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January 15, 2010

The Daily Flogging: Federer talks about Tiger, Ernie on Phil, and Clarke goes low in South Africa

The Daily Flogging is a smorgasbord of news, opinion and occasional grass clippings from the wide world of golf. Here's what you missed…

Hey, Roger, it's, uh, it's Tiger

Welcome to the Tiger Woods Forum. We still don't know where Waldo is. But he has been heard from, having made contact by phone with tennis buddy Roger Federer.

So even though the real PGA Tour season started Thursday (the Sony Hawaiian Open features a full field, not the 28-man vacation outing held last week at Kapalaua), it was Talk About Tiger Day.

Over to you, Roger. Roger that.

"Instructive" was the word Federer used to describe what has befallen Woods in an interview with French sports daily L'Equipe. "The tabloids are going crazy, sponsor contracts are falling apart. ... I've always been aware that the image you patiently construct for an entire career can be ruined in a minute. It scares you a bit, but that's the way things are. ... Tiger needs calm. And soon he'll become the wonderful golfer that we know again."

No real insight there but it was a notable First Contact. Meanwhile, People magazine, the home of no real insight, asked President Barack Obama if Woods could be rehabilitated.

Said the Prez: "Absolutely. I don't want to comment on his personal relationship with his wife, but I'm a strong believer that anybody can look within themselves, find their flaws and fix them. I'm sure he feels terrible about what happened, and I suspect that he will try to put his life back together again."

Rocco Mediate, who lost to Woods in the famous 2008 U.S. Open playoff at Torrey Pines, told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that "all will be forgotten" if Woods returns to golf and resumes his domination. "He wanted to be the best. He is the best," Mediate said. "That comes with a price. Back in the old days, that price wasn't as much because there was no Internet. Bottom line: It's sad for golf. I'm sad for him."

At the Sony Open, golfer Paul Goydos offered this warning about Tiger's return: "He is going to be heckled without question. That's going to be part of the security issues for the PGA Tour to deal with over the next x number of months or years. I don't think there's any question that's going to be the case."

Goydos reiterated what several have already said. In the Tiger forum, the only real development other than Federer's contact was a comment by Ernie Els. You know how Tiger has a knack for turning his game around when he appears to in a lull, kind of a like a contrarian in the stock market? The one way to practically guarantee Tiger will turn it on is to claim that he is in a slump. Well, on Thursday Els passed the torch to Tiger's rival, Phil Mickelson.

Said Ernie: "[Phil] has really been working hard, and now his putting is coming around. I think Phil is probably the man to beat now. Even if you asked Tiger [at the end of last year], I think Phil got right to his level throughout his game. I think there's a new guy we gotta chase."

The Daily Flogging hereby officially notes the date and time.

A good wedgie never gets old

Sharp-eyed Golfweek writer Jim McCabe noticed that two Sony Open players found a loophole in the new grooves rule. John Daly used pre-1990 Ping Eye 2 wedges, which have square grooves but were grandfathered into use after a court settlement between Ping and the USGA . Dean Wilson also used Ping wedges, circa 1986.

The Ice Man Scoreth

One of the surprise co-leaders Thursday at Waialae Country Club was Robert Allenby, who sprained his ankle while walking with his wife on Monday yet managed to hobble to an opening 65.

"Now I've got a sore back because it's all top half," Allenby told The Honolulu Star-Bulletin. "Now I've got a sore right side because obviously you've got to compensate for certain things. I'm going to the ice machine and the steam with the physio guy. It's been very, very romantic for my wife and myself. I'm laying there in bed with ice on my foot, elevated."

Don't forget to mention the Hawaiian sunsets, man.

Merritt badge

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported on what life's like as a rookie. Troy Merritt, who won the Tour's Q-School last winter after an under-appreciated college career at Boise State, was on the third hole when playing companion Rickie Fowler noticed the name on the standard bearer's sign wasn't Merritt, it was Merrick, as in John Merrick (who, coincidentally, also shot 65).

After Fowler pointed the gaffe out to him, Merritt said, "I thought it was funny."

Life begins at 63

Consider this a gratuitous Ryder Cup mention in January or consider it a potentially significant sign of life on the European Tour. It's your choice. But the local hero of the 2006 Ryder Cup at Ireland's K Club, Darren Clarke, shot 63 in the first round of the Joburg Open on the West Course at Royal Johannesburg to sit one shot off the lead.

The immensely popular Clarke was famously passed over by European captain Nick Faldo as a pick on the '08 team. If he's going to add to his Ryder Cup legend, he's got a way to go. Clarke is ranked 115th in the world and the 63 was the lowest score he's posted on tour since a 60 in the 1999 European Open at—wait for it—Ireland's K Club.

Reality check: The West Course at Royal Johannesburg, softened by heavy rain earlier in the week, is the cupcake of the two courses used for the event.

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