St. Andrews, Scotland (CNN) - One of the reasons why the Old Course hasn’t undergone any dramatic changes over the centuries is that the wind determines how hard the course will play.
And on Friday it became unplayable, forcing Open Championship organisers to suspend the tournament for about an hour. But even when the field returned the course was giving nothing up by way of birdies because the wind was the Old Lady's defense and the barriers were up.
St. Andrews, Scotland (CNN) - When I saw Rory McIlroy win the low amateur, or silver medal, at his first Open Championship at Carnoustie a couple of years ago I was told he was a special talent.
So I have watched his progress quite closely. Since then I have joined him for a Living Golf show in his home town of Holywood, Northern Ireland, to explore how he came to be so good.
St. Andrews, Scotland (CNN) - There is pretty much only one thing you can guarantee ahead of the Open Championship at St. Andrews: it is going to be windy and cold, and will rain at times.
As for who is going to win from the field of 156, it’s been a while since I have covered a British Open and thought that no-one really stands out.
Ernie Els should feel right at home on Wentworth’s west course - and you’d think that after designing it he would have an unfair advantage over the rest of the field at the BMW PGA Championship.
Golf is unique in many ways and this is just another twist when a player can directly influence about 7000 yards of landscape, and then head out to compete in European flagship event.
Everyone can learn from an act of sportsmanship. And golfer Brian Davis gets the gold medal so far this year for his example.
Henry, you might remember, infamously and knowingly, handballed during a game against Ireland that possibly cost them a spot in the World Cup finals.
The ref missed it, Henry didn’t call it despite the Ireland team’s outcries and France went on to secure a spot.
The ref also missed Englishman Davis clipping a reed at the Verizon Heritage during his backswing in a play-off with Jim Furyk.
Without getting too technical the incident cost him a two stroke penalty and had he not called himself it more than likely would have gone unnoticed. Only slow motion television pictures picked up the foul.
It was an inspiring act of sportsmanship that upholds the core values of golf – honesty and integrity no matter what is at stake.
Henry suffered a huge backlash but Davis has been warmly embraced by his fellow pros for the sacrifice.
Davis’s act should be used as example for school children and aspiring athletes of what should be done and how those of you will react under such circumstances.
Then they should observe the Henry incident and take note too.
I have met Davis a few times before he headed to America and I am not surprised he called himself out as he is a genuine sportsman and gentleman.
It surprises me that he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour after six years of trying but with this act he has won massive credit for himself and the sport.
Sadly it’s a rare thing to see across all platforms these days.
As we head into the weekend The Masters has already lived up to its pre-tournament billing.
It’s my first time at Augusta and it feels like I am walking around a Hollywood movie set. The script that has been unfolding since Tiger’s press conference belongs on the big screen.
On Thursday all eyes were on Tiger’s much anticipated tee-off. The day ended with the world’s number one shooting his lowest round on the opening day of The Masters. It was also the first time he nailed two eagles in a round at Augusta’s famous course.
But even though the world’s media were trained on Tiger’s every move, this was far from a one-man show on what was a remarkable first day. Thirty-one players finished under par, four players aged over 50 remain in red figures and the unlikely figure of Fred Couples leads the way.
If you’re wondering why Couples, who has won once here, jumped the field at the tender age of 50 you need to look at his performance on the Champions Tour, the tour for the over fifties.
He had three straight wins on his way to Augusta and he has been putting as if his life depended on it, and if you’re putting well at Augusta then you’re in the frame no matter how old you are.
What about Tiger? It has been vintage stuff. He was ragged in some areas but still managed to pull off minor miracles. His birdie on the 9th, after he hooked his second shot around the corner just to get to the green, left us awe struck.
He has his game face on again. It might be a new, contrite Tiger outside the ropes, but inside he’s still the hungry competitor. I predicted in my previous blog he would win the Masters, and nothing I’ve seen has changed my mind. Had his putter been working Thursday he might even have shot a 64.
But today is another day. This roller coaster ride is bound to take more sharp turns. The tournament committee moved the tee boxes forward and made the pin positions a lot easier on day one due to expected severe weather.
It didn’t come and the course was left to the mercy of the players. Friday will see Augusta bite back, and bite back hard.
Once the hype over Tiger’s return dies down, we can get down to the business of golf.
And with that in mind I think he’ll win Sunday to make The Masters this year the most extraordinary sporting event ever.
I love my race horses, and I liken the world number one to a thoroughbred when it comes to competing in major championships. He is to golf what Phar Lap was to racing.
Ever since he set records in 1997 (just a year after he turned pro) for not only the biggest winning margin in Masters history (12 strokes) and the youngest winner ever at age 21, he has been consumed by winning the big titles.
Once he receives the overwhelming support of the Augusta crowd as he heads to the first tee - and it will be the most hair-raising welcome to a sportsman in history - he will be inspired to want this title more than anything.
We will see his first shot telecast around the world but after that, as per Augusta National’s rules, the live broadcast will revert back to action.
An absurd decision on the club’s behalf in the face of the most eagerly anticipated comeback in sporting history. It’s his second shot I will be watching a lot more closely to see if he can keep his emotions in check with so much support as he walks the first fairway. I will be on course and following it all the way.
Here’s some more to think about in the debate over his potential to win: Four green jackets (two behind Jack Nicklaus); the lowest tournament score record in every major; three times a winner of every major alongside Jack, and just four behind the Golden Bears grand total of 18.
All by the age of 34, with knee injuries and a private life meltdown.
He has exorcised many demons in the past few months and his mind will be a lot freer when he heads to the tee on Thursday. I believe just as free as it was when he first teed up in The Masters as a pro in '97 before the rot set in.
And if you think Tiger might be a little rusty heading into this event, cast your mind back to 2008.
Doctors told him to rest for six weeks and not compete in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He went ahead anyway and competed over five days, eventually winning in a 19-hole play-off on one leg over Rocco Mediate on the Monday.
He was then forced to take eight months off after surgery. It was the greatest example of a golfer pushing through the pain barrier.
He might not have played a competitive round of golf for more than five months but he is physically fit and his ability to put mind over matter is astonishing. I have lost count the amount of times he has won playing “ugly” golf.
And I have watched numerous documentaries on Tiger where during interviews he has described how he just loves the pressure of being the man everyone wants to beat.
He says he wants to be the player under the most pressure, it’s what drives him. Cue this year’s Masters and it’s made for him.
Tiger is really only in control inside the ropes. I spoke with Butch Harmon about the subject not long ago and Butch knows a thing or two about Tiger.
He described how Tiger flicks the switch as he heads to the first tee and nothing else matters, not even a meltdown in his personal life will stand in the way of his desire to win a major.
Just look at how quickly he has returned from his February 19 statement of "I will return to golf someday, I just don’t know what day that will be."
He always knew he was coming back for The Masters. Who was he trying to kid?
If anyone had not yet formed an opinion on Tiger Woods, the return of the world number one to the game that made him a champion will surely provide food for thought.
The extra-marital affairs which forced the self-imposed exile of the 34-year-old is one thing, but the return of a great to the arena they once dominated will always attract interest.
Muhammed Ali picked a fight with Jerry Quarry in 1970 following his ban from boxing, Michael Schumacher drove a Mercedes around the tarmac of Bahrain to show the world there was speed yet in his racing boots, and Tiger has picked the venue of his first major triumph - the Augusta Masters - to rejoin the fray.
It was typical of the 14-time grand slam champion to skip warm-up tournaments and go straight to the first grand slam of the season - like all the names mentioned above, once the limelight of the big-time has been sampled, it is hard to get it from under your skin.
The move suggests life really can’t be that bad for Tiger Woods, in just under a month he has gone from publicly stating that he didn’t know when he would return to golf, to announcing his comeback - hardly the 43 months suffered by Ali for refusing the draft to Vietnam.
Instead of easing back into the game he is diving head first into a major championship - arguably the one everyone wants to win the most out of the four available in any given year.
Augusta is a highly-charged atmosphere even without the dynamite of a Tiger Woods return. So, is Tiger feeling mentally strong? Or was he never really weakened by the outcry over his affairs?
His rehabilitation, for whatever it is that he is suffering or been suffering, must be going remarkably well for the world number one to suddenly feel his personal life is in decent enough shape for a return to the game in such a fashion.
If that’s the case, it’s great news for Tiger and his family. Some professionals I know quite well have told me that Tiger and wife Elin have been playing tennis together.
But I, along with many others I have spoken to during my travels, have always felt his act of self-flagellation on February 19 was a plea for sympathy in order to rehabilitate his public image.
Just maybe the big speech too, as his playing agenda becomes clearer, was about making a return to The Masters less harrowing for him. Those in his camp would also want the crowd to be less aggressive towards him.
Funnily enough, just days after Tiger’s apology, his caddie Steve Williams spoke of his anger and sympathy for the boss while Tiger was back practicing with his coach Hank Haney.
In my view, Williams would not have spoken without the direct approval of the Tiger camp. The timing and tone of his comments were all part of the carefully stage-managed plan to get everyone ready for his return to The Masters.
Now, of course, there is nothing wrong with this, but I don't believe Tiger is fooling anyone with this all to transparent approach.
Looking forward to Augusta, I wonder if Tiger will hold a press conference at The Masters and allow questions about his return? The concept now seems laughable given the way Tiger and his team continue to go about their business.
But it would be nice to know how he is feeling about his game upon his return and whether he thinks he can win or not.
Whatever happens it will be great to watch Tiger’s first tee shot -– I suspect it will fly down the middle as if nothing’s ever changed or even happened.
That’s just the way Tiger would like it too, but the jury is out as to whether he can reclaim the adulation of the fans in the way that Ali did and Schumacher is attempting too.
Tiger Woods stated the obvious. How could he not feel ashamed, selfish, irresponsible and foolish over his behaviour?
If he had said otherwise he would have shown even more disrespect to his wife, fellow pros and those who administer the game.
At least he faced the public, rather than hiding behind his website where he has apologised before. But this has done nothing to rebuild his image.
He is asking the media to leave his family alone because he brought this all on them but he is choosing to spoon feed the public what he decides they need to hear. Is he still entitled to do this? I don’t think so.
You can’t have it all your own way, yet he wrote in his statement: “I was wrong, I was foolish, I don’t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone else apply to me.” Judging by his actions today, Tiger still plays by Tiger’s rules.
Questions like: What was behind the car crash in November? You admit to being unfaithful but was it on multiple occasions? Do you still have the same hunger as a golfer? Can you ever be as intimidating as a player if you come back? The list of questions goes on.
I applaud the American Golf Writers’ Association decision to boycott the event and not succumb to the demands of the Tiger camp. Their desire to control everything is arrogant and disrespectful to fans who want the hard questions asked.
I hope that he faces an unrestricted press meeting. By not doing it now the circus will take another hiatus as he goes back into rehab only to start up again when he returns.
I am not saying this because we all want the gory details of what he was up to in his private life but for the benefit of moving on from the whole drama.
This week at the Accenture Matchplay the players’ focus has been drawn to Tiger once again and they are frustrated by it. The next episode will add to their frustrations.
Tiger admitted during his speech that after 45 days of rehabilitation (exactly what the rehab is we don’t know because we are not allowed to ask) he has a long way to go.
Judging by that, he is a long way off from returning to the game that quite frankly was carrying on just nicely this week in Arizona until he stole the stage.