There’s been so much said about Kelly Tilghman’s faux pas that the focus of the PGA Tour over the past weeks has been less about golf (not hard, considering how awful the Hope was to watch). That’s all about to change because for the first time since the Presidents Cup at the end of September, Tiger Woods is back. He’s not talking about lynching — no he’s hitting golf balls in an actual tournament.
And since no one has yet to win the Masters, the scribes are out in full force suggesting that 2008 will indeed be the year that Tiger Woods wins the Grand Slam.
Art Spander in the Telegraph notes that Woods made some changes at the end of the year, and actually thinks he’s still improving, surely not a good sign for the likes of Phil Mickelson:
Woods skipped his usual skiing vacation over the holidays to work on his game. “I felt like I made some improvements this winter,” he said on Monday after dedicating a statue to his late father, Earl, at the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim.
“I solidified things I was working on toward the end of last year. At Target I wasn’t quite there the last two days. I went back and looked at it, figured out a few things and was working on that. I’m excited to play again.”
Of course, the article ends with a well considered conclusion:
The PGA Tour is no less excited to have him play. He’s the man.
Well done, Art. I’ve decided every column on Woods should now end with “he’s the man.”
Woods himself thinks the venues fit his game, though I still have my reservations about Royal Birkdale, though there is a good chance the conservative play by Woods at Hoylake two years ago could be replicated at Birkdale. However, it strikes me the British Open brings a lot of contenders into play — as long as it is not being played at the Old Course, which Woods dominates. Otherwise Woods has won at two of the four venues being played — Torrey Pines for the US Open, and Augusta (with the PGA Championship being played at Oakland Hills in Michigan).
“The question is do I see it as a possibility, and I say, ‘yes,’ ” Woods said. “A lot of different factors go into it and hopefully all those factors line up for me.
“The venues this year, I like all the venues. But I’ve liked all the venues before in the past. It’s just a matter of getting your game coming together at the right time and getting all the right breaks. You’re going to have to get lucky every now and then, and hopefully you get lucky at the right times.”
Mark O’Meara, who won two majors in 1998, “reckons” his friend could pull it off:
“I reckon he’s a focused as ever and fired-up and ready to go,” O’Meara, 51, said. “I’d say he’s very prepared for this year. He very easily could win all four majors.”
“I reckon he’s a focused as ever and fired-up and ready to go,” O’Meara said. “I’d say he’s very prepared for this year. He very easily could win all four majors.”
It strikes me there’s a bit of hyperbole in all of this. Winning two majors in the same year is always a possibility for Woods, but I wouldn’t place a bet on all four. There are just too many players that could take at least one of the four — like Zach Johnson did at Augusta last year, or as Padraig Harrington did at Carnoustie.
While Tiger won essentially half of his starts last year — seven wins in 16 tries — and was always in contention (especially at the U.S. Open and the Masters), he only took the PGA Championship home with him. The depth on the tour means it is unlikely he’ll ever accomplish the Grand Slam — there will be periods where Woods will struggle, especially with his driver, while another player has a stellar week (like Johnson.)
“For most of my career, I’ve won more than four tournaments per year, and all I have to do is win the right four,” Woods said. “And I’ve done those a few times. I think if you put it all together, have luck on your sides, all the stars will line up, and it certainly is possible.”
But columnists don’t get paid to be ignored, and it is easier to write a column predicting a Grand Slam than to write one saying he won’t pull it off. And this year Tiger is saying he could do it “easily.” It isn’t impossible, but “easily” strikes me as coming off as perhaps a touch overly confident.
My prediction — he wins the Masters and the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile today will mark the return of Kelly Tilghman following the “lynchgate” affair. She still has a job apparently, while Golfweek’s editor does not. The head of the GolfChannel says Tilghman will offer some remarks on the issue and then move forward:
Page Thompson, president of The Golf Channel, said Tilghman would address the issue at the start of today’s telecast, which begins at noon and marks Woods’ season debut on the PGA Tour. But Tilghman will not be available for interviews.
We feel like she apologized once on the air; she issued a written statement; she’ll have a statement at the start of the broadcast (today) and we feel she’s made her statement, Thompson said yesterday at Torrey Pines. She’s very sorry for what happened; she feels terrible about it. I think she’s learned a lot from the last couple weeks and (we) look forward to getting her back on the air.
I’ve got my PVR set, I’ll tell you…