|ESPN.com: Golf||[Print without images]|
When Annika Sorenstam was still active -- and maybe even now that she's retired -- Tiger Woods would send her a text message after each major championship victory, a playful reminder that he held an advantage over his top-ranked friend on the LPGA circuit.
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
On six occasions during their careers, Roger Federer won a Grand Slam on the same day Tiger Woods took home a PGA Tour victory.
When Roger Federer won Wimbledon on Sunday, though, there could be no such gloating from Camp Woods. The tennis master now leads his PGA Tour buddy by a score of 15-14 in overall major victories, leaving Tiger to simply text from the Congressional Country Club practice range prior to his final round: "Great job. Now it's my turn."
Though Woods insisted "my turn" was in reference to winning the AT&T National later in the afternoon, it could have served as a warning that the man still stuck -- if such a word even applies -- on 14 major titles is ready to once again match his buddy in that category.
As if that wasn't warning enough, there was the final result, too.
Some five hours after Federer vanquished Andy Roddick in an epic final match, Woods overcame a furious final-round flurry from Hunter Mahan to prevail at the AT&T. As the Weekly 18 begins, the parallels between the two men hardly end there.
Little-known fact: Tiger Woods employs a swing coach named Federer and Roger Federer has an instructor named Woods.
Just kidding, of course, but there are some curious coincidences between the two great champions -- not the least of which is that they always happen to win on the same day. Since 2003, TW has now won six titles on the same Sunday during which Fed claimed a Grand Slam title, including twice already this year.
And don't think Tiger hasn't taken notice.
"He won the French [Open] and I won Memorial, so it was kind of let's do it on the same day, let's do it again today. That would be nice," Woods said of his correspondence with Federer. "His are a hell of a lot bigger than mine, though. He won two Slams and I won two tour events. Hopefully I can get the majors now."
Woods' next appearance will come at the British Open beginning on July 16, where he will attempt to match Federer's total again. Much as the tennis star's victory hardly came in a walkover, though, expect another challenge for Tiger. It should be noted that he has now won three events hosted by legendary golfers this year -- the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament and his own AT&T National. In each instance, those conquests came in his final start before a major championship and each time he was the prevailing choice to back it up with another win his next time out.
Instead, he parlayed each of those previous victories into T-6 finishes at the year's first two majors. Perhaps that's why Woods was so cautious in discussing his upcoming attempt to match Federer.
"Our playing careers [are] a little bit longer than theirs, so I've got one good thing there," he said with a laugh. "But 15 is -- he is the greatest player that's ever played. I've talked to Pete [Sampras] about it, and it's just one of those things where he's so good on any surface. It doesn't matter. If [Rafael] Nadal wasn't around, he'd probably be the best clay courter on the planet. It's pretty impressive what he's done and the humbleness he's done it with."
This may be the biggest difference between the comparable careers of Woods and Federer. During the Tiger Era, there has been no Nadal, no one player who can give Woods a run for his money each and every time, but there are scores of others who can beat him on any given week.
No doubt the talk shows will wage debates over "Which player is better?" throughout the week, but I think I'll sit this one out. Each is pretty unbelievable in his own right and you can't go wrong picking one over the other.
As for Tiger's opinion, I asked him two years ago to name the world's best athlete. His response? "Ronaldinho."
When prodded to name his own place on that list, he stated with a smile, "Well, somewhere in the top billion."
I'm guessing Roger Federer may have a similar answer if asked, but on Sunday -- once again -- both he and Tiger Woods looked like world-beaters.
2 Hunter Mahan.
After shooting a final-round 3-under 67 to win the AT&T National by a single stroke, Tiger Woods was asked about the 8-under 62 fired by Mahan, who teed off 80 minutes before the final pairing, in the ninth-to-last twosome of the day.
"I don't know what course he was playing," Woods said, then let out a little laugh that would have been all the more nervous had he dropped one more shot during his own round.
Mahan's final-round total at Congressional -- yes, he did indeed play that course -- was 4 strokes better than anyone else in the field Sunday and tied Anthony Kim's opening-round score as the best of the week and a new course record.
"I've got a lot of confidence in what I'm doing and the player I'm turning into," Mahan said afterward. "I feel like I can win every tournament that I play in, so that's always a good feeling."
On the PGA Tour, Lucas Glover has been rewarded for honoring his post-U.S. Open commitments so far, with a T-11 at the Travelers Championship and T-5 at the AT&T National. He's my pick to keep it going at this week's John Deere Classic.
On the European Tour, I'll go out on a limb and say that Robert Allenby's struggles to close out tournaments won't transfer from the U.S. across the Atlantic. After all, since his last PGA Tour win in 2001, he's won five times worldwide.
On the LPGA Tour, she may still be upset with a playoff loss at the Jamie Farr, but Morgan Pressel is a proven U.S. Women's Open type of player and I'll go with her to pick up career major No. 2 at Saucon Valley.
Consider it a surprise that Mahan still owns just a single PGA Tour victory -- the 2007 Travelers Championship. At this one, though, the ball was in Tiger's court down the stretch, as Mahan finished his round while Woods was still stalking a potential birdie putt on No. 11.
It made for some interesting clubhouse conversation when he retired there to grab some lunch and watch the back nine unfold.
"It was funny, I was watching with [Woods' wife] Elin and the kids and stuff, and then when he missed on 14, I yelled, 'Yes!' in a joking manner," Mahan recalled. "It wasn't like I was rooting against him, but it was just funny because you usually don't see him miss putts."
Before you get your knickers in a bunch, read that last paragraph again -- especially the phrase "in a joking manner." Mahan ensured reporters afterward that it was all in good fun.
Next up for Mahan is the British Open, of which he states he's "really looking forward to." And don't count him out. In the year's first two majors, three players have finished in the top 10 each time. Two of 'em are Woods and Phil Mickelson. The third is Hunter Mahan.
3 Bryce Molder.
What in the world has gotten into the former Georgia Tech star? A four-time first-team All-America and three-time ACC Player of the Year, Molder seemed destined for greatness as an amateur, but has struggled since turning pro back in 2001.
In his debut PGA Tour season of 2002, Molder finished 151st on the money list. In his second trip around the big leagues, he was 185th. It appears the third time may be the charm, though, as he's already locked up his card for next season with close to $1 million in earnings so far.
This was hardly the case six weeks ago. In his first seven starts of the season, Molder missed the cut five times and was languishing well below the Mendoza Line on the money list. Since then, though, he has finished T-23 (Byron Nelson Championship), T-2 (St. Jude Classic), T-19 (Travelers Championship) and T-4 (AT&T National).
There's another byproduct of such success, too. Not only will Molder return to the PGA Tour in 2010, but his recent streak was enough to qualify him for the upcoming British Open. It will be his first appearance at a major championship since missing the cut at the 2003 U.S. Open.
4 Wayne Gretzky.
The hockey legend will play host to the second annual Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic this week, a Nationwide Tour event contested at The Georgian Bay Club in Clarksburg, Ontario.
In advance of the tournament, I spoke with No. 99 via telephone on Friday. First question: Your hockey nickname was The Great One; if you had a nickname in golf, what would it be?
"The Bad One!" he said with a laugh, though Gretzky quickly intimated that such a moniker wouldn't bother him all that much. The man with 894 goals and 1,963 assists in 1,487 career NHL games lives near Sherwood CC in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and though he enjoys teeing it up, five children and a role as managing partner and head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes doesn't leave for much practice time.
I tried to see if I could get him to bite on his career as a golfer as opposed to that of a hockey player. Would he give back one of his Stanley Cup victories if he could, say, shoot 68 at Augusta National? Nope. How about 100 career goals? Uh-uh.
Gretzky told me his handicap varies from high single digits to mid-double digits, depending on how much he's been playing. That's a far cry from the 1981 Canadian Open Pro-Am, when as a neophyte golfer he led off on the first tee by clunking a young spectator in the head, sending him to the hospital for a few days. Fact is, Gretzky was a lefty in hockey, but plays golf right-handed -- sort of the anti-Mickelson.
How come? One simple reason, he said: "Economics." Without much funding to buy clubs as a youngster, he was left to play with whatever sticks were available and those were all righties. Even to this day, he believes he'd be a better player had he started as a lefty and even tried putting from that side a few years ago, thanks to a tip from fellow Canadian Mike Weir.
Speaking of golf's second-most-popular lefty, Gretzky credits Weir for giving north of the border youngsters another sport to aim for other than hockey. But what about the ex-Masters champ's proficiency in that "other" national pastime?
"I wouldn't pay to watch Mike play hockey," Gretzky said, "and he wouldn't pay to watch me play golf."
Much like his own golf game, Gretzky doesn't have bigger aspirations for his Nationwide tournament. I asked him if he'd someday like to turn it into a PGA Tour event and he was vehement in his opinion that it should remain an outlet for up-and-comers and many of the top Canadian Tour players.
Expect another intriguing tourney once again this week in Ontario, where the champion will receive one of the coolest trophies in golf: A hockey sweater. How appropriate.
5 Anthony Kim.
In the pre-U.S. Open edition of the W18, Kim was put on the Hot Seat and offered some interesting opinions of Tiger Woods.
"Most people don't know that he can't talk trash as well as he thinks," said the brash 24-year-old, who called himself "absolutely" a better trash-talker than Woods.
Asked whether he would jaw with Tiger if they were to be paired together in the final round of a big tournament, AK said, "I would have to wait until we got done or right before we teed off for me to say anything. But inside the ropes, it would be all business." When I followed up by asking exactly what he'd say to Woods prior to teeing off, Kim replied, "Put your hard hat on."
On Sunday, in the first round -- competitive or otherwise -- in which the two mercurial players were ever paired together, it didn't appear there was any animosity when they shook hands on the opening tee box. On the contrary, it was the gallery members who needed to wear hard hats, as Kim consistently sprayed shots right and left of their intended targets.
If last year's two PGA Tour victories and breakthrough performance at the Ryder Cup served as his coming-out party, the final round of the AT&T National could have signified Kim's readiness to join the world's ultra-elite. Instead, he shot a middling 1-over 71, finishing 4 strokes behind his playing partner, in sole possession of third place.
The kid's game looked shaky and even his much ballyhooed confidence level appeared a bit rocked after the round.
"I know I can play at the highest level," Kim said. "I feel like I'm one of the top players in the world. I just need to go out there and take care of those careless mistakes. I made a couple early. Unfortunately I didn't make the right decisions. I swung a little bit harder than I had to trying to cover a tree that I wasn't really even paying attention to. I have to get better on my decision making and definitely improve my putting a little bit."
As for playing with Woods, Kim maintained that the pairing on this grand stage wasn't the reason he didn't fare better.
"Tiger obviously wins for a reason. He makes the putts when he needs to. Unfortunately they didn't drop for me today," he continued. "I don't really care what he's doing. I mean, it's about me staying focused on my game, and for the most part I did stay focused. I just didn't get the ball in the hole. ... I wasn't watching him so much, but I have seen him dissect a golf course. He's done it to perfection in many tournaments. Now I just need to go and learn. I'll learn a lot from this event, and I'm taking a lot of positives away."
That's a mature stance for a player not always accused of such thoughtfulness. Expect him to feed off this learning experience and -- someday -- thrive when he gets into this situation with Woods once again.
6 Curse of the No. 3.
Interesting theory proffered by the Golf Channel folks this week, in which it was stated that 3 may indeed be a magic number -- because it makes players disappear.
One year ago, Adam Scott was the third-ranked player In the Official World Golf Ranking. Since then, his game has taken a terrific turn for the worse, dropping all the way to his current standing of 45th.
Following his third major victory in six attempts at last year's PGA Championship, Padraig Harrington held the No. 3 position. Not anymore, however, as he has failed to finish in the top 10 in all 13 U.S.-based starts this season and has tumbled outside the top 10 in the OWGR, too.
Is Paul Casey the latest casualty of the No. 3 spot? The man currently behind only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson was 41st entering the season, but made a monumental move thanks to a Shell Houston Open win and WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship runner-up in the U.S. and victories at Abu Dhabi and Wentworth on the European circuit.
Recently, though, the mighty Casey is striking out, with a T-63 at the Memorial Tournament (including a final-round 78), an MC at the U.S. Open (his first at that event since 2004) and an MC at this week's AT&T National (a dozen bogeys in 36 total holes).
"I haven't spent too much time worrying or taking notice of the rankings," Casey said prior to the U.S. Open. "I've always looked at World Ranking points; certainly World Ranking points accumulated in the year is sort of a nice measure of how I've been playing. And clearly I've accumulated a lot so far this year. But the actual No. 3 ranking is not something that I've worried too much about. And I don't think it's going to be a hindrance too much."
That hasn't exactly been the case for Casey so far, but he can take heart in one thing: No. 4-ranked Kenny Perry is hot on his heels and may replace him of his No. 3 duties fairly soon.
7 Paula Creamer.
Long considered a logical choice to win multiple U.S. Women's Open titles in her career, Creamer may not be at full strength heading to Saucon Valley this week.
The Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic defending champion withdrew prior to Thursday's opening round due to a sore left thumb on which she received cortisone shots twice earlier in the week, one week after bowing out of the Wegmans LPGA after just one round. Though Creamer maintains she will compete in this week's Open, she will no doubt be hampered in part by this injury.
Prior to this ailment, it was shaping up as another stellar season for the eight-time LPGA champ. Though she had yet to win, Creamer owned a runner-up finish and three other third-place results, with nothing worse than a T-39 in the last 10 events she completed.
Creamer has owned plenty of success at USGA tourneys in the past. She finished 19th or better in each of the past five editions of the U.S. Women's Open, including a share of sixth place last year. As an amateur, she was on the victorious Curtis Cup team and a semifinalist at both the U.S. Women's Amateur and U.S. Junior Girls' Championship.
8 I wish this week's winners would come from the ranks of those already unqualified for the upcoming British Open.
Call me a golf romantic, but I love the notion of a player gutting out a victory in the Quad Cities, then scrambling to find his passport and hop a flight to Scotland in a whirlwind journey to compete in the year's third major championship at Turnberry.
Or the much less poetic scenario that involves a guy winning the Scottish Open ... and subsequently extending his rental car agreement for an extra week.
In either proposal, a victory the week before the British Open would mean so much more for a player under these circumstances than one who was already qualified, simply hoping to use the win as a springboard to greater success at the next event.
Not that this week's champions can't employ their triumphs in similar fashion, as those who have claimed the John Deere Classic have played well across the pond in recent years, too. Though 2008 champ Kenny Perry, who was already exempt into the Open, chose to remain in the U.S., Jonathan Byrd ('07), John Senden ('06) and Sean O'Hair ('05) each parlayed wins into results of 35th or better the next week.
And yes, I know that the highest non-qualified finisher in the top-five at either event will earn a trip to the year's third major, but it will be more fun coming from someone who earned the trip by reaching the winner's circle.
Could a non-qualified player ever win the Deere or the Scottish, then pull off the double by claiming the Claret Jug just a few days later? It would be difficult, but I'd love to see 'em have the opportunity.
9 I wish Tiger Woods wasn't such a name-dropper.
The world's most famous active athlete has plenty of popular friends. We already know that. Does he have to keep bringing 'em up?
I kid, of course, but it just so happened that Woods was asked about many other fellow celebrities during his pre-tournament news conference from Congressional. Count along with me ...
• On Barack Obama: "As far as seeing the president this week, I have no plans. I've put out an invite for him to come out here. He's a little bit busy. There might be a couple things on his plate."
• On Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson: "We're very lucky to have him here, to have him come out and Jessica to come out and sing the National Anthem is going to be pretty special for all us. For him to come here to D.C., certainly I didn't realize it was going to be this big a deal. He is a big golf nut and loves to play golf and has tried qualifying for U.S. Opens before and loves to play and understands how to play, and I've always wanted to play with him, and he accepted our invitation to come out and play, which is awfully nice of him."
• On Michael Jordan: "Getting to know Michael over the years has been a lot of fun. I call him my big brother. To be able to call him and pick his brain on anything at any time and we've done that, you know, and he doesn't sleep, like me. So he may give me a call or text and I may give him a call or text at odd hours and we're both up and we'll talk for a while, and that's just something that it's been very special to get to know him, especially when he was playing, see how hard he worked, you know, off the court, away from the cameras, away from the game time."
• On Roger Federer: "We probably text about every day, but what he's doing over there and what he's done throughout his entire career has been pretty phenomenal, just his consistency in the slams, the biggest events, he's always there. Every single Slam he plays, he's in the semifinal or better."
• On Michael Jackson: "I think everyone here was a Michael Jackson fan. One of, probably, if not the greatest entertainer that's ever lived. I know my entire generation was influenced by his music, and you know, just the entertainer and just the songs, we listened to them, whatever. It was always happy. You always wanted to listen to his songs. And his legacy is one as the greatest entertainer, one, I think that his draw, his appeal and his influence and all the artists following him. You watch these guys in how they pay tribute, how they perform, how they dance and how they sing, their mannerisms, look at Usher, Justin Timberlake, their moves. They're Michael's moves."
10 I wish I could have seen Eunjung Yi's victory coming.
The continuing theme of this LPGA season has been unpredictability, from major champions Brittany Lincicome and Anna Nordqvist to tournament sponsors dropping like 2-foot birdie putts, and Sunday's result at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic didn't veer from such a plot.
If you picked Yi to win this tournament, head straight to the nearest Las Vegas sportsbook. And I'm not talking about entering the final round, either, as she owned a 4-stroke 54-hole lead.
After all, here are her results in 10 previous LPGA starts this season: MC, T-53, T-18, T-65, MC, MC, T-26, MC, T-32, MC.
In Sylvania, Ohio, Yi shot a blistering third-round 10-under 61, then held on for dear life Sunday, limping in with an even-par 71 when no one else in the eventual top-29 fared worse and only two others matched that score.
That led to a playoff, where Yi faced Morgan Pressel on the par-5 18th, a hole in which the former made par all four rounds. On the fifth try, though, the 21-year-old Yi rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt to clinch her first career victory against one of the game's top players.
Unpredictable? Yes. But based on the LPGA season to date, we should have predicted that.
Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.
The last player to win three consecutive British Open titles was Peter Thomson more than a half century ago -- and no, I don't believe they used the term "three-peat" back then.
Padraig Harrington has a chance to add his name to that list -- which also includes Tom Morris Jr., Jamie Anderson and Robert Ferguson, each from 1882 or earlier -- next week at Turnberry, but it's hard to see the champ from both Carnoustie and Royal Birkdale coming in as the favorite right now.
Currently undergoing not only swing changes but a revised mental approach to the game as well, Harrington didn't sound confident when he spoke with reporters prior to the Open de France this past week.
"I am running out of time for the Open," he said. "It's important I perform well here because I need to have a certain level of confidence going to Turnberry. I also need to show signs of having control over the ball this week. I'd like to score well but I don't need the results; I just need to play well. The Open is two weeks away and at this stage I still believe I will be ready to play and perform. I am always an optimist when we are talking about future tournaments.
"But it has to start now. I don't believe in turning up one week and just clicking. I have always been a player who needs to show form before I go and win. I have never come out of a situation when I've not been playing well and then won straight away. It's a slow buildup for me, which is why I need to start showing some signs in the next two weeks."
Despite maintaining that he needs to be in solid form if he is to win a title, that hasn't exactly been the case for Harrington during each of the past two years. In his past four major tour starts worldwide prior to Carnoustie two years ago, he finished MC, MC, T-54 and T-51 (though he did win the lower-tier Irish PGA Championship one week earlier). He fared slightly better last year, though he was hardly a world-beater with results of T-36 and T-17 going into Royal Birkdale, but he was also hampered by a wrist injury that halted his pre-tournament practice regimen.
In France, Paddy failed to turn things around, shooting 72-75 to miss the cut by 4 strokes. While the stats on his new swing seemed fine -- 9 of 14 fairways each round; 26 of 36 greens in regulation overall -- it was his putting that left something to be desired. He totaled 32 and 34 putts, respectively, in his two rounds, leading to seven bogeys and a triple against just five birdies.
No doubt Harrington isn't pleased with his play heading toward Turnberry. Then again, based on recent history, that may not be such a bad thing.
The "grooves rule" should have been postponed for implementation on the PGA Tour until 2011.
It was nearly one year ago when the USGA and R&A jointly announced that U-grooves would be outlawed in favor of smaller V-grooves starting on Jan. 1, 2010. But under pressure from both players and, especially, manufacturing companies, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem recently reopened debate within the policy board about whether this should be tabled for another 12 months.
The way I see it, whether you're on the side of taking the bomb-and-gouge style out of the game at its most elite level -- the new grooves will, in essence, place more of a priority on accuracy over distance -- or believe that golf is hard enough and spinning the ball on the greens from anywhere isn't such a bad thing, that's not the issue right now. After all, the rule is going to go into effect; it's just a matter of when.
The issue that was on the table this week was whether a rule already instituted for a specific date should be postponed for later, based on the caterwauling of those who don't believe close to 18 months is enough time to adequately prepare themselves for such a process.
There are no mulligans in the big leagues and there shouldn't have been in this situation, either. Kudos to the policy board for recently voting to stick with the original date, but really, it shouldn't have gone this far. A decision was made. Stick with it and tell those opposed that complaining after the fact, well, isn't really groovy at all.
Consider the above statement to be FICTION. And expect to see plenty of players scrambling to get accustomed before the 2010 season begins.
• Just wondering: If each of this year's four major champions so far -- Brittany Lincicome, Angel Cabrera, Anna Nordqvist and Lucas Glover -- were hanging out at the local mall together, would any bystanders actually recognize 'em? Even better, how about if they were the foursome in front of you at the local track?
Can someone make this happen, please? Would serve as an excellent barometer for the sport's popularity.
• Just a guess, but if one of the four was to blow their cover, I have a hunch it would be Cabrera, who is probably more recognizable than the others.
• Another week, another lost tournament for the LPGA. The title sponsor for the Kapalua LPGA Classic, which debuted last year, pulled out of its contract this past week, dropping the number of Hawaii-based events from three to zero in the past 18 months.
This is an increasingly bad sign for a tour whose most marketable player -- love her or hate her -- is Michelle Wie, who happens to hail from the Aloha State.
In related news, this was the final year for title sponsor Owens Corning in its deal with the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, leaving many to predict that this past week's event could be in trouble, too.
• Speaking of Wie, she needed to win the Farr in order to qualify for this week's U.S. Women's Open but finished a couple of strokes out of the playoff. The T-3 finish should go a long way toward helping to improve her confidence level, though.
• At the U.S. Open, Brandt Snedeker declared himself "about 95 percent" healthy following a rib injury that affected most of his season. For the first time in 2009, it showed this past week, as Snedeker finished T-5 at Congressional. His previous best result was a T-17 at Bay Hill.
That finish happened just in time, too. As the highest finisher in the top five at Congressional not otherwise exempt, Snedeker punched his ticket to Turnberry.
• Yes, I know Bernhard Langer leads the Champions Tour money list and I'm well aware that Tom Lehman reached the half-century mark earlier this year, but if I had to choose the world's best over-50 player right now? I think I'd go with underrated Michael Allen, who's 1-for-1 on the senior circuit after claiming the Senior PGA Championship, and finished T-11 at the AT&T despite a final-round 74.
It's a good thing Allen is playing so well, because I'm not so sure he could ever go on the road doing speaking engagements.
When asked before the final round if he would have liked to have been paired with Woods, he said, "It's probably an advantage not to. I would love to have played with him. You know, it's what you always want to do. But this probably is an advantage and hopefully I can take advantage of that advantage, if there's an advantage to be taken advantage of." Uh, huh. Exactly.
With Tiger Woods and Anthony Kim competing together in the final round of the AT&T National, the words "heir apparent" were mentioned, oh, about 582 times over the course of the weekend.
But will AK really be the man to supplant TW as the world's No. 1-ranked player someday?
This week's edition of The List breaks down the five golfers with the best chance of being the next man at the top.
5. Geoff Ogilvy. One of the few players with the potential to win multiple majors in the heart of the Tiger Era.
4. Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman dubbed Boy Wonder has all the tools.
3. Charlie Woods. Yes, that would be Tiger's 6-month-old son. Just kidding about his chances, though. Uh, sorta.
2. Phil Mickelson. Hey, it came close to happening in Woods' absence. Another knee injury and he'd be the logical successor right now.
1. Anthony Kim. What did you expect? In case you hadn't heard, this kid is the "heir apparent."
Quick story for you regarding this week's interview ...
I had spent a few days patrolling the grounds at Congressional this past week before it dawned on me that I had yet to speak with a player specifically for this section of the W18. So on Thursday morning I walked into the locker room and found U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover about two hours prior to his tee time. Already besieged by interview requests since prevailing at Bethpage, he told me that he would make time after his round.
Well, making time is one thing; actually seeking me out for the interview is quite another. But that's exactly what Glover did, which speaks to his gentlemanly nature. In the midst of finishing T-5 at the AT&T National, the Clemson grad spoke about the aftermath of his U.S. Open victory.
Q: Let me start by asking you the same question that every first-time major champion is always asked right away: How has your life changed since winning?
A: Just busy. And now people applaud for me when I walk up to the green -- whether I hit a good shot or not. That's different. It's been good being out for two weeks, playing, getting back inside the ropes. I've just been a little busier and just got a few more obligations, but it's a good thing.
Q: You're a pretty reserved, laid-back kind of guy. Do you like everybody cheering for you and yelling your name?
A: Well, it doesn't hurt. Obviously, it will take a little getting used to, but more people pulling for you seems to give momentum and adrenaline. It seems to help. So, yeah.
Q: I know you haven't won another U.S. Open so you have nothing to compare it to, but is it different winning a U.S. Open in New York than somewhere else?
A: Yeah, New York is special for me. My wife [Jennifer] and I honeymooned there and spent a good amount of time there. When we have some free time, we try to squeeze that in and spend some time there and some time on Long Island. We've got some friends up there. So, yeah, any tournament win is special no matter what it is, but to have it in New York made it a little better.
Q: Best perk so far?
A: Hmm, wow. I got to play with Tiger [in the first two rounds].
Q: C'mon, you were going to play with him anyway!
A: [Laughs] I don't know, that's a good one. I'd say probably getting to do all of that stuff in New York. All that media stuff and all of those shows -- that was fun to see what goes on for celebrities every day.
Q: Were you nervous?
A: Yeah, a little bit. You know, like you said earlier, that's something new for me, but I enjoyed it and my wife kept reminding me that I might not ever get to do this again, so have fun with it. And that was kind of the mantra for the day.
Q: Any good stories from Letterman?
A: I met Sandra Day O'Connor. She came in our green room when she was waiting and introduced herself on her own and that was very cool. I was honored, to say the least.
Q: Based on your top-10 list, how many guys in the locker room are calling you G-Lover now?
A: A lot. I've got a lot of nicknames now. I might have to try to trim the fat a little, but it was funny. They put that one in last minute and it was hilarious. It gave me an opportunity to give it a little delivery, too, so that was fun.
Q: Heard a story about how after you won at Disney in 2005, your caddie, Don Cooper, said he would buy you a Corvette the next time you won.
A: No, he was going to buy himself one. That was our deal. It took a little while, a couple of years when we were kind of in our dry spell there, but that was our deal for him. I've let him out of it, though, so we'll see what happens.
Q: You're not going to pitch in and help him get one?
A: If he wants to do that, we might. But I'll see what he wants to do. He's got a 15-year-old who needs a car, so they might do something a little safer.
Q: You talked about the dry spell. You actually stopped playing for a little while last year.
A: Yeah, after St. Louis, when I was eliminated from the playoffs, I went home. I had two outings and those were the only two times that I played and they were prescheduled, the only times I touched a club for six or seven weeks. I just needed a break. Attitude was bad, wasn't getting the results I wanted out of my practice -- and I was working hard. That's what was so frustrating.
It's not like I wasn't practicing and was playing poorly. I made enough to keep my card and my attitude stunk. I wanted to go home and get some perspective and I realized that, you know, I had a bad year on tour -- or a bad year for my expectations on tour -- and it wasn't that bad. I still had a job for next year when hundreds of thousands of people were losing their job and not getting to do what I get to do every day. So that was a perspective issue.
Q: Has that helped you this year?
A: Yes. A couple of times in the last couple of weeks, I've had some adverse situations. In the past, I would have been throwing clubs and storming around and being negative. But, you know, big deal. It's just a freakin' bogey or whatever.
Q: You sound like Geoff Ogilvy when he won the Open three years ago. Similar story.
A: Yeah, perspective is an interesting thing sometimes.
Q: Last question: Are you sick of interviews yet?
Q: You sure about that? Because I can keep you here for another 10 minutes.
A: Yeah, positive. It comes with the territory. It's part of the deal. Just trying to have fun with it, like my wife told me.
"I don't know what he thinks he's doing, to be honest with you. I'm surprised more people weren't out here giving him a hard time, so he could remember that next time he comes into RFK. I guess it kind of makes sense. Tony Romo is more of a media darling than Jason Campbell. But this is Redskins territory; you would think that Tiger would have been playing with Campbell. I don't like it."
-- Steve Marino, PGA Tour veteran and lifelong Washington Redskins fan, speaking about Tiger Woods' decision to compete with the Dallas Cowboys quarterback during the Earl Woods Memorial Pro-Am prior to the AT&T National at Congressional -- right in the heart of enemy territory.
Though the University of Virginia grad takes a bogey for invoking the name of his team's old stadium, he makes a cogent point about the townsfolk of Bethesda, Md., hardly giving Romo any flak.
In fact, I walked all 18 holes with the pro-am group and counted a few dozen spectators in Cowboys paraphernalia along the way, with hardly any jeers toward the QB. Either the Redskins fan base knows enough to refrain from heckling during the course of competition or they're just saving it all up for football season.
Of the 49 times during his PGA Tour career that Tiger Woods has held or shared the 54-hole lead, he has won on 46 occasions. That's a 93.88 percent success rate as a closer -- one in which even Mariano Rivera would be proud.
In case you're wondering, the three times he didn't win were the 1996 Quad City Open (T-5 finish), 2000 Tour Championship (second place) and 2004 Tour Championship (second place).