02-19-2017  1:37 pm      •     

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Jim Furyk finally feels like he's at the Masters, not at Tiger Woods' comeback.

While Woods was still followed by massive crowds during his practice round Tuesday -- even raising a few eyebrows by breaking out his cell phone on the 10th green to videotape Mark O'Meara's putting stroke -- a sense of normalcy settled in at Augusta National.
"This seems kind of like business as usual," said Furyk, who played five holes with Woods under intense scrutiny Monday but felt a lot more relaxed a day later. "I won't call it an ordinary Tuesday, since we're here at Augusta National, but it's an everyday Tuesday here at Augusta."
That might be a bit optimistic.
Sure, the initial furor has subsided, the focus turning more to golf than serial infidelities. But Woods was still the center of attention, with no shortage of speculation on how he'll play coming back from a five-month layoff that included a stint in therapy, plenty of soul-searching, but not many swings on the range.
This is especially interesting to his fellow golfers, who are used to keeping one eye focused warily on the leaderboard, always on the lookout for a charging Tiger.
"I would not be surprised at all if he was contending, and I would not be surprised if he played better golf than ever," three-time major champion Padraig Harrington said. "But there's obviously a doubt to that, and we will only be able to find that out on Sunday evening."
The early scouting reports were not promising. Furyk said the four-time Masters champion was hitting some loose shots during the five holes they played together Monday. Woods rarely was satisfied with his tee shots on Tuesday, hitting two balls on several holes.
Meantime, even a routine practice turned surreal when Woods crouched down and peered into his cell phone to tape his longtime pal O'Meara's stroke. Only three weeks ago, a porn star who claims to have had a three-year affair with Woods released on her Web site what she said were salacious text messages from Woods.
"We ask players not to use their cell phones," club spokesman Steve Ethun said. "We would make exceptions if players were using any kind of recording device during a practice round."
Perhaps no other major championship course changes from practice rounds early in the week to game time on Thursday. The greens seem to get a little faster, the pressure more intense.
Of course, Woods knows a thing or two about dealing with pressure. Think back to the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines two years ago.
After taking nine weeks off to recover from surgery, he held up over five grueling days on a shredded knee and beat Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff. A week later, Woods underwent a season-ending operation.
"I don't think anybody expected him to play well in the 2008 U.S. Open," Phil Mickelson said. "I don't think anybody out here will question his ability to perform at the highest level, even though he has not competed in however many months. So I think from a player's point of view, we expect to see the same player that we have always seen."
Then again, Woods showed up cold for the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, still grieving the death of his father, and missed the cut _ the first time that had happened at a major since he turned pro. The Masters could present much the same challenge, one that is mental rather than physical.
But for all those who question whether Woods' marital woes will distract or take away from his motivation to win more major titles than anyone, the guy whose benchmark he is chasing quickly shot down that line of thinking.
"Why do you think he's here?" asked Jack Nicklaus, who has won 18 major championships, four more than Woods. "I don't think he's here for his health or anything. He's here to play golf. That's what he is. He's a very good golfer. It's the first major of the year. He's taking large steps to get his life back in order, and he wants to play golf."
Woods will play the first two rounds with K.J. Choi and Matt Kuchar, teeing off in the next-to-last group Thursday _ prime time for the ESPN telecast.
"It's funny, because I sort of had a feeling when I left Dallas that it would be cool if I was paired with Tiger, and it happened," Choi said.
At any other tournament, playing with Woods can be a huge distraction because of so many photographers and reporters tagging along, and fans outside the ropes scrambling for a view.
Augusta National is different.
No one is allowed inside the ropes, and fans walk en masse -- no running allowed.
"It's going to be a lot more at ease this week than most weeks," Woods said. "If there's one week that you would rather have a pairing with me, considering the circumstances, it would probably be this week."
Choi sure didn't mind. Despite some language barriers, he has always been comfortable playing with Woods. They have been paired together 13 times, most recently in the third round of last year's Memorial, which Woods went on to win.
"Even when all this came out and the rumors of Tiger coming back, my friends were saying, 'Wouldn't it be cool if you were paired with Tiger when he played his first tournament?"' Choi said through an interpreter.
Choi found out on the 14th hole from a Masters official. If it didn't sink in at the time, there were a dozen reporters waiting for him as he walked off the 18th green after his practice round. Choi can expect a lot more attention when he tees off Thursday.
"I like playing with big crowds," Choi said. "I will probably play more aggressive."
The gallery following Woods the first two days of practice this week has been enormous, not to mention polite. Woods has received ovations and the occasional "Welcome back, Tiger." Choi expects that to continue.
"It's important that the gallery realize what's going on," he said. "To take what happened outside the golf course and bring it inside the golf course, I don't think that's right. I believe they're educated and will respect the game of golf."
Steve Stricker will be playing in the group ahead of Woods and doesn't expect any problems. At other tournaments, players have said that could be the toughest spot as photographers walk ahead to get into position.
"I don't think it's going to be that big of a deal," Stricker said. "There's a lot of strict policies here. There's no running up and down the fairways. It's pretty calm. Typically, each green is loaded with people, anyway. It doesn't matter when you go out there."
Woods' 1:42 p.m. tee time allows ESPN to fully cover his first round back since his secret life was exposed. John Wildhack, the network's executive vice president, said the Masters is "THE story line, and we're here to cover the Masters tournament."
He said Woods is the biggest story line among players, but not the only one, a view backed up by network host Mike Tirico.
"No one's bigger than the Masters," Tirico said.

 


Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
    Read More
  • FDR executive order sent 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens into camps
    Read More
  • Pruitt's nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups and hundreds of former EPA employees
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all