Tour Confidential: Tiger Woods’ week, Jordan Spieth’s DQ and shanks

1. Tiger Woods, making his first PGA Tour start since the Masters last April, withdrew after hitting his tee shot on the 7th hole during the second round of the Genesis Invitational, disclosing later that he had the flu. The 15-time major winner’s exit threw a jolt into Riviera Country Club, with two fire trucks and an ambulance arriving and exiting before Woods left the property in a car. Notably, a day earlier, Woods had hit a shank, and he blamed the mishit on a back spasm. What’s your read on how his week concluded?

 

 This was a weird one. Flu symptoms don’t usually necessitate the arrival of two fire trucks and an ambulance, right? We often get only the bare minimum from Tiger when it comes to details on his health. That’s obviously his right, but it seems like there must have been more to this. At the end of the day, he says he’s recovering, so that’s the best we can ask for, I guess. A definite bummer to not have him around for the weekend.

 

 For the limited amount we did see on Thursday, Woods looked pretty good except for the shank on 18, but at this point in his professional career, and based on his health issues, I think every day is a complete roll of the dice. Considering he had an extremely busy schedule this week with hosting the event and launching Sun Day Red (which I know we’ll get to in a moment), things can add up and take a toll. We all know the only thing he’s probably concerned about at the moment is the Masters, so taking the WD here and going home is probably the best way to recover. 

 

 It was a big week for Tiger and his team, given the release of his Sun Day Red line and his hosting of the Genesis. Given the schedule, golf sort of became a secondary focus, in my opinion. Sure, it was probably a PR nightmare that he had to withdraw with the illness, but what did anyone really expect from him on the course anyway? I don’t think he would’ve been competing to win the tournament, so he accomplished his main agenda — which was the new line and some publicity.

 

2. On to Woods’ game. Before the WD, he played his first round on Thursday and completed six holes on Friday. Thursday’s round featured five birdies, six bogeys — and the shank on the 18th hole. In the limited action, were you left feeling encouraged by Woods’ play, or discouraged? 

 

 

Barath: Being able to make that many birdies is very encouraging because it means he was hitting quality approach shots and putting himself in good spots off the tee. Bogeys come down to saving shots, and the short game was a bit rusty, which I believe is just as simple as getting in competitive reps, as Tiger likes to say. 

 

Marksbury: The game seems OK to me. The real question seems to be his stamina for four long rounds of PGA Tour competition. I hope his ambitious comeback schedule ends up working in his favor as the season progresses.

 

Dimengo: When it comes to Woods the golfer, I think it’s officially time to adjust our expectations. Not only is he now 48, but, as Marksbury mentioned, I worry about Tiger’s stamina over the course of a tournament. Going two or four days is one thing, but what about all the practice and time on the range (not to mention his own recovery)? We all root for Woods to perform well and, maybe, rediscover some magic. But I have yet to truly see any indication he still has gas left in the tank.

 

3. On to Woods’ new threads. On Monday, he fully revealed his new Sun Day Red brand, and when he played Thursday, it marked the first time he had not played under the Nike umbrella in 27 years. Sun Day Red — created in partnership with TaylorMade, which has backed Woods since 2017 — will include a host of articles of clothing, and it will launch to the public on May 1. From what you’ve seen, what’s your takeaway from the new brand? 

 

 

Barath: Tiger resonates with golfers, and even if you aren’t a golfer, there is a very good chance you know who Tiger Woods is — so from a branding and marketing perspective, Sun Day Red could be a big win for both Tiger and TaylorMade. Does the world of golf need another company selling $100 polos and $200 cashmere hoodies? I honestly have no idea, but what I do know is that it had people talking — and likely ready to line up for a few pieces once it becomes available. 

 

Marksbury: Tiger has always had a classic sense of style and has always looked great on the course. Sun Day Red seems to be following in that vein. I liked the monochrome look on Thursday, and the Friday throwback was super cool. I don’t expect to see anything too showy or out there in terms of trends, but no matter what the line produces, I’m pretty sure anything associated with him will be a success. I REALLY wish Sun Day was one word, though!

 

Dimengo: Like Jess said, I wouldn’t expect too much flash or anything eccentric from Woods’ new line. It’ll be classic threads that golfers will probably flock to given Woods’ stamp of approval. Then again, golf fashion has changed a lot in the past five years alone, so there’s stiffer competition in terms of market share and fun, unique designs.

 

4. In another wild scene, Jordan Spieth was disqualified after the Genesis’ second round after signing for an incorrect score. (On Riviera’s 4th hole, he had made a four, but he signed for a three.) Of course, this has happened before, but the exit of one of the Tour’s stars from one of its biggest events was a stunner. Our question is: With the technology available, should the rules be adjusted for the pros? 

 

 

Barath: This needs to end now! With so much gambling involved in the sport, the PGA Tour can’t have a mistake made by a pencil lead a player being DQ’d from an event. This isn’t some rec-league pickup game where players have to call out fouls; this is the highest level of professional golf, and because of that, the league should be fully responsible for keeping track of scores, plain and simple.

 

Marksbury: At the end of the day, keeping a scorecard is part of the game. It should be a no-brainer, but I understand mistakes happen. A DQ does seem overly severe. I’d be in favor of something like a two-shot penalty instead.

 

Dimengo: Spieth DQ’ing does no good for anyone (sponsors, fans, the overall event). So, yes, make some new rules and just penalize a player for a mistake rather than booting them from the tourney. Other sports have gotten with the times and incorporated technology for the good of the game; it’s golf’s turn to do the same.

 

5. The Genesis itself was potentially a peek into the PGA Tour’s future, as our James Colgan detailed in a piece that you can read here. The tournament was the Tour’s third “Signature Event” this year. Wrote Colgan: “In some ways, the PGA Tour’s Signature Events series was built exactly for Hollywood’s pro golf tournament, the Genesis Invitational. There’s a huge, high-profile sponsor (Genesis); a living legend tournament host (Tiger Woods); a historically exclusive and highly-regarded golf course (Riviera Country Club) and one of the best fields in all of professional golf. If the Tour’s new format for Signature Events — starry fields, limited (or no) cuts, lots of money — can’t work here, it’s hard to imagine where it can.” So, did the tournament deliver? Is the Signature series working?

 

 

Barath: Have Signature Events put more of the top players together more often? 100%. Have they put more money into the pockets of top players? 100% Have they delivered the kinds of historic finishes that people will be talking about for decades? Not quite, but that’s what happens in golf when you have a field of players that are all very talented and have the ability to win. Now with all that said, Hideki delivered on Sunday with a 62 so that was great to watch. 

 

Marksbury: Well said, Ryan. The advent of LIV has desensitized me somewhat to outsize purses, but I do like the Signature Events. It’s nice to have a cluster of tournaments outside of the major championships where you’re guaranteed to watch a star-studded field, even if the biggest names happen to underperform in a given week.

 

Dimengo: These two nailed it with their replies, so I don’t have much to really add. As a golf fan, I always want to see the best players competing on the biggest stages (with a surprise every now and again). If that requires a Signature Event and a bigger purse, so be it.

 

6. All right, back to the Woods shank. What was the most shocking shot you’ve seen in person?

 

Barath: Beyond a couple holes-in-one at professional events, the truly most shocking shot I ever saw in person was from Tiger at the Presidents Cup in Montreal many years ago. It was the first day of competition and I waited along the railing on the first tee for hours in the cold and rain to watch him hit a shot in person for the first time — and after all of the build-up, he half-skyed his fairway wood about 225 yards down the fairway, and I just kinda stood there in disbelief. I’ll never forget that.

 

Marksbury: This wasn’t “shocking,” per se, but I think about it all the time. I was walking the course at my first Masters, way back when. I moseyed over to the par-3 4th to watch a random, way-out-of-contention group. All three players hit awful shots and missed the green by a mile. But then, all three players got up and down for par. I was amazed. It was the first time I got to observe just how good the pros are around the green. Those second shots were not easy, but they made it look routine. It was also a lesson in perspective. We tend to think the pros hit perfect shots all the time, but they hit plenty of bad ones too. They are simply masters of recovery. Aspirational! 

 

Dimengo: I referenced this in a recent article about hole-in-one probability, but the most shocking shot I’ve witnessed live was an ace from a beginning player on a par-3 course last summer. On a 115-yard hole, as he hit his ball, it rolled about 50 yards, skipped a little bit more on the grass, passed over the front edge of the green — and it just beelined right into the cup. Yep, he just got a hole in one — and maybe the most improbable one at that!

 

 

Gideon Canice

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