Brace for Tiger vs. UK tabloids
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
By Joe Logan

When Tiger Woods returned to golf in April at the Masters, we all braced for the inevitable onslaught of very awkward questions over the mess he made of his life.


For the most part, he didn’t get those questions.  The reason is Augusta National Golf Club, and the PGA Tour at tournaments since then, denied credentials to the likes of the National Enquirer, TMZ, Radar, Star magazine and the rest of the tabloid media.


What was left, of course, were the golf writers he had faced for years in better times, on better terms.  For the most part, they had neither the interest nor the stomach to do the bidding of the tabloids.


Still, so as not to be accused of giving Tiger a free pass, the golf writers poked around the edges of Tiger’s sexcapade, eliciting more apologies and professions of remorse.  Satisfied, the golf media has since largely moved on, as witnesses by last week’s press conference at the AT&T National at Aronmink during which Tiger allowed as how he is relieved that questions are finally getting back to the state of his golf game again.


But now comes next week’s British Open.


Tiger will face a very different media in the UK.  Except for The Times of London, and maybe the Guardian, every paper over there is a tabloid, and they compete on a daily basis to see who can be the raciest.  It is not by happenstance that the supermarket tabloids in the U.S. have traditionally been edited by imports from the UK.


It all makes for great entertainment, but the UK tabloids not averse to a little exaggeration.  One of the first times I ever saw the UK tabloids in action was during the 2002 Ryder Cup, at The Belfrey, in England.


During one of the U.S. team’s early-week press conferences, a UK tabloid writer asked Tiger about his practice schedule.   Specifically, where did he get off practicing shortly after sunup, as is his customer, and being off the course by the time many fans are just arriving?


Slightly taken aback, Tiger’s response was, well, if anyone wanted to what him practice, come out early.


I was stunned to see the next morning’s banner headlines in the tabloids, which essentially accused Tiger of being arrogant, of hiding from fans, of thumbing his nose them, especially little kids.


That is the media environment Tiger is walking into at the British Open.  The tabloids are the mainstream media over there.  Tiger will not be shielded.


We got a taste of it a day ago, during a pro-am in Ireland, when a UK reporter asked Tiger point-blank if his infidelities were worth the loss of his marriage, millions in endorsements and the respect of fans around the globe?


Tiger squirmed a little, but kept his composure.  The AP account of the moment described Tiger was "curt and dismissive" and "icily firm."  Having watched video of the exchange, I didn’t think he was either.


I say that not in defense of Tiger. What got him into his situation is indefensible, and he continues to pay a huge price for his mistakes.


All I’m saying is, next week, at the Old Course in Scotland, get ready for Tiger to face the media grilling he hasn’t yet gotten in the U.S.

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Ben DíAntonio[7/9/2010 7:56:31 AM]
Maybe theyíll ask him if he can help BP come up with $20 billion to cover the cost of the oil spill.
Jim[7/7/2010 10:53:35 AM]
Canít wait.

Aronimink GC 
With the AT&T a success, Aronimink looks to the future
Sunday, July 4, 2010
By Joe Logan

It would be impossible to come away from the week of the AT&T National at Aronimink GC and not consider it an unqualified success.


From the golf course, which as drawn high praise from the players, to the fan support (45,000-plus Friday and Saturday, 36,000 Sunday, 192,633 for the week), to Aronimink’s ability to host a modern, big-time tournament, it has all been good.


Even the weather cooperated, which it did not the last time Aronimink hosted a major, the 2003 Senior PGA Championship, when it rained virtually all week.


It is no secret that even before the AT&T came off well, Aronimink had designs on bigger fish: namely, another major to follow up on its 1962 PGA Championship.  Aronimink president David Boucher acknowledged Sunday that the club has indeed put out feelers to the PGA of America and in conversations about a future event.


"The very early stages," Boucher said of the conversations.


Assuming the PGA of America is as enthusiastic about how the AT&T came off, the first available open date for a PGA Championship is 2017.  The first open date for a Ryder Cup, which is also run by the PGA of America, in the U.S. is even further out, in 2024.


A bid for a U.S. Open at Aronimink is not completely out of the question, although it is less likely than a PGA Championship.  The Open is coming to Merion GC in 2013, of course, and another Open wouldn’t likely return to the area for at least 10 years, or 2023.


Beyond that, U.S. Golf Association officials have acknowledged privately that when they think of Philadelphia, they think of Merion.  It has, of course, hosted more Opens (four) and more USGA championships than any other club in the country.


In addition, clubs tend to gravitate toward one or the other, the PGA of America or the USGA.  Merion is clearly in the USGA camp, while Aronimink has more of a history with the PGA.


One other possibility for Aronimink could be a Presidents Cup, which is run by the PGA Tour, as is the AT&T National.  Like the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup is played every other year and rotates between U.S. and International venues. The next available date for a Presidents Cup in the U.S. is 2017, like next available date for a PGA Championship.

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Steve[7/4/2010 6:47:03 PM]
I predict Amink will get the PGA by the end of this decade.

Tiger at Aronimink 
What if this is the new normal for Tiger?
Sunday, July 4, 2010
By Joe Logan

After a 70 on Saturday that gained no him no ground in the AT&T National, Tiger Woods stepped to the microphone for his usual post-round debriefing.


Still grinding out there?


"Always," said Tiger.  "Always."


Tiger didn’t look happy, and why would he?  He didn’t look happy on Friday, either, when he also shot even par 70 and said more or less the same thing.


For Philadelphia golf fans getting their first up-close look at Tiger this week at Aronimink, the bummer is that he is out of contention – a non-factor in the tournament -- and he will be streaking home on his private jet before leader Justin Rose tees off, let alone finishes.


Obviously, this is not fans, tournament organizers nor the PGA Tour want, certainly not for the long term.  The current state of affairs calls to mind the old salt: "As goes General Motors, so goes the nation." How about, "As goes Tiger Woods, so goes golf?"


These are not good times for Tiger, in his personal life or in his golf game. The possibility that nobody wants to ponder is, what if this is the new reality, the new normal?


What if Tiger’s best golf is behind him and that he will never again achieve the kind of dominance and success that made him a global icon?


We still see flashes of the old Tiger, like that third-round 66 at the U.S. Open that got everybody excited over the possibility of a major charge on Sunday.  Didn’t happen.  He fizzled.  It was hard to tell who was more disappointed, him or golf fans.


As the huge and enthusiastic crowds following Tiger at Aronimink have demonstrated, the worst of his personal problems are in the rearview mirror and fans seem willing to forgive and forget.


What they want, and what golf needs, is the old Tiger back.

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Sinking another putt 
Itís Tigerís putter, stupid
Friday, July 2, 2010
By Joe Logan

For as long as Tiger has been on the scene, what wowed fans the most was his awesome power.   Up close, his tee shots sound different.  The ball flight looks different, higher, longer.


But while his power game is what drew all the oohs and aahs, it was his putter that really won tournaments and made him the No. 1 player in the world.


Remember a few years ago, when the standard line in trying to describe Tiger was often, "He’s is like Nicklaus, only with a better short game."


No question, Tiger was the No. 1 putter in the world.  Ask any player on the PGA Tour who they’d want to putt a 6-footer to save their life and the answer was always, "Tiger."


It wasn’t so much that he sank long putts, although he sank more than his share of them; it was that he almost never missed a putt from 10 feet, and he literally didn’t miss anything from inside 5 feet.  The more the putt mattered, the more certain Tiger was to make it. (See U.S. Open, Torrey Pines, 2008.)


But lately, Tiger isn’t making all those putts.  He missed a baker’s half-dozen makeable putts during his first round at Aronimink, none more telling that the 5-footer for birdie at the 18th , which followed a 329-yard blast off the tee and a perfect little half-wedge.  He needed that put to get him into better position for Friday, yet he lipped it out.


I was standing 20 feet away, with a good look at the line, and it wasn’t a tricky putt – not for me, let alone Tiger.  More to the point, It was exactly the kind of putt he used to bury 99½ times out of 100.


If you watched the highlights on the Golf Channel, it surely wasn’t the only formerly sure-thing putt Tiger missed during his first round.  Same thing at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and the Memorial before that, and...


None of this is news to Tiger.  "I putted awful," he said after his round Thursday.   You can say that again.


If Tiger is going to get his mojo back, the putter is the key.

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Aronimink GC  
Tiger isnít hosting, but it feels like he is... sort of
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
By Joe Logan

If Tiger Woods’ image is at a rock bottom, you wouldn’t know it from the reception he is getting at the AT&T National at Aronimink GC.


Not only did Tiger have the largest following during Wednesday’s pro-am, around the golf course he was greeted with applause and pre-scandal respect and awe.  No catcalls, no hoots or hollers, no thumbs-down, no embarrassing banners being towed overhead behind airplanes.


It almost feels like Tiger is still the host of the tournament, despite the fact that he was famously dumped by communications giant AT&T at the wake of his personal life meltdown and his name was scrubbed from the tournament.


On Tuesday, Tiger was ushered into the media center for his pre-tournament press conference, which felt no less official than when did them as the host of the three previous AT&T Nationals at Congressional CC in Bethesda, Md.


And late yesterday morning, Tiger was seated front and center at the tournament’s opening ceremonies on the back lawn behind Aronimink GC’s ornate clubhouse.  He was right there with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and rocker Jon Bon Jovi.


So confusing is his role here this week that earlier today CBS Sports, which will  broadcast the tournament Saturday and Sunday, issued a press release headlined:





Minutes later the network sent out a corrective press release:






Of course, whether Tiger is hosting or defending doesn’t seem to much matter to golf fans.  All they seem to care about is that they’re finally getting to see the No. 1 golfer in the flesh. 

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Tiger at AT&T National media day 
Except for Tiger, Sean and Furyk, AT&T field is so-so
Monday, June 28, 2010
By Joe Logan

Not to rain on the parade that is this week’s AT&T National at Aronimink GC, but have you checked out the field?


It’s so-so, at best. 


Tiger, golf’s star attraction, will be here, thank heavens, despite having been dumped from his endorsement deal with title sponsor AT&T over his recent peccadillo.  If you are wondering why he would bother, it’s because the tournament is actually run by the Tiger Woods Foundation.


Besides Tiger, hometown favorite and Aronimink member Sean O’Hair is also in the field, as are semi-hometown favorite Jim Furyk, 2009 U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, three-time major champion Vijay Singh and rookie sensation Rickie Fowler.


Other rising stars (and fading stars) of note in the field include suddenly-hot Ricky Barnes, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Justin Leonard, Jeff Maggert, Lee Janzen, Webb Simpson, Rocco Mediate and Davis Love III.


After that, things get ho-hum in a hurry. It is surely not to be confused with the powerhouse field we saw two weeks ago at the U.S. Open, or even the quality of fields that flock to top-tier non-majors, such as the Memorial Tournament or the Quail Hollow Championship.


With the exception of Tiger, the AT&T National field is more like what you’d expect see at a second- or even third-tier tournament on the PGA Tour, say, the Valero Texas Open or the just-ended Travelers Championship.


Most notably absent is Phil Mickelson, the popular and flamboyant No. 2-ranked player in the world. He has played in only one of the three AT&T Nationals, and it seems to be permanently off his schedule.  He is headed to Europe this week to prepare for next week’s The Barclays, followed by the British Open.


But Phil is hardly the only big-name no-show for the AT&T.  Of the Top 10 players in the World Golf Rankings, the only two who will be here are Tiger (No. 1) and Furyk (No. 5).


Also absent are Lee Westwood (No. 3), Tiger pal Steve Stricker (No. 4), Ernie Els (No. 6) Englishmen Luke Donald (No. 7), Paul Casey (No. 8) Ian Poulter (No. 9) and up and coming Irishman Rory McIlory (No. 10).


Other players who won’t be here include Camilio Villegas, Retief Goosen, Geoff Ogilvy, Matt Kuchar, Stewart Cink, Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott.


The question is why?


Is the Fourth of July week a lousy date on the calendar, when players want to be home with their families?  Is it because the tournament is sandwiched between the U.S Open and the British Open?  Is it because of the two-year move from Congressional CC in Bethesda, Md., to Aronimink GC, a course the players don’t know?  Could it be because of Tiger’s fallen status?


To be sure, whatever it is, it is not the fault of Aronimink GC, one of the elite clubs and courses in Philadelphia, which has done all that was asked of it.


It will be interesting to see how golf fans and sports fans in general support the tournament this week.  In 2002, when the PGA Tour was licking its wounds from the lukewarm reception to the SEI Pennsylvania Classic at Wayneborough CC, I recall a conversation I had with a top Tour official.


He said, "Well, we learned one thing from this:  Don’t bother to come back to Philadelphia unless you bring your A-game."


Eight years later, the Tour is back with an A-game tournament but a B-game field.


What’s disappointing is that, because the PGA Tour has been gone from Philadelphia for so long, and because of the AT&T National’s connection to Tiger, it would have been nice to have a cavalcade of stars. It would have been nice to be able to demonstrate to the PGA Tour that Philadelphia is such a golf town that it’s crazy not to give this city a regular annual Tour stop.


That could still happen, and let’s hope it does.  But the depth of the field this week won’t make it any easier.

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Ed[6/28/2010 1:24:04 PM]
Good blog. There wonít be a lot of star power at Aronimink. Iím going anyway.

Tiger and Stevie 
Is Steve Williams a goner?
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
By Joe Logan

If Tiger Woods is true to form, we may have just seen the beginning of the end for caddie Stevie Williams.


In you missed it, in his interview after the final round of the U.S. Open on Sunday, in which he shot 75 and failed to mount any kind of charge, Tiger did something he never does:


He blamed Stevie.


Not totally, of course, but for a crucial club selection and plan of attack when it really mattered, at Pebble Beach’s 10th.


"I fired at the pin on 10," Tiger said Sunday. "Steve said take dead aim right at it, and in my heart I said no. There was no chance. I have a sand wedge in my hand, and I can't play at that flag."


That quote speaks volumes.  For one thing, Tiger always refers to Williams, his longtime and deeply loyal caddie, in the more familiar "Stevie." For another, no matter what goes wrong in a round, Tiger has never laid so much as a hint of blame at anybody else’s feet.


If Williams is indeed out or on the way out, we’ll probably know soon enough – perhaps as soon as next week’s AT&T National at Aronimink GC.


It will interesting to see if Williams is on Tiger’s bag at the AT&T.  Even if he is not, an announcement or full and candid explanation is unlikely.  Williams’ absence would more likely be explained away as him taking a week off to take care of some business back home in New Zealand.


If Williams is a goner, it would also mean that Camp Tiger, which was already a tiny inner circle of advisors and intimates – most notably agent Mark Steinberg, PR man Glenn Greenspan and Williams -- just got even smaller.


The trail of cast-offs in Tiger’s wake is already big.  There was his first agent, Hughes Norton, caddie Mike "Fluff" Cowan and swing coaches Butch Harmon and, more recently, Hank Haney.


In the case of Haney, Tiger didn’t even need to officially fire him.  He simply gave him the cold shoulder for a few weeks.  Hank got the message loud and clear and quit by text message.


If Stevie senses he’s out, my guess is he would do the same.  He may have earned an image as a gruff bully as he tried to protect Tiger at tournaments, but Williams is his own man.  Nor was he at all happy to learn of the double life Tiger had been leading right under his nose.


In 12 years on Tiger’s bag, Williams has made millions and he is presumably financially set.  He also has plenty of other interests, especially auto racing.  He could walk away and live a full life back home, with his fellow Kiwis.

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