot. They were sorry
to hear that their buddy Don, who I gathered lived in
Tucson, couldn't make it. They were also wondering whether
our fourth, some guy named David, who was coming with Don,
would show. There was nothing to do but go ahead and tee
off. If David showed, he could catch up.

Meanwhile, as we were taking a few cuts on the tee and
sizing up the first hole, Jim said, "Same game as yesterday,
Tom? "

Tom shrugged. "Yeah, why not? "

Then Jim turned to me. "We're playing a little skins game.
Nothing too rich. A buck a skin, two bucks for birdies. Want
in? "

Now, I am not opposed to a friendly wager on the golf
course. Even the late, legendary Harvey Penick suggested
some sort of match, if only for a soft drink, just to keep
the competitive juices flowing. But I am also a firm
adherent to the old Dave Marr adage: "Never bet anyone you
meet on the first tee who has a deep suntan, a 1-iron in his
bag, and squinty eyes. "

They were from Michigan, so neither had a deep suntan or
squinty eyes. And only I was packing a 1-iron.

What could I lose? A maximum of $36, if they birdied every
hole. "Sure," I said.

With that, Tom poked his tee shot straight up the fairway -
it wasn't long, but you couldn't place it any more in the
center of the fairway. A bit rusty from a week layoff, I was
pleased that I, too, kept my first tee ball on the short
grass. Jim, the young guy, flat-out bombed it - his shot
landed on the fly well past where my ball had come to rest.
I raised an eyebrow.

Thank heaven there was no blood on the first hole. I
3-putted from 30 feet for bogey - what else is new? - but
Tom and Jim both parred. At the second hole, just as we had
reached our tee shot, a cart appeared back by the tee,
headed our way.

"This must be David coming," Tom said.

It was. David was a nice guy, all smiles and handshakes, and
probably not even as old as Jim. Tom and David had never
met; they had this mutual friend Don, who, by the way, David
said, sent his regrets. Tom explained our little skins match
in progress and invited David to join in. Why not just drop
a ball right there in the fairway alongside ours and play
from there?

Fine. David dropped a ball and, with little ado, pulled his
9-iron from his bag and, with only a couple of practice
whiffs, absolutely stuck it.

It was about that moment that I noticed David's golf bag. It
was one of those big, black-and-white Titleist bags. I'd
seen them before. Davis Love 3d has one just like it. So do
David Duval and Tiger Woods.

I also noticed that on his, in fancy-looking stitching, it
said: "DAVID HOWSER. "

"So how do you know Don? " David asked Tom.
"We played together on the University of Arizona team
together a lot of years ago," Tom said.

"Hey, I played for U of A, too," David said. "Graduated in
'94. "

"Great," Tom said. "What do you do now? "

"Some Nike Tour, mostly the Hooters Tour," David said.
That's when I sidled up to Tom. "Who is Don? "

"Don Pooley," he said.
"The tour pro? "

"Yeah," he said.
With that, Tom, Jim and David all drove off toward the
green, leaving me standing there in the fairway shaking my
head. Terrific. I had somehow gotten myself into a skins
match with two former big-time college players - one of them
is now a pro - and some other guy who looks to be better
than both of them and hits the ball farther than all of us.

Never mind the money. It had become a matter of salvaging my

I won't bore you with a hole-by-hole account of the match. I
will tell you that your faithful and diligent golf scribe
did his best to hold his head high and suffer a minimum of

Sadly, as I look over my card, I see that I did leak a
little oil in places, owing no doubt to the 2,000-foot
elevation in Tucson and the sad fact that I couldn't make a
putt under pressure if my life depended on it.

There was the bogey at the par-5 sixth, where both Tom and
Jim got into trouble off the tee. That left me head-to-head
against David, to prevent him from winning another skin.
His 18-foot birdie putt lipped out for a tap-in par. Out of
the hole, Tom and Jim cheered me on, but not too effusively,
as I lined up my 15-foot downhill putt for birdie. They
tensed slightly as, moments later, I lined up my eight-foot
uphill putt to make par and halve David. They silently
walked off the green as I buried my one-footer for bogey
with authority.

"Sorry, guys," I called out.

Finally, we arrived at the ninth, the hole I came to play.
To say it is a lot of golf hole is as cliched and
understated as saying England is "across the pond. " At 725
yards, the ninth at the Gallery is, well, awesome and
intimidating, to say the least. Nobody seems quite sure if
it is the longest par 5 in the world, but if it isn't, it's
close. There is a much longer hole in Virginia, 841 yards,
but it is listed as a par 6. Naturally, we decided to play
the ninth at the Gallery from the tips.

The tee faces the clubhouse, which looks to be somewhere
between one-third and one-half mile away, which it is. From
the slightly elevated back tees, the tee shot alone requires
a 208-yard carry over desert gunch to reach the fairway. For
most golfers, that is a serious poke. After that, the hole
opens up to a very generous fairway, assuming you miss the
fairway bunker on the right, then it all falls off. That, of
course, makes the hole play shorter, but it is offset by the
prospect that the ninth usually plays into the wind.

Nobody reaches this green in 2. One guy - a mere
golf-writing mortal - told me that the day before he had hit
driver-driver-driver to reach the green in regulation.

Pooley, the Tour pro, it turns out, generally needs to hit a
3-iron on his third shot to reach the green. Even if Tiger
Woods were to smoke one of his patented 360-yard tee shots,
he'd still have another 365 yards to go. And if the distance
isn't problem enough, a dozen strategically placed bunkers
are staggered every step of the way. Also, 600 yards down
the fairway, there is a pond on the right side - precisely
the spot where any leaked second or third shots will land.
I hit my best tee shot of the day there. It carried far
enough to catch the downhill slope of the fairway and roll
forever, settling alongside David's.

"We just hit those tee shots 287 yards," David said.

I don't usually hit the ball 287, of course, but he made
that pronouncement after looking back toward the tee through
his handheld laser-beam yardage thingy that resembles
binoculars. Thin air, the downslope of the fairway, best tee
shot of the day. OK, if you say so.

Going for the green in 2 was still out of the question. It
still looked a half tank of gas away. I pulled my fairway
wood - a strong 4-wood - and reached back for all I had.

It wasn't a stone-cold top, but I didn't get all of it - the
kind of shot John Updike always refers to in his stories as
a "foozle. " Doggone it. Now I still had close to 300 yards
to the green, which, by the way, is elevated and tucked
behind five bunkers. I decided to hit the 4-wood again,
hoping to lay up short of the green and to the left of the

Pumped, determined, I hit it solid this time, but it leaked
right. Suddenly, I was reduced to begging, but the golf gods
weren't listening. The ball splashed in the left corner of
the pond.

Fuming, I pressed forward and dropped a ball behind the
pond, still a good 130 yards from the green, hitting 5.
Finally, I hit what looked to be a decent shot - looked to
be. The ball hit a sprinkler head or something and careened
to the right, settling in the fringe right of the green.
When I reached the ball, I still looked to be 50 yards from
the hole.

Demoralized, resigned to a "snowman" 8 on my card, I
chipped. The ball rolled to the edge of the shelf, broke
downhill and sideways about 20 feet, and came to a halt
about one foot from the hole.

I had not exactly brought the ninth to its knees, but it was
a stylish double-bogey, if I do say so myself.
We all stood there for a moment, looking back up the fairway
toward the tee.

"So, you've got a lot to write about this hole," Tom said.

Wise guy.

Mercifully, inexplicably, I won a skin on the back nine,
sneaking in a twisty six-footer at the cruel and unusual
par-5 11th. My day was made. Snaring a skin in this league
made my day. I was bent but not broken.

In fact, somewhat invigorated, I played much better from
there on in. At the utterly breathtaking par-3 16th, I
carved a little 7-iron in there so pretty that even David
was urging my ball, "Go in the hole! Go in the hole! "
Unfortunately, I 3-putted for bogey.

Finally, when it was over, we totaled up the damage. I paid
a few bucks and I was paid a few. My net loss, to David, for
a birdie, was $1. I smiled.

As we walked toward our carts, I shook hands with Jim, the
big winner on the day. "Sorry you got me instead of Don
Pooley," I said.

"That's all right," he said. "It probably saved me a few
bucks. "

Tiger @ Match Play

I've been pouring over the brackets as I watch the first round of the Accenture Match Play and there is no possible way that Tiger Woods doesn't at least make it to the semi-finals on Saturday.

At least that's my theory until he gets taken down by somebody like K.J. Choi or Luke Donald. In which case, Tiger's win streak on the PGA Tour dies at seven and the rest of the Match Play suddenly becomes about as compelling as the second round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic.

Assuming Tiger does hold off J.J. Henry in the first round -- he's 2-up through 7 at the moment -- there is no one in the rest of the Bobby Jones bracket that ought to give him a problem.

If things go as you might expect on the left-hand side of the brackets, which they never do, Tiger could meet Phil Mickelson in the semis on Saturday. Match play being totally unpredictable, the chances of that star-studded showdown are virtually nil. But we can hope.

On the other side of the bracket, you've got to like No. 1 seeds Jim Furyk and Adam Scott. But I'm not fooling myself about those two facing each other in the semis, either.

Bottom line: Match Play will be the toughest slog Tiger has in trying to extend his streak.

Monday, February 19, 2007

O'Hair's slow start

If you haven't been paying attention, Sean O'Hair, the third-year PGA Tour player from West Chester, has had his struggles so far in early 2007.

Hoping to merely knock some of the rust off his swing with a run of four straight tournaments, O'Hair went CUT-CUT-CUT in the first three, the Buick Invitational (73-74), the FBR Open (72-69) and the AT&T Pebble Beach (75-73-72). It didn't look good.

But at this past week's Nissan Open, O'Hair steadied his ship and shot 72-71-69-73, for a tie for 56th and his first paycheck of the year, $11, 596.

The difference in his stats between 2005, when he was rookie of the year and won the John Deere Classic, and this year, say it all.

In '05, he averaged 300.1 yards off the tee (23rd), compared to 291 yards (38th) this year; that mostly is because is O'Hair is hitting more 3-woods off the tee.

But in driving accuracy, he has dropped from 62nd to 127th, in greens in regulation from 40th to 127th, and in putting average from 149th to 171st. In all-around average, which is a combination of all the major stat categories, O'Hair has dropped from 32nd in 2005 to 153rd.

In O'Hair's defense, he spent the off-season in Philadelphia, far from the warmer climes where he could get his game in shape. Also, he and his wife Jackie welcomed their second child in mid-January.

It's early, obviously, but O'Hair needs to reverse those statistical trends if he's going to put together a good year.

Hot Hand Howell

I don't know about you, but I would have bet the farm the Phil Mickelson would have won the play-off against Charles Howell III at the Nissan Open on Sunday.

More to the point, I would have bet Howell would find a way to lose it.

Once labeled a future can't-miss superstar, has made more than $13 million in career earnings -- but, until Sunday, only one victory, the 2002 Michelob Open at Kingsmill. Along the way, racking up 10 second-place finishes, he has found new ways not to win.

That's that why his showdown with the red-hot Mickelson so impressive. Maybe Howell, at 27, is hitting his stride. In three events this year, he already has a win and two seconds.

Here are a few excerpts from his post-victory interview:

CHARLES HOWELL III: I'm speechless. You know starting out today, I thought I almost shot myself out of it yesterday. Especially with Phil Mickelson ahead, and at Riviera the birdies weren't easy to come by. You know to finally catch him there at the end on 18, man, that par putt, that was the longest par putt I've hit in my life. And just to force him to have to make a par to win the golf tournament. And the playoff, as we all know, I lost in a playoff here before with Mike Weir. And the first thing I asked was what was the rotation because I just wanted us to get past that 10th hole. My reason for that is obviously I lost the last playoff on that hole. But, you know, on top of that, that's such a tough hole and anything can happen on that hole especially with the flag in the back where it is right there. And to get past that hole, I was pretty excited.

Q. What goes through your mind when the last one goes in and it happens?

CHARLES HOWELL III: I wish I could tell you, but I wasn't even thinking. You know, I truly, I don't know. I said a prayer before I hit the putt. You know, I said ‘It's time, let's go in.’

Q. Can you contrast this, a few weeks ago you are at Sony, your head is in your hands, this is 180 degrees, talk about where you were there and how you felt and how you feel now.

CHARLES HOWELL III: Yes, you're right, Sony, Sony was a better one because I had a lead with nine holes to go. I managed to stay ahead of Luke (Donald) the whole back 9, and obviously until 18 we end up tying. But at that time I truly thought Luke was the player to beat there. That was extremely disappointing just not to get that ball up and down on 18, at least not to force a playoff, just to give myself a chance at it. You know, prior to that, talking to you guys here a few years ago, was pretty bitter. So to finally win here, I'm speechless. I'm the luckiest guy in the world right now.

Q. You had seconds coming in this year, two more, does that weigh on you at all? You have been in playoffs, are you thinking ‘I'm not going to win, I keep finishing second.’

CHARLES HOWELL III: No, truthfully the other. If you look at the state of where my golf game was in the middle of last summer I would have cut my arm off for a second place finish. They were looking pretty darn good. No, I kept looking at it as I'm getting closer, I'm getting closer. The second at 84 Lumber, towards the end of last year, was really important for me to get an affirmation I'm starting to get back. I'm starting to get there. And then to start this year off this way, I knew I was close.