TIGER THINKS HE 'ABSOLUTELY' CAN STILL BREAK NICKLAUS' MAJOR RECORD

CYBERSPACE, AUGUST 28, 2010
(YAHO NEWS) By Shane Bacon - For all the numbers that are tossed around on the golf course, the one that matters, that truly matters, is 19. That's the number of major championships Tiger Woods will have to win to surpass Jack Nicklaus as the all-time majors winner. It is a number that seemed insulting to Tiger when he was pulling in majors by the handful at the turn of the century, but as things have slowed, it seems further and further away.

Tiger is currently sitting at 14, and although some people feel he has no chance of reaching that number, he does, and admitted it on Thursday at the Barclays.

Asked after his post-round news conference if he still believes he will break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles, Woods told ESPNNewYork.com, "Absolutely."

"I look at it this way," Woods said. "[Ben] Hogan won all nine of his [majors] at my age and older. I think for every kid out there, the goal is to get there. That is the benchmark in our sport, and that's still my goal."

I think you can take his point two ways. The first is going to be the crowd that screams about a Hogan comparison, since he won his majors in the '40s and '50s when golf was a totally different beast, but why not use a modern comparison, like Phil Mickelson.

People stand on soapboxes and yell about Tiger's age, and how he is 34 and past his prime. The thing is, Mickelson didn't start winning majors until he was 33, and has claimed four in the last six years. He's 40 now, and still very much a threat to take down a few more before his career is done. Also, Nicklaus won majors up to the age of 46, and we had a 59-year-old Tom Watson nearly sneak out of Turnberry with a British Open a year ago.

Is it likely that in 20 years, Tiger will be competing at majors? No, I'm not saying that. What I am saying is that yes, it seems that at 34, Tiger can still win five majors before his career comes to a close. We've seen him win majors in bunches before, and while he is in a major slump (his last win was at the '08 U.S. Open), he still finished in the top five twice this season, with a chance at both the Masters and U.S. Open.

I'm sure that every major that passes without Tiger winning means Jack steps a little closer to that chilled champagne, similar to the '72 Dolphins when the last undefeated team is about to drop a game, but I still think Woods will get to 19 before it is all said and done.

At the Barclay's: Tiger looks like the Tiger of old By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer

PARAMUS, N.J. (AP)—A season filled with “worsts” finally gave way to a couple of “firsts” for Tiger Woods.

By missing only one fairway and having a birdie putt on all but two holes, Woods began the FedEx Cup playoffs with a 6-under 65 for a share of the lead with Vaughn Taylor after one round at The Barclays.

It was the first time in 335 days that he found his name atop the leaderboard on the PGA Tour.

It was the first time in 12 rounds, dating to the opening round at St. Andrews six weeks ago, that he broke 70.

It was the first time since the 2006 British Open at Royal Liverpool that he hit 3-wood on every par 5, an example of Woods choosing to navigate his way smartly around Ridgewood Country Club in soft conditions.

It was the first time he played a round without ever seeing anyone in front of him on the golf course, courtesy of being so far down in the FedEx Cup standings (No. 112) that he was in the first group off Thursday morning.

The first time he hit the ball so well?

Not quite.

But it sure felt that way.

“It’s exciting to hit the ball flush like this again,” Woods said. “It’s something I’ve been missing all year. I haven’t hit it flush. And it felt good to hit the ball and shape it both ways and really hit it through the wind. I’ve hit so many shots this year that haven’t been hit flush enough to get through the wind. But today, I was doing it all day.”

The next step, and perhaps a more important step, is where he goes from here.

It might have been sheer coincidence that Woods finally looked like the No. 1 player in his first competitive round since his divorce on Monday. There is not much left to say about his car crash after Thanksgiving night, the sex scandal that dominated supermarket tabloids, his five-month break from the game, his worst 36-hole score and worst 72-hole score in his PGA Tour career, and the end of his marriage.

It was all about his golf on a sunny day in northern New Jersey, and the news was good for a change.

Did he feel a weight lifted from his shoulders?

“I can’t really say that’s the case,” Woods said. “As far as golf, it was nice to put it together.”

It started with a simple 3-wood down the middle of the opening hole, a pitching wedge that landed 20 feet behind the hole and spun back on the spongy green to 15 feet below the cup, and the confident stride toward the hole when the birdie putt disappeared.

He made birdie on a par 5—that’s news these days.

On one of the two holes where he hit driver—the par-4 fifth, measuring 291 yards—it was so flawless that his tee shot landed some 10 feet left of the flag and settled 15 feet away for a two-putt birdie.

Woods didn’t miss a green until the 11th hole, and while he dropped his only shot from a fairway bunker on No. 12, he recovered quickly with a birdie on the 13th, and a 6-iron that plopped down 2 feet from the cup.

Woods and Taylor both played in the morning, when the greens were smooth and the conditions were only breezy. They had a one-shot lead over Adam Scott, Brian Gay and Ryan Palmer. Scott played in the afternoon, where a gust of wind played tricks on him at the final hole and led to bogey.

Scott endured a long day in the pro-am Wednesday and didn’t think Ridgewood would serve up a 65 to anyone.

“Seeing some good scores this morning made me change my mind,” he said.

That one of those scores belonged to Woods was hardly a surprise.

“For him to piece things together can’t be too hard,” Scott said. “He’s very good.”

The 65 was his lowest score in 46 rounds, dating to a 62 in the BMW Championship last year. Taylor grinned when asked if he was surprised to see Woods’ name on the leaderboard.

“Somewhat, you know?” he said. “It’s good to see him back up top.”

With sunshine and a light breeze, conditions were ripe for scoring. Palmer had a chance to join the leaders until a three-putt bogey on the 18th put him at 66. Even though the greens became bumpy in the afternoon after so much foot traffic, the course was soft enough to allow for good scores. There were 14 players who shot 67, including Davis Love III, defending champion Heath Slocum and Stewart Cink.

Phil Mickelson, with his ninth chance in the past four months to replace Woods at No. 1 in the world, made only one birdie for a 72.

For Woods, the timing could not have been better.

Only the top 100 in the FedEx Cup standings advance to the second round of the playoffs next week in the Deutsche Bank Championship. Woods at least needs to make the cut, then finish in the middle of the pack. He had a better solution.

“I figure if I win, I should be OK,” Woods said.

For one of the few times this year, he gave himself ample reason to believe that.

Tiger Woods on his divorce: sadness, not relief By Jay Busbee

As soon as the news that the Tiger Woods/Elin Nordegren marriage was over, the jokes began flying about exactly what Tiger would be doing with all his newfound free time.

Turns out he's not throwing a party, at least not publicly. Speaking at the Barclays, where he's scheduled to tee off in the first round of the PGA Tour Playoffs on Thursday, Woods described what he's going through as a "sad time" in his life.

With Elin Nordegren's side of the story dominating headlines and airwaves, the topic of the press conference hung in the air as the media danced around like a nervous freshman about to ask a senior cheerleader out on a date.

(Samples: "How did you play?" Tiger: "I played better." "Drive well today?" "I did." "How many drivers will you hit out there?" "It depends.")

And much like that hypothetical nervous freshman, once some media member screwed up the courage to ask the big question, he (or she) went too far:

Q. "Tiger, in today's People Magazine Elin describes the end of your marriage like a death where she feels grief, she hopes to forgive one day. I'm wondering, do you still love her?"

What? What kind of a question is that? "Do you still love her?" Look, I'm all for a little bit of Tiger Woods off-course news -- certainly, we've run our share here -- but asking if he still loves her seems, well ... a bit creepy. Woods replied:

"I wish her the best in everything. You know, it's a sad time in our lives. And we're looking forward to -- in our lives and how we can help our kids the best way we possibly can. And that's the most important thing."

Yes. Yes, it is. Good to see that he -- oh, wait, there was a followup?

Q. "Do you still love her?"

Jeez. OK, Tiger, your turn:

"That's the most important thing."

For once, I agree with Robo-Tiger's dismissal. That's just not even a question that warrants a response. Other media members pursued lines of questioning that were of a little higher caliber than notes passed from desk to desk in middle school. When asked the degree to which his off-course troubles have affected his marriage, he replied:

"Being asked questions all the time, even after -- even as the tournaments are going I've been asked questions while we're playing," he said. "And that's always difficult. And especially when I'm trying to work on a few things, trying to find shots in order to get around the golf course, and to have to talk about other things [is difficult]." He conceded that concentration has been tricky with all around him.

Still, the news of the divorce is an occasion for sadness, not relief, because "you don't ever go into a marriage looking to get divorced." Obvious, but still true.

"My actions certainly led us to this decision," Woods later said. "And I've certainly made a lot of errors in my life, and that's something I'm going to have to live with."

Day 1 of Tiger's post-marriage professional life begins Thursday at the Barclays. [Follow Shane Bacon on Twitter at @shanebacon.]


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